Thursday, September 4, 2014

Montreal festival survives another year

It was with some trepidation that I looked forward to this year’s edition of the Montreal World Film Festival. The prognosis was not good. Festival founder and president Serge Losique had lost much government funding (including blockbuster grants from Quebec’s SODEC and Telefilm Canada). There were rumours the fest had mortgaged the grand Imperial Cinema, which it renovated beautifully in the 1990s – and where as a kid I saw How the West Was Won, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, and The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm when it was a Cinerama theatre. So I sent in my $100 for a 10-day pass (a fantastic deal) and kept my fingers crossed. But Losique, ever the optimist, was non-plussed. In a written interview with the Montreal Gazette (which he vetted) Losique dismissed government bureaucrats who complained about the fest’s lack of financial transparency, maintaining the books have been “clean and transparent.” This isn’t the first time the MWFF has been in crisis. Similar problems occurred in 2005 and many predicted the festival, now in its 38th year, would die. An alternative festival was funded and fell flat on its face. Losique (who pretty much has run the MWFF as a one man show since its beginning) seems to have nine lives. And in the Gazette interview he predicted the MWFF, like cinema as a whole, “will outlive us.” ….. So it was great to arrive in Montreal and find the festival operating pretty much as always.  But there were a couple of disappointments. The festival catalogue at 216 pages was noticeably thinner than in past years. And the festival had lost one of its showpiece cinemas, Theatre Maisonneuve in Place des Arts. On the plus side, not all sponsors abandoned Losique. He still has one of Quebec’s premier corporations Québecor in his court and numerous other larger and smaller businesses including Cineplex (where the bulk of films were shown at the Cineplex Quartier Latin muliplex), NBCUniversal, and Hyatt Regency….Among festival goers there was obvious considerable talk was about the future of MWFF (or in French, Festival des Films du Monde – FFM) with many thinking this would be its last year. Many people blamed Losique for being a notorious autocrat and his own worst enemy. Others threw criticism at Montreal’s new mayor, former federal cabinet minister Denis Coderre, for ignoring the event, a major cultural attraction that draws tourists from outside Montreal including many US visitors. But there is reason for thinking there will be a 39th running for the Montreal fest, perhaps North America’s most internationally-oriented film festival….Tomorrow: capsule film fest reviews.

No comments:

Post a Comment