Festival of New Cinema 46th edition – The 46th edition of the Festival of New Cinema (FNC) came to an end this past Sunday after eleven days of presenting movies characterized by their diversity. There were some films that one may consider mainstream, others that will also be released although both, distributors and exhibitors know that they would not have a broad appeal, but have a more select audience. Precisely the kind of fans of the FNC. Then, of course, there were the experimental and more daring—formally and content-wise—films which would only be shown at the FNC. After all, this is a festival for almost all tastes.
The FNC awards a few prizes too, this year the main winners were, “Ava” by Léa Mysius (France) which got the first prize or Louve d’Or; “Tehran Taboo” by Ali Soozandeh (Austria-Germany), winner of the Innovation Prize. The actress Darya Zhovnar won the Prize for Best Performance in the film “Closeness” (Russia).
In the category Focus Quebec-Canada, the first prize went to “Les Faux Tatouages” by Pascal Plante. “Life and Nothing More” by Antonio Mendez Esparza (Spain) won first prize in the Cinema Politica section, while “The Nothing Factory” by Pedro Pinho (Portugal) got a special mention. The Peace Prize offered by the Brian Bronfman Family Foundation was awarded to “Ghost Hunting” by Raed Andoni (Palestine). The Most Popular Film was “Les affamés” by Robin Aubert (Canada). Prizes were also awarded in the category Les P’tits Loups devoted to films for children and young people; the winner was “La maison du hérisson” by Eva Cvijanovic (Quebec/Canada) with a special mention for “Birdlime” by Evan Derushie (Canada).
THE BEST AND THE WORST
As a critic, I can say that this was a festival that presented a varied selection, of course, some of the most remarkable movies had already been shown at the Toronto and Venice festivals which meant that they came with a good reputation. Others were great hits for the FNC such as the opening film which I commented on a previous occasion (“Blade Runner 2049” directed by Denis Villeneuve and now in theatres). A few other movies have also been released, and I strongly recommend. “Loving Vincent” by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman a U.K.-Polish co-production is a delightful animation film made in the painting style of Vincent van Gogh, with a splendid rendition of the colours and textures of the Dutch artist in each frame of the movie. The story is also fascinating since at times it takes the viewer through some mysterious aspects in van Gogh’s death (officially pronounced a suicide). I also recommend “The Young Karl Marx” (“Le jeune Karl Marx”) directed by Haitian-born Raoul Beck, a German-French-Belgian co-production that takes the spectator into some of the early developments in the life and thought of one of the most influential—and controversial—thinkers of contemporary times. The movie portrays not only the historical period in which Marx lived, his political and philosophical engagement but it also examines his human vicissitudes: his difficulties in making a living, his loving relationship with his wife Jenny, his debates with other socialist thinkers and activists at the time. There is also his meaningful friendship and political collaboration with fellow revolutionary Friedrich Engels.
Despite a good general selection, a festival always has some weak movies which present the question “why do we see this?” Presented as a tribute to the filmmaker Chris Marker, “The Zone” by Quebec director Denys Desjardins was a display of images that didn’t make much sense and in the end left the impression of something that has aged without much grace both formally and in content. Unnecessary.
“Rey, l’histoire du français qui voulait devenir Roi de la Patagonie” (“Rey, The history of the Frenchman who wanted to become king of Patagonia”) by Niles Atallah (Chile-France) focused on a fascinating subject (a few years ago it was the theme of a much better Argentinean film): the story of Antoine Orélie de Tounens, a French lawyer, turned adventurer in South America who in the 19th century convinced the Mapuche tribal chiefs to make him their king. Was he a crazy guy or a French secret agent behind some imperialistic designs? That has been a lingering question since the times of the strange incident. The filmmaker however never seems to decide whether he would make a film with a conventional narrative or an experimental, dream-like essay. Excessive use of visual effects designed to distort the images, in the end, produced a tiring effect of the spectator. “Rey…” was another movie that shouldn’t have been there.
In general, however, this new edition of the FNC has been satisfactory. More importantly, it consolidates the diversity of Montreal’s film festivals. The FNC with its emphasis on innovation in cinematic language and daring topics, Fantasia covering the fantastic, science-fiction, and horror genres, and the World Film Festival—which I hope would eventually recover from its present critical state—focusing on the international film production of all kinds. Contrary to what some other colleagues have said in other media, I firmly believe that there is room for each of these events without one replacing or displacing the others. The problem lies now with those who control the money to fund these events because all of them deserve support.
Feature image: “Ava” by Léa Mysius won the Louve d’Or (First Prize) at the Festival of New Cinema