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Montreal World Film Festival

It’s that time of the year again, when Montreal cinephiles get not one, not two, but now three film festivals in a span of 2 months. The first one of the list is the Montreal World Film Festival (MWFF) and our festival reporter par-excellence Pierre-Alexandre Despatis will offer daily coverage on the highs (and sometimes the lows) of 29th year. If you do spot Mr.Despatis – make sure to tell him to stay caffeinated, or better yet offer him a cup of java!

It’s time to leave the poker tables once more time this year and have a reckless and intense 10-day long movie watching marathon, courtesy of the Montreal World Film Festival (MWFF). Yeehaa!!!

The Festival That Wouldn’t Die!
This is probably one of the last editions of the festival however. The definite end of the festival seems to be quickly approaching. According to various speculations amongst the film critics present at the press screenings, the festival will host its 30th and last edition next year before being fully replaced by the New Montreal Film Fest. It seems to be unavoidable since all the major local distributors have boycotted the MWFF this year. Also, while press screenings are still (somewhat) well attended, they do not seem to be covered by as many journalists as in previous years. Are these signs that the festival is bound to be terminated?

One thing is certain though: not one single penny of the governmental funding the festival used to receive every year has shown up this year due to a controversial report published by SECOR last year. The report was devastating for the festival and marked the beginning of the end for it. As a consequence, the festival had to reduce the number of films shown this year. This isn’t a problem per se since the festival always showed too many films anyways … ‘quantity over quality’ it was. With the help of private sponsors, they still managed to get this edition put together with a whooping 180 feature films. That’s more than enough films. The real problem caused by the lack of funding lies with the lack of subtitles.

Major film festivals throughout the world all have electronic subtitles in addition to any English subtitles there could be printed on the film itself. The MWFF had such a system in the past—not this year; they didn’t receive the necessary funds. Newer generations of cinephiles are more likely to be bilingual and proficient enough in English to be able to understand a film in English or with English subtitles. However, this isn’t the case for older generations who tend more to be unilingual francophone … and if you’ve been to the MWFF in the past you’ve probably noticed that the festival’s theaters are mainly populated by grey haired people. This year, only the opening film will have electronic subtitles. The governmental authorities, so fond of promoting and protecting the French language, should have at least considered giving money to the festival so that the films could be properly subtitled, even if they didn’t want support the festival itself.

What about the films?
Well, to put it frankly, in the minutes following the public announcement of the selection for this year’s edition I received an e-mail from a fellow Montreal cinephile who commented the selection by saying “Let me tell you how disappointed I am with the selection, which I would qualify as mediocre. A real disaster zone! An incredible cinephilic void!”. Harsh isn’t it. I agreed with him at the time. Out of all the films, only about 5-10 films can be said to be truly expected by cinephiles and critics, including Kim Ki-Duk and Raoul Ruiz’s latest films. Most of the other films are either first feature films or films made by directors virtually unknown here.


Last year, at a press conference for the festival, a journalist asked if the stormy sky shown on the poster was a metaphor for the stormy conditions in which the festival was held. Losique answered the claim with his traditional ‘no comments’. This year, I have this funny thought that the crumbling skyscrapers on the festival poster might be a metaphor for the festival’s crumbling future. Maybe, but until further notice the festival is alive and it’s time to go gem hunting–I found a few so far(!).

Don’t let the fact that most films are unknown prevent you from going to the festival. At the time of writing these lines, I went to about 15 press screenings. Surely this year’s selection isn’t as exotic as that of the Festival of New Cinema. It isn’t as glamorous as that of the New Montreal Film Festival either. However, I must admit I’m happily surprised with the films I’ve seen so far this year. Very much so. The films I’ve seen so far were all interesting or very interesting, except one or two. It’s not because the films aren’t known that the festival isn’t worth going to. The first few films I’ve seen at the festival clearly demonstrated it. Furthermore, the fact that the festival’s life span might be drawing to an end should be another incentive to encourage you to go.

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