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Established 1995 filmfestivals.com serves and documents relentless the festivals community, offering 92.000 articles of news, free blog profiles and functions to enable festival matchmaking with filmmakers.

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Monreal world fest: a citadel of film culture

MONTREAL WORLD FILM FESTIVAL : A CITADEL OF FILM CULTURE

The 28th edition of the Montreal World Film Festival is in full swing, with a heady mix of traditional arthouse films and innovative new voices giving this event its well-deserved reputation as the most European in style and substance of all of Canada’s film events.

Perhaps it is its Francophone culture or its identity as a city of tradition (in direct contrast with the go-go atmosphere of its neighbor Toronto) but this Festival is definitely of the old school. The films that have stirred the most interest are not necessarily the most commercial, but the latest œuvres from such acknowledged film masters as Ingmar Bergman, Ermanno Olmi, Eric Rohmer, Youseff Chahine, Carlos Saura, Ettore Scola, Raoul Ruiz, Paul Cox and Phillipe de Broca (most of whom have not had a substantial commercial hit in decades).

Other old school touches include a tattered red carpet entrance to the Theatre Maisonneuve, the prestige showcase for the biggest films in competition, the old-fashioned oferring of flowers to filmmakers both celebrated and new, and the air of slightly musty acclaim when film auteurs, such as Australian director Paul Cox did at the premiere screening of his film in competition Human Touch, deride the industry for being insensitive to the artistic expression of makers of film art.

However, with such celebrated festivals as Cannes, Venice, Toronto and Sundance seeing their market initiatives overwhelm their artistic missions, it is not without a breath of fresh air that Montreal sees itself as a citadel of film culture and artistic enterprise.

Unfortunately, that often translates into films that are more earnest than entertaining, with a pronounced accent on films dealing with human relationships, political realities and, with some exceptions, the darker side of the human experience.

As contrasted with Cannes and Venice, with its thematic sections, the Festival divides the world geographically, with focuses on Asian Cinema, African Cinema and North American Cinema among the most innovative. However, it is the Cinema of Europe that is the largest and in many ways, the most intriguing of the sections on offer.

Among the highlights so far are such films as Dealer (Hungary, Benedek Fliegauf), a sobering day in the life of a young drug dealer; Take My Eyes (Spain, Iciar Bollain), a harrowing look at spousal abuse; The Spectator (Italy, Paolo Franchi), a bracing look at sexual obsession; Yugotrip (Germany, Patrick Lambertz), a haunting story of a Bosnian refugee’s attempt to lead a normal life; and Mothers and Daughters (UK, Hannah Davis), a black comedy on a group of women’s most compelling sexual secrets.

The Competition section, the winners of which will be announced on Monday evening at the Closing Ceremonies (and reported here next week), has been warmly received so far. Starting with Canadian native daughter’s The Five Of Us (Elles Etaient Cinq), other Competition highlights have included Paul McGuigan’s US morality tale Wicker Park; the German World War II drama The Pirates of Edelweiss, directed by Niko van Glasow; the Spanish coming-of-age drama Hector, directed by Gracia Querejeta; and Human Touch, veteran Australian director Paul Cox’s meditation on sexuality and the terrors of old age.

Public screenings have been very well attended, despite the unusually sunny and warm weather that has made the traditionally chilly Montreal into more of an outdoor circus than usual. However, in spite of the blue skies, dark clouds of the Festival’s future threaten to overshadow the event.

The event’s Film Market, which has in the past been a rather large affair complete with companies manning booths and exhibits, has been scaled down considerably this year, with no exhibitors on hand and a light dusting of film buyers in attendance. In addition, a scathing report released just one week prior to the Festival’s start questioned the generous public funding that the Festival has enjoyed from government agencies such as Telefilm Canada.

How these events, plus the continued pressure exerted by the ever-growing Toronto Film Festival in securing exclusives and North American premieres, will effect the Festival’s future is still a large question mark. However, any criticism of the Festival’s organization or professional relevance has to be balanced with its success in bringing unique and challenging programming to its audiences, who respond to the Festival’s arthouse film philosophy with obvious enthusiasm.
Sandy Mandelberger, Industry Editor

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