Montreal World Film Festival re-cap

Monday evening was the end of the 11 day Montreal World Film Festival and this, its 29th annual, is predicted by many to be the last. I for one ask "why"? I found the festival to be rather enjoyable. The much criticized president of the festival, Serge Losique, has alienated many of his previous sponsors, including the Canadian government and Canadian film distributors, and the funding of the festival fell from millions of dollars to a bare bones budget. The lack of funding, few Canadian films and a lack of big name stars led to the media denouncing the festival as a has been. There has been much bemoaning about the lack of quality films showing at this year's festival and poor attendance. Well, I cannot comment on the attendance numbers but as for the quality of films shown I for one, beg to differ. I must preface this with the admission that I have not attended previous World Film Festivals as extensively as I did this one. Nonetheless, let us live in the present. I did see 9 films and only one of them would I categorize as a weak film – and for what it is worth, it was a Canadian film. I also have to point out that only one of the films I saw won any of the prizes, so that means that besides the 8 high quality films I saw there were many others. What more do people expect?

It is my understanding that the Montreal World Film Festival's primary goal is to be one that spotlights films of the world. I believe that it more than adequately fulfilled this objective. I saw films from Britain, Australia, Ireland, Zambia, Germany, Nigeria, Canada, India, and the United States. There was also much representation from Latin America (23 films) and the Middle East (Iran, Lebanon, Egypt to name a few). The festival also gave the viewers many interesting country collaborations including a Canadian-Japanese film, a German-Nigerian documentary, and American-Puerto Rican short film. Was there any part of the world untouched by this festival?

I think that Montreal's ongoing inferiority complex towards Toronto has played a large part in the criticism of this year's festival. We are envious that major Hollywood stars and films are going to the Toronto Film Festival. All I have to say about that is, "Good for them"! I would much rather see a 'smaller' international film that I would not have a chance to see otherwise. I can wait for the latest Martin Scorcese, Ang Lee or Neil Jordan film to come out at my local multi-plex. Why would a festival be interested in bringing us these films? Do we want Montreal to become of festival of films with 8 figure and over budgets only? Are only films with big Hollywood stars such as, Kevin Bacon, Cate Blanchette, and Kirsten Dunst (all slated to be attending the Toronto Film Festival) worthy of our time?

All in all, I really enjoyed this year's Montreal World Film Festival and I hope, as Mr. Losique announced at the closing ceremonies, that there will be a 30th Montreal World Film Festival happening from August 24th to September 6th, 2006. I believe that there is enough room in this town for two film festivals and hey, we can always say that we have two whereas Toronto only has one! C'mon, Montreal lets not let what happened to our beloved Expos (lack of financing and public support) happen to a festival that has been an important part of the city's and its inhabitants lives for 29 years just fade out!

Awards of the World Film Festival – 2005:
Grand Prix of the Americas (top prize):
Off Screen by Pieter Kuijpers (Netherlands and Belgium)

Jury Awards:
The Milkwoman by Akira Ogata (Japan)
Snowland by Hans W. Geissendörfer (Germany)

Best Director:
Claude Gagnon for Kamataki (Canada and Japan)

Best Actress:
Adriana Ozores in Heroïna (Spain)

Best Actor:
Jan Decleir in Off Screen (Netherlands and Belgium)

Best Screenplay:
Jose Corbacho and Juan Cruz for Tapas (Spain)

Best Documentary Film:
La Neuvieme by Pierre-Henry Salfati (Canada)

Fipresci Prize (International Film Critics):
Kamataki by Claude Gagnon (Canada and Japan)

People's Choice Award:
Kamataki by Claude Gagnon (Canada and Japan)

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