With the Toronto International Film Festival eclipsing the World Film Festival over the past 20 years or so, it’s easy to forget that there was a time when the Montreal fest was arguably the biggest in Canada. So what happened?
It’s easiest – and probably accurate – to blame the man who started it all: the notorious Serge Losique, who seems to delight in raising hackles. He’s known to bicker with journalists, issue self-glorifying proclamations and manifestos and generally make people angry. He’s like the Castro of the film festival world: much-reviled but still able to keep a tight grip on power.
In 2004, funding agencies SODEC and Telefilm, fed up with Losique’s antics, withdrew from the WFF to concentrate on a new festival run by Equipe Spectra, who put on the Jazz Fest. But Losique rode it out, loudly denouncing everyone involved. The new fest failed to attract audiences, losing nearly a million dollars. Soon, the World Film Festival was back in business, with both funding agencies on board again.
Now, the fest itself seems to be improving. Attempting to shed its reputation for screening C-grade foreign cast offs, this year’s lineup includes new films by Woody Allen (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) and Emir Kusturica (Maradona), a master class with Brian De Palma, and the always-popular free screenings series at Place des Arts. Looks like Losique is going to have the last laugh.
The World Film Festival runs from August 21 until September 1. For more details and the screening schedule, see ffm-montreal.org.