Montreal’s fest faceoff favors vets

Equipe Spectra's Simard to run event

MONTREAL — Montreal will soon have a major new international film festival, and it’s going to be run by the city’s top festival maven, Equipe Spectra president Alain Simard.

Spectra already runs the Montreal Intl. Jazz Festival and the FrancoFolies French music fest. It also owns the Spectrum and Metropolis nightclubs.

New fest is designed to take the place of Serge Losique’s World Film Festival, which has fallen out of favor with the government funding agencies. The C$1 million ($809,000) in annual funding from Telefilm Canada and Quebec’s Sodec that used to go to Losique’s event will now be funneled to the Spectra-run festival.

Simard said his fest will be very different from the World Film Festival and will play up the free, outdoor activities that have made the jazz and FrancoFolies events so successful.

“We want to do an event that will have a large outdoor component,” said Simard. For next year, Spectra will collaborate with the already-existing Festival of Nouveau Cinema to create two events to run at the same time in October. The two groups are in talks about potentially merging the Nouveau Festival and the new Spectra fest into one summer event.

Daniel Langlois, president of the Nouveau Festival, has joined the board of the Spectra festival, and the Spectra project has the support of many of the top players in the Quebecois film biz, including “Seducing Doctor Lewis” producer Roger Frappier, “The Barbarian Invasions” producer Denise Robert, senior Alliance Atlantis executive Victor Loewy and helmers Louis Belanger and Denis Chouinard.

Telefilm chair Charles Belanger said Telefilm and Sodec were pushing full steam ahead with this project and were not changing their plans as a result of the lawsuit filed last Friday by the World Film Festival. Losique’s event is suing Telefilm Canada for $2 million in damages and is seeking an injunction to stop the Telefilm project.

Claude-Armand Sheppard, Losique’s lawyer, expressed surprise that Telefilm backed a project from Spectra.

“You’d think that you would want a cinema festival to be run by people who know cinema,” said Sheppard. Spectra is “good at merchandising, but what does that have to do with the best that the cinema world has to offer? Do you have Wal-Mart run an art gallery?”

A Telefilm-sponsored study released last summer was sharply critical of the World Film Festival, citing its lack of transparency and strained relations with the film industry. Telefilm and Sodec then launched a call for proposals for groups interested in setting up a new film event in Montreal. Four groups applied: Spectra, the Festival of Nouveau Cinema, the Just for Laughs fest and the Fantasia fest.

Three sections

The Spectra project, which is officially called Le Regroupement Pour un Festival de Films a Montreal, has three main sections. There is La Selection Officielle, which includes an official competition and an out-of-competition section. The competition will include three subsections, for features, first works and shorts. La Grande Fete du Cinema is a program of free outdoor activities. The third section is Les Rencontres Professionnelles, a market for film-industry professionals.

Spectro honcho Simard stressed that the goal was never to undermine Losique, noting that Simard’s group initially asked Losique to join their project.

“He chose to get isolated, sadly enough,” said Simard.

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