Montreal World Film Festival 2009 – Wrap-Up

Whew! It's done and we survived! There were plenty of quality films to be watched over the 12 days of this the 33rd annual Montreal World Film Festival. What was really wonderful about the festival this year (though they have done Cinema Under the Stars for many years now) were the amount of films you could have seen for free. High quality films like "Latcho Drom", "Gladiator", "Dangerous Liaisons", "Fame", and "Le Dine de Cons". There was also The Cinema Under a Tent portion of the festival this year that focused screening titles by Quebec filmmakers like "Mon Fille, Mon Ange", "Un Ete Sans Point Ni Coup Sur", "Maman Est Chez le Coiffeur", and "Polytechnique". The organizers seemed to really understand that the medium of film really should be accessible to everyone.

Quirky as he might be, festival founder and president Serge Losique should be given props for sticking to his guns and presenting the kind of festival he believes in despite conflicts with various groups and groans from many in the media. His vision is not to pander to Hollywood like the Toronto film festival and show all the general release films that you are able to see at other points during the year. Yes, they get the George Clooneys and Oprah Winfreys of the world attending, but is that what is really important?

The Montreal World Film Festival chooses to focus on first time directors and world cinema. It gives us a chance to see what filmmakers all over the world are interested in and what young directors are creating. Cultural diversity is what this film festival has chosen to focus on and it does it well.

I was extremely happy to see films from areas of the world where conflict has made creating art near impossible. Films from South Africa, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ethiopia, Haiti, Afghanistan, Palestine, and Iraq were presented at the festival. And also non-traditional filmmaking countries like Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Georgia, and Angola were represented. This type of inclusiveness really makes the world feel like one big family and that is exactly the feeling you get when attending the Montreal World Film Festival.

Prize Winners:
– Grand Prix of the Americas (Top Prize): "Korkoro" (Freedom) – Tony Gatlif (France)
– Public Award for the Most Popular Film: "Korkoro" (Freedom) – Tony Gatlif (France)
– Best Actress Award: Marie Leuenberger – Micha Lewinsky's "Die Standesbeamtin (Switzerland)
– Best Actor Award: Cyron Melville – Morten Giese's "Vangittig Forelsket." (Denmark)
– Best Director Award: Kichitaro Negishi – "Viyon no Tsuma" (Villon's Wife) (Japan)
– Ecumenical Prize: "Korkoro" (Freedom) – Tony Gatlif (France) and "Ceasefire" – Lancelot von Naso (Germany)
– Special Grand Prix (Second Prize): "Weaving Girl" – Wang Quan'an (China)
– Fipresci International Critics Prize: "Weaving Girl" – Wang Quan'an (China)
– Most Popular Canadian Feature (by audiences): Un Cargo pour l'Afrique (A Cargo to Africa) – Roger Cantin (Quebec)
– Best Screenplay: Alain Le Henry – Je suis heureux que ma mère soit vivante (I'm Glad My Mother Is Alive) (France)
– Artistic Contribution: Srdjan Dragojevic – St. George Shoots the Dragon ( Serbia-Bosnia-Bulgaria)
– Innovation Award: Mohsen Amiryoussefi – Atashkar (Fire Keeper) (Iran)
– Best Short: Lucas Martell – Pigeon Impossible (U.S.)
– Awards for First Fiction Features: France's Sophie Laloy, for Je te mangerai (You Will Be Mine), Iran's Mohammadreza Vatandoost for When the Lemons Turned Yellow, and Ecuador's Cristina Franco, Jorge Alejandro Fegan, Diego Coral López and Nataly Valencia, for Los Canallas (Riff Raff)

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