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MWFF: Final Thoughts

The year of Living Dangerously

[Thankfully Pierre-Alexandre is not recovering in a hospital, but in the comfort of his own bed (see pic above). Here is the last piece he wrote before he started speaking to me in Taiwanese and part Hungarian. Scary, very scary.]

Death by movie watching. I didn’t know it existed but believe me, it does. In the film Marathon, the trainer explains to someone that at the end of a marathon, you’re so tired that you’d jump in front of a truck if you saw one coming in the opposite direction. This is what I felt by the end of the festival. I guess I hadn’t fully recovered from the Fantasia film festival a few weeks ago. The 43 films I saw at the MWFF, as well as the 45ish films I saw at the Fantasia Film Festival a few weeks ago turned out to have their toll on my wellbeing (and sanity!). And it’s not over! In the next 5 weeks, there are exactly 24 days populated by film festivals (see below). If we add press screenings in addition to those dates, that’s a helluva of a lot of movies to watch. The road will be long until the end of the film festival season and only the strongest will survive.

Montreal World Film Festival
Press Screenings :: September 22-26
Regular Programming :: September 26-August 5

The New Montreal Film Fest
Press Screenings :: September 12-18 (approx)
Regular Programming :: September 18-25

The Festival of New Cinema
Press Screenings :: October 1-13 (approx)
Regular Programming :: October 13-23

Image & Nation (Queer Film Festival)
November 3-13

Cinemania Film Festival (French Films Festival)
November 3-13

Documentary Film Festival
November 10-20

At times during the MWFF, I felt like the main character in Avalon; I spent most of my time in a virtual reality and for the ten days of the festival I was completely disconnected from the real world. At other times, after my caffeine injections, I felt like running everywhere like Tetsuo in Tetsuo : The Iron Man. After those much needed caffeine injections, my eyes probably looked like Montgomery Burns’ eyes in the Simpsons in the episode in which he’s mistaken for an alien. Watching 40 films in 10 days is very demanding and tiresome. At the end of the festival I wasn’t in good shape and I had to suffer through the effects of 10 days of malnutrition.

Oh well … that can’t be worse than having a real job …

Then, you’re probably wondering why I do it so intensely and every year. Well, to put it simply, I could be home making good money rather than watching films at the festival. My back (ouch ouch!) and my bank account manager would probably prefer that. However, in film festivals there is certain cinephilic-sadomasochistic drive that forces us to see many films. Like the gold harvesters from the gold-rush, watching that many films isn’t fun by any means. However, the reward of seeing that one single wonderful film that you’d never have seen had you not seen it at the festival is a reward that justify the hard days of movies watching. This is why, arguably, you need a pass to fully enjoy festivals. If you handpick a selection of 10 films or so, you’ll probably choose films by directors you know or films with an interesting synopsis in the catalog. As Clinton and Stacey always say on What Not to Wear, you should always try on clothes that you think wouldn’t look good on you. The same applies for films. The best surprises are often the films that you didn’t know anything about and that you wouldn’t have picked without a pass.

* * *

So, what about the films at the MWFF then? Well, this was my first experience going to the festival “full time”. I had gone to previous editions but I saw only about 5-10 films each year. In the 43 films I saw this year, I was very easily able to do a top 10. The MWFF, even though it featured only a few ‘brand names’ of the film festival circuits had many very interesting films. Despite the turmoil surrounding this last edition, an impressive number of directors were in town to present their films. Given the many problems surrounding the festival, I didn’t expect to see this many directors. Unfortunately, the festival didn’t have Q&As after the screenings. I can understand that if the next movie is set to start only a few minutes after the end of the film, but they didn’t even do it when they had an hour or so between films. Lamest thing ever!

