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FILM FESTIVAL ENDS WITH MEXICAN AND JAPANESE MOVIES ON TOP

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By Sergio Martinez – mtltimes.ca

Luis Urquiza (right) director of the winning film "Perfect Obedience"
Luis Urquiza (right) director of the winning film “Perfect Obedience”

An ebullient Luis Urquiza, the director of “Perfect Obedience,” took a decorative plant-prop around the stage celebrating his winning of the Grand Prix des Amériques at the Montreal World Film Festival that ended this past Monday. His film had also won the Glauber Rocha Award for the Best Latin American Film. “Perfect Obedience” touches a very sensitive issue, the sexual abuses committed against boys in a seminary run by an order known as the Crusaders of Christ (a reference to the Legionaries of Christ a real order quite active in education in Mexico and other countries, which was founded in 1941by Marcial Maciel, a Mexican priest, who—as revealed in the late 1990s—had sexually abused boys for decades and had fathered at least three children. In 2006 Pope Benedict XVI suspended him from his priestly duties sentencing him to “a retired life of pray and penance.” Maciel died in the U.S. in 2008 without ever confronting a court for his crimes). The movie presents the fictional story of Julian (Sebastian Aguirre) a young boy who is genuinely motivated to enter the priesthood, recruited by a member of the order, he enters the seminary where he soon catches the eye of the superior, Father Angel de la Cruz (Juan Manuel Bernal) who then starts taking the boy to special, private retirements at his own home, a practice he had already followed with other boys. To make the boys accept the abusive behaviours by de la Cruz and other priests the notion of the three levels of obedience is taught at the seminary as an essential part of their spiritual journey: imperfect obedience, imperfect obedience of the second degree, and then, perfect obedience, the latter the one in which the subject is simply one with the superior and is ready to do whatever he commands.

Japanese actress Sayuri Yoshinaga thanks the award to the movie "Cape Nostalgia" in which she stars
Japanese actress Sayuri Yoshinaga thanks the award to the movie “Cape Nostalgia” in which she stars

The Jury Prize went to a delightful Japanese movie, “Cape Nostalgia” directed by Izuru Narushima which portrays the life of a small coastal community where Etsuku Kashiwagi (Sayuri Yoshinaga) runs a café which is also a meeting place for the locals. Etsuku’s nephew Koji (Hiroshi Abe), a close-to-retirement teacher, a young girl who returns home after a quarrel with her father, and a subtle competition for the souls of the residents between the local Buddhist cleric and the Christian pastor completes the picture and the story. This is a movie with an exquisite photography.

Other important awards were: In the World Competition, Best Director, Mipo O (Japan) for the film “The Light Shines Only There”; Best Actress, Rachael Blake and Lucie Debay for “Melody” (Belgium-France-Luxembourg); Best Actor, Yao Anlian for “Factory Boss” (China); Best Screenplay, Pupi Avati for his film “Un ragazzo d’oro” (Italy); Best Artistic Contribution, Ingo Haeb for “The Chambermaid Lynn” (Germany); Innovation Award, Dusan Milic for “Travelator” (Serbia-Montenegro). Short Films Competition, 1st Prize, “Chum” by Jörundur Ragnarsson (Iceland), Jury Award, “Bad Hunter” by Sahim Omar Kalifa (Belgium), Special Mention, “Rabbit” by Laure de Clemont-Tonnerre (France). In the Competition of First Films, the Golden Zenith went to “Gonzalez” by Christian Diaz Pardo (Mexico), Silver Zenith to “Next Year” by Vania Laturcq (Belgium-France), and Bronze Zenith to “The Ambassador to Bern” by Attila Szasz (Hungary). The public also voted for their favourite films, the most popular was “Traces of Sandalwood” by Maria Ripoll (Spain), the most popular Canadian feature was “Sweeping Forward” by Patricia MacDowell; the most popular Latin American movie was “Perfect Obedience” by Luis Urquiza; the best documentary “No Land’s Song” by Ayat Najafi (Germany-France) and the Best Canadian Short Film, “Today I Did My Laundry” by Zach Patton. The critics’ prizes were given to “The Chambermaid Lynn” (Ingo Haeb, Germany) in World Competition, and to “Los bañistas” (“Open Cage”) by Max Zunino (Mexico) in the First Films Competition.

As a general balance I can say that despite the financial constraints this was a successful edition of the World Film Festival, with a good selection in its various categories. The number of movies was smaller this time but represented a wide selection of countries; this world scope being probably the most valuable of this festival’s characteristics. The accent is in fact on the ‘World’ aspect of its name.

For those of us covering the festival, there was a new press relations team (Henry Welsh who had been communications director quit over the strong exchange of letters between Danièle Cauchard and Monique Simard in July), Lison Lescarbeau and her team took over and I would say that they did a good job in something that is usually complicated: to satisfy the demands of men and women of the press which—I would admit, sometimes are difficult to deal with.

There were some things missing that have to be taken into account in the future, among them a good stage manager: both, the opening ceremony and especially the closing one had a number of mix-ups with those who were supposed to be on stage, speaking or receiving the awards which gave the impression of carelessness. Then there was no mention of retiring director general Danièle Cauchard, I guess many expected at least some words of recognition for this lady who announced her leave in February and who was embroiled in this hard exchange with Monique Simard, the big boss of Sodec (the funding cultural agency of the Quebec government) which led most people in the Quebec film industry —afraid of reprisals—to show solidarity with Simard and take distance from Mme. Cauchard. Serge Losique in his closing address (“as usual I will have the last word” he said in his speech) should have said some words recognizing the contribution of his loyal collaborator. He didn’t. In any case, in a defiant mood the president of the festival announced the date for the 39th one of the World Film Festival: August 22 to September 2, 2015. He also announced an ambitious celebratory plan for Montreal’s 350th anniversary in 2017.

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