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Montreal Fest: 20 films in world competition

World Competition

Chile - France / 2004 / 35 mm / Colour / 89 min / Dir.: Raoul Ruiz
In a bar in Santiago, two old-timers converse over a few drinks. It seems that one of them is writing a novel. It is a weird discussion; they speak of themselves as if they were already dead. Don Federico, the would-be novelist, gathers matches in his wine glass. The ambience is eerie. Where are we? In the kingdom of the dead? Well, not exactly. More like in a previous life, in memory. Don Federico begins to evoke an earlier era, when he lived in the country. A rich landlord, a hospitable man, he would always have his friends over, for food and conversation. A kind-hearted master, he was good to his servants, especially the oldest of them, Paulita, who would bring him breakfast in bed every morning as he struggled to clear his head of alcohol-induced cobwebs. Even then, in the evening, he would try to write a novel. Paulita is still with the estate; she’s part of the family. She has a son who has moved away to northern Chile, to Antofagasta, but still sends back news regularly. Since she cannot read the letters, it is Don Federico who does it for her. Things are apparently going well for her son and he thinks that she should come to join him. But Paulita is hesitant. Through the window, she sees a strange man passing by outside and the image frightens her. Don Federico’s friend, a doctor, examines all the servants and discovers that Paulita is terminally ill. Without giving her the bad news, Don Federico offers to take her right away to see her son. This time Paulita accepts; they’ll leave in two days. But things aren’t always what they seem. They must be seriously out of whack if the young Don Federico can meet the old Don Federico! And the strange man, could he have been Paulita’s lover? Will they ever take that trip?

HÉCTOR (HÉCTOR) (COMP) (International Premiere)
Spain / 2004 / 35 mm / Colour / 107 min / Dir.: Gracia Querejeta
Héctor, a tall, fair-haired boy of 16, has just lost his mother, Sofía. She died when her car plunged into a ravine. It was his mother who raised him with some input from his aunt Tere. Héctor has grown up without a father. He has never seen him, not even once. Without a minute’s hesitation, his aunt Tere decides to look after him. But while Héctor never expresses his grief openly, it is clear that he has taken his mother’s death very hard. There are other changes, too. Héctor has to go from living in a house with a garden in the centre of Madrid, to a small apartment on the outskirts of the city. He tries to understand the new reality that is taking shape before his eyes. A way of life that is very different from the one he knew but one that is becoming more familiar each day. But everything is thrown into question when Martín, Héctor’s father, arrives. He has travelled from across the ocean to meet his son. The boy knew that his father existed though he never wanted to meet him. Martín has come in order to explain the reason for his long absence and, in that way, win his son’s heart and also offer him a new life in Mexico. Héctor will have to decide between his newly discovered family and adventurous possibilities abroad.

EL 7º DíA (THE 7th DAY) (COMP) (International Premiere)
Spain - France / 2003 / 35 mm / Colour / 103 min / Dir.: Carlos Saura
In the arid heat of rural Spain, two families have been fighting for years over the boundaries of their land, located in a small town in central Spain. These quarrels have already led to much bloodshed when Isabel, a teenager and eldest daughter of one of the families, tries to discover the true origin of the terrible conflict. Isabel finds out, with the help of her new boyfriend Chino, that it all started after an affair of unrequited love between Luciana Fuentes and Isabel’s uncle, Amadeo Jiminez. The mentally unstable Jeronimo Fuentes kills Amadeo and is sent to jail. On his release, he tries to stab Isabel’s father, Jose, and is promptly locked up again. The bitter memory of her experience with Amadeo still poisons the heart of Luciana, who not only cannot forget, but also demands that her brothers avenge her humiliation, because as a woman she cannot do it herself. Jeronimo’s death in jail, together with the death of his mother when their house is burned down, is enough to provoke members of the Fuentes family into seeking revenge. The entire town will pay the cost of this vengeance with their blood.

