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Fest fight going to court

Lawsuit demands $2.1 million in damages from Telefilm

MONTREAL — After a four-month war of words between Montreal World Film Festival president Serge Losique and Canuck film-funding agency Telefilm Canada, Losique’s fest is taking the bitter battle to the courtroom.

A lawsuit filed in Quebec Superior Court in Montreal Friday afternoon demands C$2.5 million ($2.1 million) in damages from Montreal-based Telefilm Canada and is seeking an injunction to immediately stop Telefilm’s plans to create a rival festival in Montreal. World Film Fest alleges in the suit that the federal film funder has deliberately damaged its reputation and that Telefilm’s attempt to finance another fest is illegal.

Following the release this summer of a study harshly critical of Losique’s festival, Telefilm and Quebec film-funding agency Sodec announced that they were seeking proposals from groups interested in starting a new film event in Montreal. Four groups have since applied for the roughly $839,000 in annual Telefilm and Sodec funding: the Festival du Nouveau Cinema; L’Equipe Spectra (which runs the Montreal Intl. Jazz Festival) with a group of film-industry representatives; the Just for Laughs Festival; and the Fantasia Film Festival. The decision on who is to receive the Telefilm/Sodec funding is expected Wednesday.

The World Film Festival lawsuit alleges that the Telefilm call for proposals for another Montreal film festival “is illegal, oversteps the mandate of Telefilm and the real intention is to torpedo the World Film Festival…. The law does not authorize Telefilm to use its powers to create or manage a festival, and it is also not meant to destroy a festival that already exists.”

Losique’s lawyer, Claude-Armand Sheppard, was not available for comment Friday, nor were representatives from Telefilm or Sodec.

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