Written by: FFT Webmaster | August 9th, 2011
In a world of film festivals that is always trying out the new fangled and the as yet untried, it is nice to know that there are still some traditional events that put films and filmmakers front and center. Such is the case with the Montreal World Film Festival (MWFF), a sprawling event that kicks things old world style…..with filmmakers as the focus and an eclectic mix of features, documentaries and shorts as the bill of fare. This year’s edition does not disappoint in its variety and quality. In all, nearly 400 films from over 70 countries will be showcased, with an impressive 107 world or international premieres and 51 North American premieres. The main Festival sections include the World Competition (features and shorts), First Films World Competition (features), Out of Competition (features), Focus on World Cinema (features and shorts), Documentaries of the World (features, medium-length films, shorts), Canadian Student Film Festival (short films), as well as curated programs that include the Loto-Québec Movies Under the Stars outdoor screening series and Our Cinema – Review Of This Year’s Hits. Add to that a tribute to French movie queen Catherine Deneuve, a master class with French auteur Claude Lelouch and French director Bertrand Tavernier curating a program of his personal favorites, and you have a filled-to-the-brim program that appeals to all tastes. For Montrealers and visiting filmmakers and industry professionals, there is much to see, hear and experience from August 18 to 28.
If many of the names mentioned above are French, it is in keeping with Montreal’s tradition of championing French-language cinema. MWFF is decidedly Euro-friendly, with a strong program of films from both established Western European film industries and the continuingly evolving film cultures of the former East. However, in this sprawling program, exciting new voices from Latin America, Asia and Africa also are highlighted, bringing an international flavor to a city that has always reveled in its multi-cultural diversity. You may not find George Clooney or Brad Pitt walking the red carpet in Montreal, but the distinguished filmmakers with substantial careers behind them and the newly emerging auteurs on the international cinema stage are here in abundance.
Special attention is given to the Word Competition, for which the Prix des Ameriques has been a distinguished prize for nearly four decades. This year, 20 features and 11 shorts from 19 countries will be shown in the section, representing a fascinating cross-section of film genres and styles. The Festival will open on August 18 with COTEAU ROUGE, the new film from local Quebec auteur Andre Forcier. Featuring the stellar acting talents of Roy Dupuis, Céline Bonnier and Gaston Lepage, the film is an offbeat fable populated by a body disposer for the mob, a shady property developer, an ex-boxer and a grandmother who volunteers to be the surrogate mother for her daughter’s new child.
The MWFF is also presenting many first works in the World Competition. This includes a second Quebec film, LA RUN by Demian Fuica, in a tale of a young man whose world is suddenly turned upside down when he learns that his father, a compulsive gambler, is in hock to a local loan shark. Also returning is Israel director Eran Riklis (MWFF Grand Prize Winner in 2004 for THE SYRIAN BRIDE), who will present his latest film PLAYOFF, about an Israeli basketball coach, a Holocaust survivor, who accepts an offer to manage the German national team. Russian actor-director Andrey Smirnov will present his newest film THE DAY OF WRATH, which deals with the tumultuous period between 1909 and 1921 and tells a kind of DR. ZHIVAGO story of the life and loves of a Russian woman.
Other Montreal veterans making a return engagement this year include Belgian filmmaker Geoffrey Enthoven with the film COME AS YOU ARE, a light-hearted look at love, friendship and desire among a trio of 20-something male virgins who embark on a journey to Spain hoping to have their first sexual experience; Emmanuel Mouret, a French director presenting THE ART OF LOVE, a meditation on free love and open marriage with a dynamic cast that François Cluzet, Julie Depardieu and Judith Godrèche; Japanese director Takahisa Zeze with his film LIFE BACK THEN, in which a young man and a young woman, both nursing psychological wounds from their adolescent days, find work with a service specializing in the cleaning up of houses of people who die alone; and fellow Japanese director, Masato Harada who returns with CHRONICLE OF MY MOTHER, in which an aging mother clings to fading memories of her son and the maternal love which she always had for him but was never able to express.
Other films competing for this year’s top prize are DIRTY HEARTS, a Brazilian film directed Vicente Amorim set among the Japanese immigrant community following World War II; DAVID, the first feature by young American director Joel Fendelman, a cross-cultural story about a young Muslim boy who befriends a group of Jewish boys in Brooklyn, New York; HERE WITHOUT ME, an adaptation of celebrated playwright Tennessee William’s autobiographical play THE GLASS MENAGERIE by Iranian director Bahram Tavakoli; THE LAW OF ATTRACTION, a portrait of urban love told through four separate stories by Chinese director Zhao Tianyu; and FIVE SQUARE METERS about a couple’s struggle to stay ahead of Spain’s mounting economic crisis, directed by Max Lemcke.
Several countries have multiple entries in this year’s Competition section, noting a strong output of films and a vigorous cinema culture. From Poland comes two films: THE MOLE by Rafael Lewandowski, the story of a young man who discovers that his revolutionary father may have been a Communist informer; and BLACK THURSDAY by Antoni Krauze, which recreates the bloody confrontation between shipyard workers and the repressive government in 1970, a full 15 years before the emergence of the Solidarity movement that ultimately toppled the Communist regime. Two films in the Competition section hail from Italy. WHAT A BEAUTIFUL DAY is a politically incorrect comedy by Gennaro Nunziante that raises the issues of corruption, church influence, terrorism, and the North-South division. TATANKA by Giuseppe Gagliardi is the cinematic portrait of a young Southern Italian man’s degradation and redemption through boxing, with the lead played by real-life boxing champion Clemente Russo.
German cinema has been in the midst of a renaissance in the past several years and this year’s Competition boasts three films from the country. In Sebastian Grobler’s LESSONS OF A DREAM, a recent college graduate is hired to teach English at a strict school for boys in rural Germany circa 1874. In THE FIRE, directed by Brigitte Maria Bertele, a young woman is assaulted after a night out dancing and has to live with the aftermath and the indifference of the justice system, medical community and even her closest friends. In the debut feature A FAMILY OF THREE, director Pia Strietmann turns the camera on a supposedly happy family to find the domestic dysfunction beneath the surface that threatens to unravel the family unit.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg……..we will be reporting on the Festival starting next week. For more information on the full program and special events at this year’s Montreal World Film Festival, visit: www.ffm-montreal.org