Not any more

Rivalry rekindled between Montreal, Toronto film fests

In Canada on August 16, 2010 at 18:53

MONTREAL – It looks like the rivalry between the Montreal and Toronto film festivals is heating up again.

The two festivals have never got along particularly well, and over the years Montreal World Film Festival president Serge Losique has seldom been shy about voicing his disdain for the Toronto International Film Festival. But, pun intended, the tiff between Montreal and TIFF had died down in recent years, as the two events staked out quite different turf.

Toronto has become so huge that it seemingly didn’t need to worry so much about duking it out with Losique’s lower-profile get-together, and the result was that the two festivals were content to ignore each other.

But the hostilities were reignited last week when the Toronto fest decided to announce its Canadian films the same day Losique was unveiling his lineup at a press conference here. If you think that’s a coincidence, you’re remarkably naive. This was a deliberate shot across the bow at the World Film Festival, an attempt to underline that Toronto does more for Quebecois cinema than Montreal does.

This year, TIFF has way more A-list Quebec features than Montreal, and that is indeed an embarrassing state of affairs for the Montreal fest. T.O. will host the world premieres of Montreal filmmaker Jacob Tierney’s Good Neighbours (formerly titled Notre Dame de Grace), the latest from The Trotsky director, once again starring Jay Baruchel, and noted Quebec director Robin Aubert’s A L’origine d’un cri.

Polytechnique director Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies, his adaptation of the acclaimed Wajdi Mouawad play, will have its North American premiere in Toronto, as will cool auteur Denis Cote’s Curling. Toronto also has a couple of Quebec films already seen here, including Xavier Dolan’s Les amours imaginaires and Catherine Martin’s Trois temps apres la mort d’Anna. In addition, Louis Belanger’s Route 132, which opens the Montreal festival, will have its English-Canadian premiere in Toronto.

This all just serves to highlight the lamentable fact that Montreal has only two made-in-Quebec features in its lineup: Route 132 and Julie Hivon’s Tromper le Silence.

Following the Montreal and Toronto announcements Tuesday, Losique told Le Journal de Montreal that he wasn’t unduly worried by the quantity of Quebec films going to Toronto, falling back on his familiar argument that the Toronto fest is all about star-studded Hollywood junkets while his event takes the high road and shines the spotlight on world-class arthouse cinema.

Losique couldn’t have liked Incendies director Villeneuve’s comments in La Presse about how Toronto has always been such a great supporter of Quebec film. “It’s incredible the platform (Toronto) gives us to present our films to the entire world,” said Villeneuve.

Of course, filmmakers should be free to premiere their films wherever they want to and it’s nice to see Toronto providing a showcase for the best cinema made chez nous. But the timing of their announcement stinks. Why did they have to deliberately steal Losique’s thunder last Tuesday? That was petty and totally unnecessary for a festival that is now one of the world’s most significant film confabs.

The result? Just exactly what the Toronto fest bosses wanted. Everyone in the film milieu last week was talking about the Quebec contingent at TIFF rather than the Montreal lineup. Losique couldn’t have been happy to open La Presse Wednesday morning and see that the lead story in the paper’s Arts et Spectacles section was a celebration of the Quebec presence at the Toronto fest -under the title Le Quebec a l’honneur. The World Film Fest story was pushed to the bottom of the page by the TIFF news.

Don’t get me wrong.

The meagre Quebecois content at the World Film Festival is a big problem and points to the still-frosty relations between the fest and the province’s film distributors. Alliance Vivafilm, for example, has only one feature at the Montreal fest, Route 132, and the company is not even making the talent from that film available for individual interviews during the fest. Clearly there’s something wrong with this picture.

But that doesn’t justify Canada’s top film festival deliberately bullying the struggling, cash-strapped fest from Montreal. Here’s a thought for the TIFF brain trust -show a little class next time, guys.

bkelly@thegazette.canwest.com

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

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