The festival was also a good success under the circumstances. Many people complained about the lack of French subtitles compared to the previous years, which could also explain that the number of cinephiles attending the festival was lower than usual. Also, many hardcore cinephiles didn’t make it to the festival this year. I talked to two people who used to get passes since the 80s or so. One didn’t buy one this year—due to the lack of interesting films—, and the other person was very hesitant in getting one this year. She finally bought one, but she almost didn’t. Other people I’ve talked to considerably reduced the numbers of films they saw—due to the lack of interesting films again. Nonetheless, many people seem to have bought the $300 cinephiles pass, which is a good sign. A good sign for what ? Well, as Losique is getting older and the corporate festival supporters scarcer (all major local film distributors boycotted the festival this year), the festival probably won’t stay around much longer, but at least we can hope the festival will have at least one last edition next year – it’s 30th (and final?) edition. It would be rather lame if the festival was to die on its 29th edition. Losique announced the dates for the next edition (Aug 24-Sept 4 2006), so let’s hope all goes well for the MWFF and that it will be back next year.

Here is a list of my favorite films of the MWFF as well as the list of all the prizes given by the festival this year.

Montreal World Film Festival Top 5
(in no particular order)

Hawaii Oslo : I missed all the regular presentations of the film but I was lucky enough to catch an extra screening. This is by far the best film I’ve seen at the festival this year.

As Oslo suffers through the hottest day of the year, the paths of several strangers cross. A male nurse believes he can sense the future (as long as he’s asleep), while a suicidal former pop star pines for the past. “Hawaii” is a local bar where two long-lost lovers swear to meet to fulfill their childhood promise; Hawaii, the American state, is also the place where one lover’s brother dreams of fleeing during his one-day furlough from jail. Meanwhile, a grief-stricken marriage couple hope to make a desperate trip to the United States for an experimental operation that might save their child’s life. “One of the best Norwegian films made in many years, HAWAII, OSLO proves it’s still possible to do exciting work in the sub-genre created by such exceptional pictures as SHORT CUTS and MAGNOLIA.” — Gunnar Rehlin (Variety)

Encounters in the Jungle : In the days prior to that screening, I had seen a couple of Asian war flicks at the festival as well as several Asian period films, and I didn’t like most of them. So, I was hesitant to see this Encounters in the Jungle but it was more than worth it and the script is brilliant.

The experiences of five men, Jiguang, Tianxiang, Yunshi, Ah Jiao and Xue in war-torn China in the 1930s. These are not generals, just ordinary soldiers enduring the trials and tribulations of their era — love and sorrow, life and death. Eschewing traditional narrative styles, the film follows several young people who cling to human values in an inhuman time.

The Lost Domain : Raoul Ruiz is one of my favorite director. Although this film isn’t as spicy as his recent films (That Day, Une place parmi les vivants), it’s very well crafted and shows how Ruiz with his very innovative style is a pure filmmaking genius.

A story, told on three time planes, of two men of different nationalities and fates who are connected by a love of flying. The younger man, Chilean-born Max, is alread 50 when he hears gunfire: the army is staging a coup d’état against Salvador Allende’s democratically elected government. The event triggers memories of another war. Back then, when he was a pilot in the air force, he had taken off from London to battle the German Luftwaffe. When he returned to base, he almost failed to notice that the new instructor, a Frenchman named Antoine, was the same man who had taught him to fly a year earlier. Max was barely ten when, one day, a plane descended from the heavens to a Chilean village, and a man stepped out who was to become his teacher and role model. Together they toured the country’s rugged landscape, meeting villagers, crossing mountains in the hope of finding interesting work. The pair wandered onto a mysterious estate, only to lose all trace of it the next day…..”Pleasurable slow-burner THE LOST DOMAIN, newest film by prolific, Chilean-born festival favourite Raoul Ruiz, offers dazzling scenery and artful storytelling in the Proustian manner of his TIME REGAINED.” — Leslie Felperin (Variety)

For the Living and the Dead : Scandinavian cinema always surprises me. On the last day of a festival last year, I saw Brothers (Susanne Bier’s Brødre) as a time filler between 2 films. It turned out to be one of the best film I have seen! Likewise, I had not too many expectation for For the Living and the Dead which looked like an ordinary drama and I selected it only because it fitted my schedule. Again, I was amazed at how good the film was.

