Montreal Festivals – A city that that is alive!
Montreal Festivals – I guess by now, everybody is complaining about the weather in our town: spring seems to be quite elusive, one day seems to be here, the next, we have to get our umbrella and pack some extra layers of clothing. That verse in Gilles Vigneault’s famous song that reads “My country is not a country, but the winter” seems to take more than metaphorical meaning.
However we should not worry about another tradition in our city at this time of year –shine or rain–, festivals. We have all kinds of them, from those devoted to music –the majority– to theatre, movies, even oysters as well as other culinary festivities taking place at this time.
For now, we will focus only on those scheduled at this time or to come up in the following few weeks, understanding that the festival season goes all the way through July, August, and it even extends to mid-October, when the Festival du Nouveau Cinema is scheduled.
The 13th edition of the Montreal Israeli Film Festival came to an end this Thursday, May 17 with the award ceremony and the screening of “Longing” a film directed by Savi Gabizon that was warmly received at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, where I had the chance to see it. During the ten-day event, the public in Montreal had the occasion to familiarize with an emerging and interesting cinema. I saw a few of those productions, among them the imaginative comedies “Holy Air” (Shadi Srour) and especially “Maktub” (Oded Raz). However, perhaps the most interesting film was a documentary, “A Land without Borders” directed by Michael Alalu and Nir Baram. In a frank and open manner, this film addresses the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with an incisive look at its roots. It exposes both the extreme right in the Israeli society represented by the settlers in the occupied territories and the extreme view of Hamas on the Palestinian side, insisting on its unrealistic and inflammatory aim of expelling the Jews from all the territory. In between those two extreme views, the positions of the Israeli Left and the followers of the current Palestinian authority who still seek a peaceful arrangement, on the principle of the “two-state solution.” A possibility that given recent developments, looks very problematic. The screening was followed by a discussion in which the audience also showed the differences regarding the prospects for peace in that region.
The Asian Festival (in French Festival Accès Asie) is not structured as other events of this nature as a daily, continuous succession of shows but rather as events concentrated on weekends. The fourth and final week of this festival takes place the coming week featuring: “Perles d’ailleurs” with Helia Bandeh and Parul Gupta, presenting classical Indian and Persian dances (Salle de Gésù). The outdoor event “Winds of Asia” (Place Emilie Gamelin, metro Berri-UQAM) scheduled for May 25 from noon to 2 p.m. and May 27 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. A literary event takes place on May 25 at 8 p.m. at Sala Rossa (4848 St. Laurent), and those interested in learning more about classical Persian dance, a workshop will be held on May 26 and 27 at Studio 303 (372 Ste. Catherine W.).
It started in the 1980s as the Festival de Théâtre des Amériques (FTA), it kept its acronym when it changed to Festival Trans Amérique. Since the term “trans” now is mostly associated with gender, the FTA is simply known now as a festival of theatre and dance. The FTA presents a large variety of international events featuring troupes from China, Belgium, Brazil, and some other countries. A total of 25 theatre and dance shows will be presented in 17 different venues. The FTA runs from May 23 to June 7. For detail about performers, schedules, and ticket prices go to www.fta.ca
The theatre is also at the centre (together with other events) of the Montreal Fringe Festival scheduled for May 28 to June 17 at various venues downtown and in other areas. In its welcome, Amy “The 50-Ft. Woman” Blackmore, Executive and Artistic Director of the festival states: “With 800+ performances by 500+ artists from across the globe, fringing is a festive adventure full of surprises. Over 60,000 festival-goers celebrate diversity, accessibility and artistic freedom with us annually.”
Lovers of the French song should have their chance to enjoy a variety of styles and genres during the eleven days of this year’s FrancoFolies (inexplicably our friends at the Spectra Team have shortened the name of this festival to just the Francos, not a very wise move, I prefer the more playful FrancoFolies). Anyway, this iconic fest will run between June 8 and 17.
Finally, the Chamber Music Festival that takes place from June 12 to 17 is another event to have in mind for this spring season. Among the shows announced I could mention André Laplante and the Rolston String Quartet and the New York Philharmonic Quartet. For detailed information go to www.festivalmontreal.org