Tuesday, August 29, 2017

No Montreal World Film Festival for me this year

Normally this time of year I’d be in Montreal for the Montreal World Film Festival (MWFF), which I began attending in its first year in 1977. I’ve only missed a few editions and have been a staunch defender of the festival when others, mainly the Montreal media, have derided it for any number of reasons – a dictatorial administrator, the lack of a “curatorial” program, and not opening its financial books. As someone not from Montreal I happily traveled to the festival year after year and simply indulged in the hundreds of films regularly on view. And uniquely, compared to other festivals, even Toronto, MWFF  films were a smorgasbord of flicks from around the world – even from very obscure or small countries in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. The MWFF administrator and founder, Serge Losique, in fact did run the festival as an autocrat. He started it and dammit, he was going to do what he wanted and to hell with what other people thought. Well, the consequences caught up with him last year. Even before that, government funding was being pulled. But last year (photo of optimistic filmgoers above) his sponsorships collapsed to the point he couldn’t afford to rent a major multiplex (the old Montreal Forum). The glossy pre-published film guide turned out to be useless; instead ever-changing zeroxed sheets were taped to the one cinema Losique had left, the Imperial.  Ticket holders, film directors and actors, often couldn’t get to their films.  And instead of paid staff there was a handful of volunteers. It was all very sad for a festival that once had been dominant in Montreal and rivaled the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). I still have fond memories of it. But, because of last year’s catastrophe, I decided not to go to this year’s event. Yes, the MWFF apparently is still happening. There are films listed on its website. And reportedly, a major Quebec corporation, Quebecor, bailed Losique out on the Imperial theatre’s mortgage.  But it still wasn’t enough to lure me. I’m afraid the MWFF, as far as I'm concerned, is dead……That won’t mean I won’t be going to Montreal for a festival this year. In October, there is the even older Festival du nouveau cinema (Festival of New Cinema) a more avant-garde event that serves up an excellent program. Montreal is beautiful in October. 

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