Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Montreal fest dead as a doorknob?

Ironically, the 40th edition of the Montreal World Film Festival, which I have attended for all but about five editions, might be collapsing. The festival has been struggling the last few years amidst axing of government funds, acrimonious relations with the Quebec film community (many Quebec directors have long refused to have their films premiered there, for example), toxic relations with the media, and last year, a situation where festival founder Serge Losique couldn’t immediately even pay staff, is foundering on the eve of its official opening….A friend in Montreal emailed yesterday that on Monday he tried to pick up tickets and a program, which only went live on the festival’s website a few days ago. No luck. The theatre was closed, with the date of sale bumped up to Tuesday. He went back Tuesday. Theatre still closed.  Now they’re supposed to go on sale today. And there is no printed program, only online…..Then in this morning’s Montreal Gazette I read that most of the festival’s 15 staff have resigned citing the fest’s precarious finances. The fact the festival took so long to announce its program led to increased speculation it would not even come off. Then the PDF version of its program was released by the weekend and all looked well. Now this…..I have been a strong supporter of the festival for years, largely because I have seen such extraordinary good films these past four decades. I’ve also like how efficiently the festival has been run (unlike festivals with volunteers this one rents professional staff) and the close proximity of its venues. But I was not going to go this year if the employee pay dispute had not been settled. It only got settled in February after the staff took their case to a government agency….Now, according to the Montreal media, the festival has yet to pay to rent its main venue, the Cineplex Forum (that’s right – where the Montreal Canadiens used to play)…..Losique, stubborn and secretive as he is, has always somehow pulled the festival off. But this year – ironically on is 40th birthday – he might have finally run into a big brick wall.

Last weekend I attended the director Marcie Begleiter’s documentary Eva Hesse, about the acclaimed 1960’s abstract artist, at the Detroit Film Theatre (DFT). Hesse is notable because she was the only woman – as one colleague described her, “one of the boys” – in a New York art world that was male – even macho - dominated. Her sculptures were breakthroughs in what they said about ephemeral life, the place of women, and the use of materials. The Detroit Institute of Arts had one of her most famous works, Accession II. The documentary takes us back to that black and white period of 1960s Greenwich Village with some great archival stills and video, that makes you appreciate this visionary artist and her amazing output over just a few years before a very untimely death….Eva Hesse continues this weekend at the DFT.

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