Canuck fests crunch dates

Montreal also shakes up programming structure

MONTREAL — A row is brewing after the Montreal World Film Festival moved its dates for next year creating a four-day overlap with its much more influential rival, the Toronto Intl. Film Festival.

The Montreal event traditionally wraps with its awards ceremony on Labor Day Monday while Toronto kicks off on the first Thursday after the national holiday.

But Montreal organizers have mystified local industryites by setting next year’s fest for Aug. 27-Sept. 7. (Labor Day falls on Sept. 1.) The Toronto fest will unspool Sept. 4-13.

Montreal fest spokesman Henry Welsh said the change was made because holding the awards ceremony on Labor Day would cause problems. This comes despite the fact that most of its previous 26 editions have shuttered that day.

The date change is unlikely to affect Toronto — or U.S. industryites that head for the prestigious fest rather than the smaller Montreal event.

But it will be a problem for the local media and film industry, which will have to choose between the two.

“It’s unfortunate that the dates will overlap,” said a spokesman for Telefilm Canada, which funds both festivals. “It’s not the best situation. But it’s not our decision.”

The Montreal fest also announced a major shake-up of its programming structure. The official competition remains the same, but prexy Serge Losique has added competitive, geographically delineated sections — Europe, Canada, the U.S., Latin America, Asia, Africa and Oceania. A Zenith d’Or prize for film will be presented in each section.

There will also be a world competition for first film, with gold, silver and bronze prizes, and another prize for documentary.

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