Greece / 2004 / 35 mm / Colour / 100 min / Dir.: Nikos Panayotopoulos
Athens, today, suffocating under a heatwave. A young man arrives at the bus station from parts unknown and is confronted with life in the city: a guy who tries to pick him up in the toilet, a hobo with a vociferous vocabulary of insults, a host of people who are in a rush to go nowhere. Taciturn, he ignores them all; he has come to look for work and does not seem easily distracted. He makes friends with a 50ish itinerant mineral water vendor who puts him up in an abandoned cellar. Eventually he finds a job delivering pizzas for a joint named Vesuvius in a dark and seedy lane run by a man with similar attributes. Despite his extreme timidity our tongue-tied hero strikes up a friendship with a girl who works at the pizzeria but things turn dark again after the young deliveryman is mugged, his pizzas stolen and he is promptly fired from his new job. The mineral water vendor is no longer of any help: he’s dead. And before he knows it, the young man is on the lam from the cops. There is only one way out...

FUON (THE CRYING WIND) (COMP) (International Premiere)
Japan / 2004 / 35 mm / Colour / 106 min / Dir.: Yoichi Higashi
Seikichi, 70, makes his living fishing from a small boat off the coast of Okinawa. He and his 12-year-old grandson Akira live in a small, tree-lined village in the northern part of the island which is surrounded by a white-sand beach and plots of pine and flowering bushes. On the cliff that skirts the shore sits an open-air burial ground containing the skull of a kamikaze pilot who was shot down during the last days of World War II. When the wind blows through the bullet hole in the skull, it produces a whistling sound which causes the locals to cringe and shudder. They call it the “Crying Head”. It was Seikichi’s father who brought the pilot’s corpse during the fighting, an event that Seikichi still remembers well. One day in spring, Kazue, 30, returns to the village with her son Masashi, 10. She has fled her abusive husband and has returned to live with her aging mother. Akira befriends Masashi, introduces him to the other boys of the village and shows him how to fish with a bamboo pole. Soon afterwards Shiho, 70, comes to the village from the mainland of Japan. Long ago, the man she loved died as a kamikaze pilot during the battle of Okinawa and she has returned periodically to find what happened to his body. This time she is in luck: she meets Seikichi and when she shows him the picture of her lover he realizes to whom the “Crying Head” belonged. But if Shiho’s quest is finally resolved, Kazue’s nightmare is far from over...

China / 2003 / 35 mm / Colour / 97 min / Dir.: An Zhanjun
Du Hongjun, a divorced parking attendant who works outside a glitzy nightclub, has decided to remarry. His new wife will be Xiasong, owner of a flower shop who supposedly divorced her own husband, violent Liu San, when he went to prison. But not everyone is happy with Du’s decision. His teenage son, Xiao Yu, misses his mother who lives in Hong Kong. He objects to his father’s remarriage and to his autocratic ways. Liu San, meanwhile is having second thoughts about his relationship with Xiaosong after being released early for good behaviour. As summer arrives, the drama heats up.

HUMAN TOUCH (HUMAN TOUCH) (COMP) (International Premiere)
Australia / 2004 / 35 mm / Colour / 102 min / Dir.: Paul Cox
Anna, in her early thirties, has a burgeoning career as a singer and a committed, loving relationship with her boyfriend David, a painter. Anna sings in a choir that her friend Lucy conducts. Her remarkable voice and luminous presence command attention and, when the choir holds a concert to raise money for a tour of China, she is noticed by Edward, a wealthy, cultured man in his 60s. Edward approaches Anna after the concert and asks her to call him. Although reluctant, Anna is encouraged by Lucy who hopes that Edward may be able to help with the China trip. Anna’s first visit to his imposing mansion is intoxicating. The dense artistic and erotic environment intrigues her. Edward talks openly about his passion for photography, music and the arts, his devotion to his ailing mother and his wife Desiree, who takes lovers to fulfill a sexual need he can no longer satisfy. When Edward asks Anna to pose for a series of nude photographs, she sees no reason to refuse him. David is miffed by Edward’s attention to Anna, and when he sees the results of the photographic shoot, he becomes jealous and unnerved. Edward has captured an unseen side of Anna, a languid sensuality, and has started her on an intimate journey of self-discovery that can’t be halted. A new world of sensuality and eroticism is unfolding for Anna when Desiree also becomes infatuated by her. But her erotic awakening puts even greater strains on her relationship with her boyfriend. David struggles to understand what is required of him.

