MONTREAL — The 25th anniversary edition of the Montreal World Film Festival kicks off today with a Quebecois flavor thanks to the world preem screening of “L’Ange de Goudron” (Tar Angel), the second feature from Montreal helmer Denis Chouinard. Pic is one of three Quebec films competing for the Grand Prix of the Americas. The other two are Catherine Martin’s “Marriages” and Francis Leclerc’s feature debut, “Une Jeune Fille a la Fenetre.”
Industryites have grumbled in recent years that Montreal’s market is lackluster, but the fest remains a choice spot for launching French-language Canadian pics. The ideal scenario is to land a Quebec pic in the Montreal and Toronto fests, which is the case for “Tar Angel” and “Marriages.” Montreal buzz can lead to a major boost in ticket sales in French Canada, while Toronto is a hub for international sales.
In recent years, Montreal has helped turn a number of Quebec films into hits, including Manon Briand’s “2 Seconds,” Louis Belanger’s “Post Mortem” and, last year, Denis Villeneuve’s “Maelstrom.”
“Now there are always two or three Quebec films in competition at Montreal, and, if they win prizes, they’re able to have a real life in theaters in Quebec,” said Roger Frappier, president of Montreal production house Max Films and producer of “Tar Angel.” “Montreal is also a good place to start a festival career for a film because there are a lot of festival directors who come to Montreal before Toronto.”
“Tar Angel” is the story of an Algerian family in Montreal; life becomes complicated when the son becomes mixed up with radical activists. Pic stars French thesp Zinedine Soualem (“Chacun Cherche Son Chat”), who will be on hand for the screening.
Other thesps confirmed to attend Montreal include Sophia Loren, here for a lifetime tribute and a world premiere screening of the Lina Wertmuller-directed “Francesca and Nunziata”; Jackie Chan, another honoree; and Benjamin Bratt, who will be in Montreal for the premiere of “Pinero,” the Miramax biopic in which Bratt portrays the Puerto Rican poet-playwright-actor Miguel Pinero.
The jury is headed by French actress Emmanuelle Beart, whose latest pic, “Replay,” will unspool out of competition.
Producer Dino De Laurentiis will be at the event as the honorary chairman of the Montreal market’s business conference Monday and Tuesday.
Maverick Montreal fest president Serge Losique has shunned all 25th anniversary celebrations, in sharp contrast to last year at Toronto, which marked its 25th birthday with a slew of events, including the launch of a book and a star-studded tribute to director Stephen Frears. There are no anniversary events at the Montreal festival and, as usual, Losique has turned down all media requests for interviews.
Other high-profile pics playing Montreal include thesp-turned-helmer Todd Field’s directorial debut, “In the Bedroom”; the Billy Bob Thornton-directed “Daddy and Them”; Gallic helmer Claude Miller’s “Betty Fischer and Other Stories”; and closing pic “Amelie From Montmartre,” which will make its North American bow.