Images and text on this site © Linda Dawn Hammond 2001/2006
2001 Montreal World Film
The year 2001 marked the 25th Anniversary of the Montreal World Film Festival. In spite of unfavourable comparisons to the overtly star-studded Toronto Festival of Festivals, the Montreal World Film Festival nevertheless continues to uphold its reputation as a venue dedicated to the serious cinephile.
Rabah Ait Ouyahia, actor, L'ange de goudron
Opening gala © Linda Dawn Hammond
The Toronto festival has earned the dubious distinction of being the "Cannes" of North America, and as such, is replete with "red carpet" events, "star sightings" and flashy media "ops" of elusive commercial Hollywood stars being scuttled off to private events. Montreal film festivals tend to offer their public a more eclectic and international selection of lesser known filmmakers and their oeuvres- a direct and simple approach, devoid of pretense and more befitting of a city known for its relaxed hospitality.
Most films are not fortunate enough to become box office attractions or even hit the repertory circuit- what little remains of it - so for most of us, this is the one chance to view them before they disappear. It is the appeal of festivals such as these, where one examines meticulously the schedule, discarding any selections which are bound to appear later commercially or seem intended for Blockbuster.
One longstanding feature at both the Montreal WFF and its local competition, the Festival International du Nouveau Cinema Nouveaux Medias, is free outdoor public screenings and related music events. This year director Emir Kusturica and his No Smoking Orchestra returned to perform live once again before ecstatic Montreal audiences.
The WFF also offers open press conferences during which directors and actors engage in often thoughtful analyses of their works (well, one would wish!) in the presence of both critics and fans- a policy which encourages audience participation in the art and practice of filmmaking, rather than placing emphasis only on its more glamourous and superficial aspects.
Miss Canada 2002,guest at opening gala
© Linda Dawn Hammond
L. Mme.Diane Lemieux, Quebec Minister of Culture and Communications,
Center- Henry Welsh, WFF, R. Louise Marleau, actress,
© Linda Dawn Hammond
To appease stargazers however, the WFF did manage to draw two major International stars to its 25th Anniversary edition. A tribute was paid to Italian actress Sophia Loren for her contribution to cinematographic art, and a special Grand Prix of the Americas was awarded to Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan.
Jackie Chan © Linda Dawn Hammond
A film from Ireland,"Disco Pigs", made its North American premiere at this year's festival in the section, World Cinema: Reflections of our Time. It marks a feature film debut for its young director, Kirsten Sheridan. The Sheridan name is already well known to filmgoers, in that Kirsten's father is the famed Irish director, Jim Sheridan (of "My Left Foot" , "Borstal Boy"). Born in Dublin in 1976, Kirsten graduated from the Irish film school Dun Laoghaire College in 1998, receiving the same year the prestigious Film Institute of Ireland Award for Outstanding Young Irish Talent. Now with "Disco Pigs" under her belt, Kirsten Sheridan is fast becoming a rising star in Ireland and on the International film circuit.
"Disco Pigs" is based on a highly successful play by the same name, written and now adapted for the screen by Irish playwright Enda Walsh. Producer Ed Guiney viewed the play at the Dublin Fringe Festival in 1996 and quickly recognized its filmic potential and youth appeal. And this in spite of a use of Cork slang and baby talk as confusing to the uninitiated ear as that heard in the Scottish hit, "Trainspotting"... or perhaps, because of it!
Shot on location in Dublin and Cork, "Disco Pigs" tells the disturbing tale of a symbiotic and obsessive love between its two main characters, "Pig" and "Runt". The unusually close connection between the two begins in the womb and continues throughout childhood, but cannot survive unscathed the transition into adolescence and sexual awareness.
Still from "Disco Pigs"- L. Cillian Murphy, R. Elaine Cassidy
Cillian Murphy, the Cork actor who plays "Pig", made his acting début playing the character in the original production of the play, whose international tour included a run in Toronto. "Runt" is portrayed by Elaine Cassidy (Co. Wicklow). She is familiar to Canadian film audiences for her role in Atom Egoyan's film, Felicia's Journey, for which she received a Genie nomination for best actress at the age of 16.
Also included in the "World Cinema" category and like "Disco Pigs", definitely not for the faint-hearted, was "Things Behind the Sun". Directed by Allison Anders (US), it analyzes the psychological aftermath of a rape from an uncompromising and truthful perspective rarely seen in film. Hard to watch and in spite of occasionally uneven acting and casting, it is nevertheless an important film. "Things Behind the Sun" acts as a cautionary tale while forcing its audience to confront a tendency to condemn the victims of rape, especially when in their damaged state they cease to reflect its notion of innocence.
Roland Suso Richter, dir.© Linda Dawn Hammond
This year's focus was on German cinema. In Official Competition was Der Tunnel, by German director Roland Suso Richter. A gripping drama based on real events in Berlin during the Cold War, it won the coveted Air Canada People's Choice Award.
Closing Awards Ceremony- always exciting... for those who win!
© Linda Dawn Hammond
My personal recommendation is the film which closed the festival, "Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain", or in English, "Amelie".
It introduces to North American audiences the waif-like Audrey Tautau, whose infinite charms alone could carry the film and demands favourable comparison with another Audrey! A whimsical and cleverly constructed offering by the brilliant French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (of "Alien Resurrection" and "Delicatessen" fame), it manages to convince even the most jaded among us that love, faith, humanity and a healthy respect for the absurd will redeem us all; a message of hope desperately needed in these all too desperate times.
WFF Closing Party- (L-R) Mishka Hammond,
Linda Dawn Hammond (Whirrled Newz, New Era) and Vincent Musetto (New York Post).
Linda Dawn Hammond