Even though the 28th annual Montreal Film Festival opened amidst controversy, it was business as usual at this year's cinematic celebration of diversity and the beauty of celluloid. The fest, which ran from August 26th until September 7th was as ambitious as ever, offering up an eclectic mix of odd and intelligent little gems from all over the globe. Audiences flocked to see underground, instant classics from countries as far away as Germany (the edgy political thriller The Edukators), Iran (the highly praised The Lizard) and Hungary (the lethargic but gripping Dealer).
Known for their grandiose tributes to the best of the best in the world of film, this year came as no exception. Acknowledged for her ongoing contribution to cinema, French actress Isabelle Adjani (The Story of Adele H.) was honored in a glitzy and glamorous ceremony. A retrospective of her most prestigious projects were screened throughout the fest. Adjani wasn't the only big named to make her way to the the MWFF; directors Krsto Papic (Croatia) and Theo Angelopoulos (Greece) popped in to be bombarded with
praise as well.
As admired as these individuals are, perhaps the biggest name to make her way down the red carpet this year was Penelope Cruz who flew into town alongside director Sergio Castellitto to promote her down and dirty Italian drama Don't Move. Cruz, who is being swarmed with Oscar buzz for her gritty role as an unattractive cleaning lady had two movies screening at the fest, the other being the dramatic war epic Head in the Clouds co-starring Charlize Theron.
As usual, the American films offered audience a sneak peek at some of the major studio's fall flicks, including the Christopher Walken/Michael Caine road trip dramedy Around the Bend, the crisp little crime caper Criminal starring John C. Reilly and the steamy drama Wicker Park, which was shot in Montreal last year.
When moviegoers weren't crammed into either the Eaton Centre, Imperial, Parisien or Place Des Arts cinema, they could probably be found crammed into Place Desjardins listening to countless filmmakers chat about the moviemaking process at one of many press conferences.
In its 35th year, the MWFF hosted the Canadian Student Film Festival which showcases up and coming Canuck talent. Major awards included a trip to next year's Cannes Film Festival as well as grants for future productions.
The festival jury-which was fronted by director Claude Zidi –chose it's favorite features at a ceremony held Monday. Big winners include the Christopher Walken melodrama Around the Bend and the Asian film The Parking Attendant in July which share the honors for both the Jury and Best Actor Awards (for Walken as well as Fan Wei). The Syrian Bride was given the prestigious Grand Prix of the Americas, Le Role De Sa Vie won numerous awards including Best Screenplay and the experimental Japanese movie The Crying Wind was named the most innovative piece of this year's fest. Bill Marchant's Everyone was named the Best Canadian Film of the MWFF and the Emily Mortimer drama Dear Frankie was named the Best American film. Spanish artist Carlos Zaura was named Best Director for his film The Seventh Day. Short film winners include the Indian film Little Terrorist (First Prize) and Mabel's Saga (Jury Award).