Turkey - France - Germany - Greece / 2004 / 35 mm / Colour / 88 min / Dir.: Yesym Ustaoglu
The story of a woman forced to live for half a century with the haunting secrets of a hidden identity, WAITING FOR THE CLOUDS begins while the census clerks arrive early one morning in the small Turkish port town of Tirebolu. The streets remain empty and silent. Not everyone can afford to be counted. Questions about one’s past can open up too many wounds. For some 50 years, Ayse has kept silent about her true identity to protect her status as Selma’s sister. Actually the daughter of one of the evacuated Greek families from the Black Sea region in 1916, Ayse a.k.a. Eleni, bravely pushed on to save herself and Niko, her six-year-old brother, after cold and starvation killed her mother and sister. Near dead upon their arrival at the outskirts of a faraway village, Eleni and Niko were taken in by a Turkish family. The trauma of young Eleni’s brutal experience subsided through the loving bond she established with the teenaged Selma. When her beloved Selma passes away, Ayse suffers for the forgiveness of her long-lost brother Niko. Ayse’s return to Greece will show proof of how irrational political cruelty can psychologically and mentally displace human lives. Ayse was led to believe that her status in Turkey was that of a foreigner. Although born in Turkey, she has regarded Greece as her native country, but she realizes that this was never the case at all, as soon as she sets foot in Greece for the first time.

PREDMESTJE (SUBURBS) (COMP) (International Premiere)
Slovenia / 2004 / 35 mm / Colour / 90 min / Dir.: Vinko Möderndorfer
As they while away their evenings at a suburban bowling alley, Marjan and his group of middle-aged friends ponder their mostly unrealized and squandered lives. Seemingly well-intentioned and amusing at the start, the bowlers become more and more dangerous as a foreign couple moves into their neighbourhood. From the perspective of the young couple, the misery of the suburban men is seen clearly. The bowlers’ interest in the foreign couple begins as a voyeuristic prank: they’ll secretly film the young couple making love. But the prank soon evolves into something more sinister, into xenophobia and a low-level fascism. The men resent the newcomers, especially when they compare the young couple’s promising life with their own dead-end existence. Adding to the ominous overtones of the men’s behaviour is their Sunday hobby of hunting down stray dogs and killing them in the conviction that they are performing a deed of social benefit.

Germany / 2004 / 35 mm / Colour / 95 min / Dir.: Niko von Glasow
His father is away, fighting for the glory of the Third Reich. His brother Peter is an ardent member of the Hitler Youth. But 17-year-old Karl is determined not to conform to Nazi rule. He has a secret. He and his friends are Edelweiss Pirates. Despite the tightening grip of the Gestapo, the Pirates aim to enjoy life amid the rubble of Cologne. Their resistance is little more than a game; skirmishes with the Hitler Youth, anti-war slogans daubed on walls. But when they help to protect Hans, an escaped prisoner, from the Nazis, the stakes become dangerously high. Cilly, the former fiancée of Karl’s older brother Otto, is struggling to keep her young children safe in a city scattered with unexploded bombs, and to hide two Jewish refugees. Her decision to look after the badly wounded Hans brings the threat of Gestapo recrimination right into the heart of her fragile home. As the Nazis become ever more determined to stamp out resistance from their own people, and as Cilly’s feelings for Hans become more powerful, Karl is faced with a terrible realization: betrayal may be the only weapon he has in the fight for his own family’s survival.

