Thursday, September 22, 2005

Of Film Festivals in Montreal. New and other.

I wish I wrote up the grim projections I had about the new Montreal Film Festival. I mean lord knows the people in my household have had to endure my constant complaints about it being an ill run, badly managed enterprise run by a bunch of greedy capitalists who knew nothing about film and would only hurt Montreal’s local industry, I could have spent a few minutes one day writing about that instead of Paul Wall.

Well, I didn’t but the festival still failed. I guess that takes away my ability to gloat online, but that’s alright since honestly, I don’t take pleasure in the failure of others (except maybe the actual organisers). For one thing I know a couple of people working there and at least a 2 of them really put in a lot of work at what they do so certainly I’m not attacking this for the thrill. I really wish Montreal could have a quality international film festival, one that would unite film enthusiasts of all tastes together in a celebration of the medium. I really would like to see the stars come out in Montreal and more importantly I’d love to see producers discover innovative new films here and sign them up for distribution. Hell, I’d love to one day premier a film I worked on here.

The problem is, this festival is all about the bottom line and not about any of those things.

Say what you want about Losique, the guy had vision: he wanted an international festival based solely on the merits of film. Sure his idea of a good film was one mainly based on “cultural value” which lead to a ton of anthropological films mixed quality, but at least he stuck to his guns. Simard’s festival meanwhile attempted to please far too many people: local film companies angered that Losique didn’t butter their bread, stargazers hoping to see famous people, the pseudo-intellectual audience Losique pandered to, actual film buffs and kids who enjoy his street festivals. That’s just way too many people to please, particularly in September when everyone’s sick of festivals anyways. The “street festival” aspect of it was particularly pathetic as no one cared about his dog and pony show. Note to the organizers: Film isn’t music and its best enjoyed in a dark quiet room.

Until Montreal and the people in charge of its festivals figure out whom we/they are and give us a single, united, focused event we’re going to continue being the laughing stock of the Festival circuit. Worse (for the competitive types), even once we get a decent event off the ground, we’re still going to be second banana next to Toronto who has spent years building an important, dynamic indie-meets-the-stars event which now rivals Cannes in importance, if not prestige.

In the meantime, I’ll be attending Montreal’s most successful film festival: Fantasia. Focused, entertaining and featuring films from around the world that you couldn’t see elsewhere, it’s by far my event of choice and judging from the ever increasing crowds, that of the province as well. It may infuriate the old ladies who want to see anthropological film, government officials mad at “Canadian content” and unscrupulous local businessmen frustrated that we’re not plugging their shitty product but I’ll tell you one thing: it’s the best lineup of films in this city and that’s all that counts for me.

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