Montreal World Film Festival 2018 – Those who anticipated the death of the Montreal World Film Festival were once again proven wrong. Despite all the problems derived from lack of funding from Telefilm Canada (federal) and SODEC (provincial), a defiant Serge Losique was able to open the 42nd edition of the WFF this past August 23, with a red carpet and the presence of some Chinese stars. However, that was far from the festival openings of yesteryears, when that was a ceremony nobody wanted to miss. Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and successive Quebec premiers were usually honour guests. In the WFF’s golden years the first show was held at the Maisonneuve Theatre of the Place des Arts and followed by a lavish party at the Hyatt main ballroom.
The WFF survives but with problems: 2015 was the last time that it published a catalogue describing the films, in 2016 and 2017 there were severe problems to get venues for some of the movies, and this year the event had a new threat. At one point Revenu Quebec was threatening to close down the WFF for good. If that had happened it would have made no one proud: it would have put tax collectors (the loathed “publicans,” as they were called at the time of the Roman Empire) in a position to dictate cultural policies in the province of Quebec.
The mainstream media have practically ignored the event, making it more difficult for the public to get information about the movies. Journalists such as The Gazette’s Brendan Kelly launched a vicious attack on Losique and his festival. Others like La Presse’s Marc-Andre Lussier and Mario Girard attempted a more balanced approach by trying to unravel what they called “the Losique mystery,” however, regardless of the passionate reactions that the WFF founder may elicit, the truth is that if the WFF disappears, it would be a loss for the city. I say this because -with all due respect to the other film festivals in town- none of them has undertaken the mission of being a window to the cinema of the world as the FFM has done.
NOW, THE FILMS
“Samurai’s Promise” (Daisaku Kimura, Japan, Official Competition). The WFF opening film. A story set in a corrupt 18th century Japan, an engaging story that makes this film a good contender for the first prize. Its only problem: a music score totally alien to the epoch and the place, moreover, its first tunes resemble the music of “The Godfather.”
“The Etruscan Smile” (Mihal Brezis, Oded Binnun, Switzerland-Germany-USA. Official Competition). An excellent performance by Brian Cox, a Scott suddenly transplanted to San Francisco where his son lives. A story of cultural shock and a problematic family re-encounter. Another good contender for the Grand Prix des Ameriques.
“Diana” (Alejo Moreno, Spain, First Feature Competition). An interesting plot focused on a high-level prostitute and her relationship with a prosperous businessman. Some sequences, however, in particular, the ones with the prostitute participating in a lesbian act are not relevant to an otherwise engaging story.
“No One Will Ever Know” (Jesus Torres, Mexico, First Feature Competition). Set in rural Mexico, this movie features Lucia and her son Braulio, enjoying and living in the fantasy of soap operas. That until the occurrence of a tragic event. Not a bad story, but it has a plodding narrative.
“The Commitment” (Jian Lu, China. Official Competition). This is a sad commentary on the contemporary life in rural China. After an accident in a quarry that left one of his workers in a coma, and where he is the boss, Yu takes advantage of the worker’s wife.
For detailed information about schedule and film description visit www.ffm-montreal.org
Feature image: Serge Losique and Silvio Caiozzi, president of this year’s jury, joined by a Chinese actress