Canada / 2004 / 35 mm / Colour / 82 min / Dir.: Ghyslaine Côté
Manon Cloutier, 32, accepts a dinner invitation from a charming work colleague, Stéphane Lebeau. Love is in the air. A few days later, still aglow from this new romance, Manon is at a car wash when she becomes completely distraught at the sight of a man with tattooed arms. Terrified, she hurries home and double-locks the door. So begins a series of flashbacks. She recalls a summer's day when she was 17, when she and her closest friends, Sophie, Anne, Claudie and Isa, organized a party at Sophie’s parents’ cottage. She remembers how happy they all were together... and she remembers the young man with the tattoos who gave her a lift in his Jeep while she was hitchhiking. Since that night, Manon has refused to see her friends. Her survival has been dependent on avoiding anything that could remind her of the tragedy that marked her young life. But 15 years later, despite Stéphane's kind attentions, Manon realizes that only her childhood friends can help her confront the painful past. The five old girlfriends return to Sophie’s cottage where Manon unburdens herself. Will she finally be able to turn the page on this dark episode in her life and find the happiness she deserves?

PEACHES (PEACHES) (COMP) (World Premiere)
Australia / 2004 / 35 mm / Colour / 108 min / Dir.: Craig Monahan
A love story and a mystery. On Stephanie Callaghan’s sixteenth birthday, two important things happen: she begins work on the sorting line at the local peach cannery and she is given her mother’s diary. Steph’s mother, Jass, and her Vietnamese father, Johnny, were killed in a freak car accident years ago while trying to leave town. Steph has been raised by Jass’s best friend Jude. The relationship has been loving, but somehow incomplete, studded with surprise tensions and unresolved mysteries. The story is set in two time frames, and focuses on three very different intertwined and passionate love stories. Firstly, there’s the interracial, tragic love of Jass and Johnny. Then there’s the political and sexual passion of Jude and Alan -- a passion that has grown bitter over years of compromise and misunderstanding. At the same time, there’s also the dangerous and controversial obsession of Steph and Alan, a love affair which both know should not happen, in which both may have dubious motives, but which contains the seeds of a new tenderness and a new confidence to move forward in the world...

Russia / 2004 / 35 mm / Colour / 106 min / Dir.: Karen Shakhnazarov
In the beginning of the 20th century, Russia was shocked by a series of cold-blooded murders. These killings were carried out by the “fighting organization,” a socialist revolutionary group that directed acts of terrorism against various high officials of the state in different cities. The group is headed by George, and includes bomb maker Erne, who is devoted to him, and bomb throwers Vanya, Henry and Fyodor. As they try to achieve their main objective -- the murder of Grand Duke Sergey Aleksandrovich -- the story reveals their feelings and aspirations. They are terrorists for a variety of reasons: for love, revenge, principles and a belief in a better future. As their attempts on the Grand Duke’s life fall short, members of the organization disappear. George suddenly realizes that he would do anything to kill the Duke...

United States / 2004 / 35 mm / Colour / 100 min / Dir.: Paul McGuigan
After he has his heart broken, Matthew, a young Chicago investment banker, spent two years away from the city trying to recover from the experience. Now he has returned, settling again in the Wicker Park neighbourhood, and things are finally looking up again for Matthew; his career is back in full swing and he's happily engaged to a different woman. That is, until he thinks he's spotted his former lover in a café. Before long, Matthew puts the brakes on his marriage plans in order to conduct an exhaustive search for his old flame. Obsessed, he barely notices the devastating impact his quest has on the people he loves, and even himself.

Colombia - Spain / 2004 / 35 mm / Colour / 105 min / Dir.: Sergio Cabrera
One morning, the police are horrified to discover a body impaled on a sharp stake by the banks of a scenic lake near Bogotá. Journalist Victor Silampa becomes curious and enlists his occasional companion, office clerk Emir Estupiñan to help him with the story. Together they set about to to unravel an intricate puzzle that proves as macabre as it is fascinating. With the help of Quica, a young prostitute, and the officer in charge of the case (in return for a few favours), Victor and Emir manage to get to the bottom of a real estate fraud scheme involving corrupt politicians, emerald hunters, nudists and journalists of every stripe.

