Fantasia : a success story!

It is with great pleasure that we share the following article with you, published in today’s La Presse. In it, journalist Marc-Andre Lussier discusses the general state of Montreal’s festivals and cites Fantasia as a prime example of a success story. As such, he recalls Brendan Kelly’s story, issued in yesterday’s La Gazette. You can read the full article below:

Marc-Andre Lussier
La Presse

While summer was quietly passing us by in a warm sunny haze and most people were enjoying their vacation time, others were hard at work behind the scenes of the great summer film festivals. The two big ones to watch in late August: Venice revealed their lineup yesterday; Toronto gave us a partial taste earlier. Enticing selections, as it should be. Aronofsky, Kechiche and Sofia Coppola at Lido; Redford, Canet and Winterbottom on the shores of Lake Ontario. Or vice-versa. Once screened in Venice, many of the bigger titles make their way across the Atlantic in order to wow the crowds in Toronto, where, we should remember, there is no competitive aspect.

By conicidence, the two festivals that complete the stellar foursome after Berlin and Cannes have both enjoyed a makeover this year, thanks to completly updated infrastructures. The Palazzo del Cinema in Venice underwent major renovations, and TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) is about to celebrate its 35th anniversary from its brand new headquarters at the Bell Lightbox.

Seen from the outside, no one can doubt the energy of these organisations. But the context is getting harder and harder. The festival circuit is bloated and competition is getting harsh. Nowadays, we also have to account for the increasingly cautious market. In a story published earlier this week, Variety set out the fears of movie distributors. The big studios as well as the independents are now wary of using film festivals to launch their movies.

During their press conference, the organisers of TIFF revealed a somewhat leaner selection for this year, at least when one considers the number of titles that will be screened. In my humble opinion, this is hardly bad news. A few months ago, the Cannes delegate Thierry Frémaux also stated that he had some trouble coming up with the year’s lineup. Some good news for Venice and Toronto is that a number of much anticipated movies that were not completed in time for the spring festivals are now ready for their premieres. This said, it would seem that the lastest Terrence Malick project, The Tree of Life, will reamin under wraps a little longer.

Besides the shrinking availability of titles, the very role of the film festival is changing within the industry. Budget restrictions are making American studios hesitant to offer their big titles to film festivals if their box office release date is still far away, as they wish to avoid the costs of two seperate pubicity campaigns.

In a time when intellectualism is considered an insult, some distributors are uncomfortable in having their films associated with festivals. Why risk curtailing the success of a potential blockbuster hit by weighing it down with a “film d’auteur” label. We live in strange times indeed.

Time has come to choose

So what of Montreal in all this? The 34th FFM will be taking place in less than a month. We still have only very few details. It isn’t mentioned in any of the specialized publications read by industry insiders. Louis Belanger’s Route 132 as an opener (good choice); a renowned filmmaker (Bille August) at the head of a credible jury (Anne-Marie Cadieux, Édouard Molinaro, etc.); two european actresses honoured (Nathalie Baye and Stefania Sandrelli). The entire official selection will be disclosed in a press conference on August 10th when the unknown titles will be casually enumerated like some type of litany.

Since the fiasco that took place five years ago when the various institutions tried to put together a general interest film festival to replace FFM, Montreal has lost all credibility on the international circuit. And, in the current atmosphere, it no longer has any chance of competing with the big boys.

My colleague Brendan Kelly of the Gazette recently brought up the increasingly popular notion that Montreal’s salvation lies in the more specialized festivals aimed at a niche audience. The success of the Fantasia Film Festival, which attracted over 100 000 fans this year, would seem to prove him right. It’s better to make our mark with a specialized and completely unique festival than to take on impossible opponents.
However, Telefilm Canada and SODEC do not necessarily share this vision. And therein lies the problem. But how long will we be able to stand the status quo?

Copyright (c) La Presse

One Response

  1. SODEC can kiss my ass and hopefully TELEFILM won’t be around long enough to cripple our industry – I say Fantasia can use more private Sponsorship (in the form of Bud Girls?) and foreign country tourism campaigns.

    If Fantasia hopes for the two former taxpayer funded ADMINISTRATIONS to come through for anything, then unfortunately, the push for a louder global voice has already failed.

    Bon success Fantasia. Bon success.

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