Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Boo hoo. No Montreal this year

Normally at this time of year I get excited because it would only be just over a week or so before the Montreal World Film Festival begins. It has been my go-to festival every year since it started - way, way back in 1977 (when Talkies, I know, were in their infancy). I’ve only missed about four editions of the festival. But this year I’m not going. There are several reasons. One is because I spent a considerable part of last year in Montreal for family reasons – going back and forth - and feel a bit exhausted. But the main reason is because the festival has changed its dates. For decades the festival has always run from the second last Thursday in August through to the night of Labour Day. But for some reason those dates were changed this year. The festival has been moved forward a week, starting August 18 through 28th. Unfortunately the altered dates interfere with my freelance work assignments; the middle two weeks of the month is a time I’m extremely busy……But it’s puzzling why the dates were changed. So I wrote the festival and received this reply: “The dates of the Festival changed this year in memory of the first Montreal World Film Festival which took place 35 years ago. As this year is the 35th anniversary of the Festival, we just wanted to remember that. So nothing will be sure for next year. Dates can change again, we don`t know yet if it can be permanent or not. We are sorry for the inconvenience it can cause.”…..This reason seems a little puzzling if not entirely credible. As a Montreal friend who closely follows the Quebec film scene said, if the festival really wanted to commemorate its 35th anniversary why not hold a retrospective of selected films from all the years of the fest or a section showing award winners. Moving the dates back seems a little odd and certainly could throw a loop into plans of regular festival-goers who have become used to the later summer time slot punctuated by the long weekend. Also notice that the reply indicated the dates might change permanently…..It has also been suggested to me that the festival may have changed its dates because its schedule conflicted too closely with the Toronto International Film Festival in early September and the Venice  Intl Film festival Aug 31–Sept 10. Other reasons could be that the festival simply can’t afford to hold a longer schedule. The fest has also been cut by one day. By eliminating films on Labour Day weekend it might not have to pay higher rent for commercial cinema space. Or the commercial cinema might have upped the rent on what otherwise would be a big box office weekend for the non-festival going public. The Montreal Gazette on Saturday, in a feature on this year’s event, quoted festival general director  Danièle Cauchard  saying “we’re still underfinanced” despite obtaining more government funding after it was withdrawn several years ago.....I wish the festival luck and will miss not being at it. Although barely known in this part of the world it is significant. With more than 380 films from 70 countries it’s on the scale of Toronto though not with the prestige, generated partly by Toronto’s star-studded and Hollywood focus……

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