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NMFF: Festival Diary



In the middle of a torrid summer afternoon, in a small and deserted village where no one seems to live, small tumbleweeds cross paths with the winds that push it.

* * *

You probably have seen this in a western before. Well, this is rather what the ambiance was like at the New Montreal FilmFest (NMFF) during its first three days. Most of the screenings so far were attended by only a very few spectators. It’s sad to see the immense rooms of the St-Denis theatre filled with only 30-50 people. It’s a slow start for the festival but I’m jumping steps here … back to day one …


Day 1

At the time the festival started on Sunday, there was a lot of hype surrounding it. Although the festival didn’t have that many stars or that many major films, it appeared to be a promising project. It had a couple interesting films, a lot of outdoor activities including free screenings and a ‘do your own film booth’ set to please the wannabe directors within the huge crowd of cinephiles coming from all Montreal to experience the New Montreal FilmFest. Huge crowds? What huge crowd ? Before the festival started, that question wasn’t really on anyone’s lips at the time so the festival seemed like a viable alternative to the much criticized MWFF.

This excitement was very short lived however. Already during my first public something was wrong in the air. A crowd of less than 30 people was in a huge theater. “Maybe it was normal after all”, I naively said to myself. It’s the very first day of the very first year of the festival so maybe people aren’t into it yet. The second screening I had that day was attended by a few more people, but the number of people was still outrageously low.

After those films, I went to the opening night red carpet events and then headed home. At the red carpet I was too busy taking pictures—I took about 300 in 30 minutes—to have a look at how many curious people stood by the side of the red carpets to see their favorite stars. I was later told that it wasn’t that many unfortunately.

Day 2

So as a new day started at 9AM, although in the back of my mind I knew there wouldn’t be more people, I was still hoping to see more people in the theaters. After the two press screenings—during which I saw a film in the same room than Claude Lelouche and Chang Chen!!—I had my first public screening. The moment of truth was approaching. Will there be more people ? As expected, the turn out wasn’t very high either. Was this the sign the festival was a failure bound to happen ?

At least, as I said, I was given the opportunity to watch a film with Claude Lelouche and Chang Chen, but other than that nothing was remarkable that day, not even the films. So, I headed home early.

Day 3

I’m now officially at the ‘hopeless’ stage. I’ve stopped to have any hopes about seeing more people at the screenings. At least things couldn’t get worst. Or so did I think. Boy was I wrong to think so. The more and more the festival progresses, the more and more I feel like it’s stuck in quicksand. Today, although more people showed up, the theatres had the “Vacancy” sign up. Despite that, the press office continued to give a very hard time to journalists who wanted to see films outside the press screenings. The person in charge of giving coupons to the press refused to give me an extra coupon to replace a ticket for a film I wanted to reschedule. I was able to exchange it at the Box Office, but this is unacceptable; a real farce. Why would I need to spend 15 minutes of my time getting tickets for the next few days (of course they won’t give tickets for the whole fest) while a) some journalists have an ‘all-access’ pass and don’t need tickets and b) there is absolutely no one in the screenings.

I went to the TriBeCa film festival and it was very hard to get access to public screenings. First because there were about 4-5 press screenings a day but also because most screenings were sold out. In such a context I can understand why journalists aren’t given a liberal access to regular screenings. Furthermore, the festival had several hundreds of media representatives covering the festival. The NMFF doesn’t have any of those things! There are 2 press screenings per day and only 8 films were shown in press screenings before the festival. In this festival where the amount of journalists is limited and where the screenings are attended by 30-50 person, it’s totally unacceptable.

So, after my two press screenings of the day, I took it easy and I went to most of the press conference—not wanting to bother to get additional tickets from the press office. Apart from the press conference for the much awaited L’Audition (here), the press conferences of the day hardly attracted any journalists at all. Perhaps other journalists are fed up with Spectra!! At the press conference (see pictures here) for major international director Gabriele Salvatores’ Quo Vadis, Baby ?, only about 10-12 journalists showed up in addition to a few photographers. There were even less journalists for the following press conference surrounding the screening of the film Der Fischer und seine Frau – warum Frauen nie genug. A whooping 8 people attended the press conference, including a photographer and Moritz de Hadeln who thanked the director for being here. See those pics – here.

My day was concluded by the L’Audition red carpet (here). Before heading home, I sneaked in a screening at the St-Denis to see the turn out. Surprisingly, more than 10 people showed up, woohoo! Still, the sight of a mere 70 people in a theater of 400 isn’t exactly an overwhelming sight to say the least …

5 days are left for a miracle to happen, but after the official closing film of Domino having been pulled by New Line Cinema for reasons unknown (and not the excuse that the people invovled were unable to attend), it appears that six months of planning for an inaugural, high-calibre festival are simply not enough.

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