Israel - France - Germany / 2004 / 35 mm / Colour / 97 min / Dir.: Eran Riklis
Mona's wedding day is the saddest day of her life. Once she crosses the border between Israel and Syria to marry Syrian TV star Tallel, she will never be allowed back to her family in Majdal Shams, a Druze village in the Golan Heights currently under Israeli control. The story of Mona's wedding day is a story about physical, mental and emotional borders and the will to cross them. A story about a family torn apart by differences of tradition, politics and prejudice: the tough, political father, the playboy brother, the outcast elder brother, and Amal, the elder sister, a modern woman trapped in a culture and tradition she wants to break out of. In the Middle East, once a border is crossed, there is often no way back, and at the end of a long day the bride, her family, the government and military officials gathered on both sides of the border find themselves facing an uncertain future, trapped in no-man's land.

Argentina - Spain / 2004 / 35 mm / Colour / 143 min / Dir.: Juan José Campanella
Buenos Aires was once filled with social, dance and recreational clubs like Luna de Avellaneda. Most were founded in the 1920s and 1930s by immigrants -- Spanish, French, Catalans, Italians, Jews, etc. Between the 1940s and 1970s they were the social centres, the very life of the barrio. Places where couples met and broke up, where lifelong friendships were formed, enmities too. By the 1990s, however, like so much else in Argentina, these clubs were in decline. Now it’s Luna de Avellaneda’s turn. Its patrons have stopped coming and the club’s very existence is threatened. It would seem that the only thing to do would be to turn it into a casino. But some of the old-timers object, arguing that this would be an insult not only to the club’s founders but to all the people who passed through its doors over the years. Surely there must be a better solution. Argentinians, after all, are famous for finding a way out of their problems. And isn’t the dance teacher pregnant? What better symbol of hope can there be than that?

LE RÔLE DE SA VIE (THE ROLE OF HER LIFE) (COMP) (International Premiere)
France / 2004 / 35 mm / Colour / 102 min / Dir.: François Favrat
Claire Rocher, a freelance journalist working at a fashion magazine, meets Elisabeth Becker, a film star. They have nothing in common. Their personalities and their relationships with men are completely different, not to mention the differences between their respective incomes and the issue of celebrity. Elisabeth hires Claire to be her personal assistant, and her life suddenly begins spinning on its axis. Little by little the two women become friends. Or so Claire thinks...

United States / 2004 / 35 mm / Colour / 85 min / Dir.: Jordan Roberts
Jason Lair is a simple man with a simple wish: a normal life. This isn't an easy goal for the mild-mannered bank employee. Jason is newly separated from his wife, who has left him to care for their 6-year-old son Zach while she paints in Nepal, and his ailing grandfather Oscar, a former archaeologist close to death, is investigating alternative rituals for his impending funeral. So when Jason's estranged father and Henry's son Turner, whose checkered past includes exploits from the musical to the criminal, pays the family an unexpected visit, nothing is "simple" or "normal" in Jason's life anymore. In the coming days, the somewhat reluctant Lair men will embark on a trip not only through the mythic beauty of the desert southwest, but across the family's own rocky emotional landscape. Forced together by a deep loss, these very different people find a great deal along the way - devastating secrets, amazing discoveries and, just as Henry wanted, each other.

GENESIS (GENESIS) (COMP) (World Premiere)
France / 2004 / 35 mm / Colour / 80 min / Dir.: Claude Nuridsany, Marie Pérennou
An African griot (a traditional storyteller) uses the evocative language of myth and fable to tell another of his tall tales. But this tall tale is a true tale -- it is our very own story. The birth of the universe, the formation of the earth, the appearance of life, the emergence from the waters, the colonization of earthly paradise... a tremendous, event-filled saga unfolds before our very eyes. This "flamboyant" Genesis, both modern and timeless, is “enacted” by the direct descendants of those who were part of it -- the animals. In the course of the various stages of this initiatory quest, the storyteller discovers that he too has a key role in the story. That the story of his own existence is a reflection of the great history of life. That he is a child of that great tribe of beings, caught up in the vertiginous maelstrom of life.

A few statistics:
Total Number of Films: 416*
Feature length: 245
Medium length: 14
Short films: 157

Countries represented: 72

Canadian Films (All Sections): 136*
Feature length: 21
Medium length: 11
Short films: 104

Premieres: 224*
World and international premieres: 101
North American premieres: 68
Canadian premieres: 55


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