Major pix lacking at rescheduled fest

MONTREAL — Although Montreal World Film Fest prexy Serge Losique said the event’s controversial date change have had no negative effect on this year’s programming, the official competition unveiled Tuesday is notably short on marquee names.

The Montreal competition this year stretches far from the usual cinemas of Europe and North America, with the competition’s first pic from Sri Lanka (Prasanna Vithanage’s “August Sun”), a Serbia-Montenegro co-production (“The Cordon,” from helmer Goran Markovic), a Macedonian-Croatian co-production (Antonio Mitrikeski’s “Like a Bad Dream”) and a Burkina Faso-French co-production (“Anger of the Gods,” by director Idrissa Ouedraogo).

The Hors Concours out-of-competition section features more high-profile fare, notably Mexican helmer Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s English-language debut, “21 Grams,” starring Naomi Watts, Sean Penn and Benicio Del Toro.

Other Hors Concours pics include the previously announced “At Five in the Afternoon,” from Samira Makhmalbaf; Gabriele Salvatores’ Miramax release “I’m Not Scared”; and Gus Van Sant’s Palme d’Or winner “Elephant.”

The newly created Cinema of the Americas — United States section showcases 10 features including actress Salma Hayek’s feature directorial debut “The Maldonado Miracle,” a story about religious pilgrims starring Peter Fonda and Ruben Blades.

It also features Michael Pressman’s “Frankie and Johnny Are Married”; Mark Rucker’s “Die Mommie Die”; and Jim Hershleder’s shot-on-video “Ash Tuesday,” about how several New Yorkers deal with the after-effects of 9/11.

Fest prexy Losique and VP Daniele Cauchard lashed out at federal film-funding agency Telefilm Canada, criticizing its quota forcing all major Canuck film fests to make sure at least 20% of their lineups are Canadian.

Losique and Cauchard also made fun of a Telefilm directive that forces fests to calculate the quota based on the length of films.

“I think it’s a bit silly to have to measure the length of each film,” Cauchard said. “We look at quality, not length. We have always been open to Canadian cinema, but it’s just the principle that doesn’t make sense.”

Montreal has always had a Panorama Canada, and the Canuck program this year includes Alliance Atlantis release “Luck,” the tale of a 28-year-old obsessed with gambling. It is written and directed by Peter Wellington and stars Luke Kirby (“Mambo Italiano”).

As usual, most of the season’s top Canuck pics will have their preems in the Perspective Canada program at Toronto.

There are no Hollywood studio films in the Montreal lineup, but a studio pic or two might be added to the program in the next two weeks.

The Montreal fest, which usually ends Labor Day, will run Aug. 27-Sept. 7 this year, overlapping with almost the entire Venice fest and the first weekend of the Toronto fest.

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