When a young child dies in an accident, his family experiences a year of grieving. They try to look to the future in spite of their pain. But the child’s mother feels his loss so deeply that the father is left to organize the family’s daily routine, and the son begins to wonder if he hasn’t lost his parents along with his little brother. The unsympathetic attitude of friends and neighbours doesn’t make the family’s situation any easier. Grief and the inability to grieve, the differences between men, women and children and their approach to bereavement, and the predominant need among friends and acquaintances to carry on “as if nothing had happened”, are some of the themes explored in this film based on the experiences of a real Finnish family.

Self-Medicated : Although the themes of the film have been explored before in films like Requiem for a Dream and a zillion others, Lapica’s depiction of the harsh reality the main character goes through is quite outstanding for a first film.

Having never come to terms with the death of his father, 17-year-old Andrew Eriksen lapses from honour roll student to party animal on the fast track to self-destruction. No longer able to handle the Las Vegas teenager’s violent outbursts and increasingly unpredictable behaviour, Andrew’s mother, herself in denial about her addiction to prescription drugs, takes drastic measures and has him snatched right out of his bed in the middle of the night by attendants from a lock-down treatment facility. But the questionable, if not downright abusive, reform tactics fail to have the desired effect on Andrew, who stages a bold escape from the de facto prison and, after a few false starts, finds his way on his own path to rehabilitation.


Best American/European Films
The Lost Domain
The Papermoon Affair

Best Scandinavian Films
Hawaii Oslo
For the Living and the Dead

Best Asian Films
Encounters in the Jungle
The Milkwoman
Sunrise Sunset

Best Thrillers/suspenses
Camping Sauvage
Your Name is Justine

Best Short Films
Terra Incognita
Dry Whiskey

* * *



Grand Prix of the Americas:
OFF SCREEN by Pieter Kuijpers (Netherlands/Belgium)

Jury Awards :
SNOWLAND (SCHNEELAND) by Hans W. Geissendörfer (Germany)

Best Director :
KAMATAKI by Claude Gagnon (Canada/Japan)

Best Artistic Contribution :
YOUR NAME IS JUSTINE by Franco de Peña (Poland/Luxembourg) for the work of the director of photography Arek Tomiak

Best Actress :
ADRIANA OZORES for the film HEROÏNA by Gerardo Herrero (Spain)

Best Actor :
JAN DECLEIR for the film OFF SCREEN by Pieter Kuijpers (Netherlands/Belgium)

Best Screenplay :
JOSE CORBACHO, JUAN CRUZ for the film TAPAS by Jose Corbacho and Juan Cruz (Spain)

Innovation Award :
SEX, HOPP & Kärled (SEX, HOPE & LOVE) by Lisa Ohlin pour the direction of actors and particularly Mira Eklund.

Golden Zenith for Best First Fiction Feature Film :
THE BLOSSOMING OF MAXIMO OLIVEROS by Aureaus Solito (Philippines)

Silver Zenith for First Fiction Feature Film :
TRUTH OR DARE (WAHRHEIT ODER PFLICHT) by Jan Martin Scharf and Arne Nolting (Germany)

Bronze Zenith for First Fiction Feature Film :
LONDON by Hunter Richards (U.S.A.)

Special mention for First Fiction Feature Film :



1st Prize :
TERRA INCOGNITA by Peter Volkart (Switzerland)

Jury Award :
EL DIENTE DE ORO (LA DENT D’OR) by Daniel Rodriguez (Peru)



Air Canada People’s Choice Award :
KAMATAKI by Claude Gagnon (Canada-Japan)

Award for the most popular Canadian film :
KAMATAKI by Claude Gagnon (Canada-Japan)

Glauber Rocha Award for Best Latin American Film :
PLAY by Alicia Scherson (Chili-Argentina)

Award for Best Documentary Film :
LA NEUVIÈME (THE NINTH) by Pierre-Henry Salfati (Canada)

Award for Best Canadian Short Film :


KAMATAKI by Claude Gagnon (Canada-Japan)

KAMATAKI by Claude Gagnon (Canada/Japan)
Special mention: THREE DOLLARS by Robert Connolly (Australia)

A special Awards for their exceptional contribution to the cinematographic art :

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