Funding dispute opens door for new world order in Quebec

It’s a mess.

That’s the short version of what’s going on with Montreal’s film festivals, but it’s accurate. A grisly tale has unfolded over the past 12 months, causing much local consternation and leaving the film world wondering which of the city’s fests is the real deal.

In summer 2004, film funding agencies Telefilm Canada and Quebec’s Sodec released a study that was harshly critical of the Montreal World Film Festival, which has been the city’s main movie event for almost three decades.

Telefilm and Sodec then announced that they were taking funding proposals for a new film fest. Several local groups applied for the public cash, though maverick World Film Festival president Serge Losique immediately declined, calling the whole process a sham.

Telefilm and Sodec settled late last year on L’Equipe Spectra, a Montreal company that runs the city’s highly successful international jazz festival, to organize a new cinema event.

But Losique, a combative personality in the quietest of times, had no intention of going softly into the night. His festival started firing off lawsuits in every direction, suing Telefilm and Spectra. When Spectra tapped former Berlin and Venice honcho Moritz de Hadeln as its program director, the World Film Festival boss sued de Hadeln as well.

To make matters worse for Telefilm, Sodec and Spectra, Losique has pushed ahead with the planning for the 29th edition of his festival, which started Aug. 26 and runs to Sept. 5. The inaugural New Montreal FilmFest will run Sept. 18-25.

That wasn’t all. The New Montreal FilmFest was originally meant to work in tandem with the long-established edgy Montreal Festival du Nouveau Cinema, but that fest’s boss, Claude Chamberlan, refused to endorse the partnership. And guess what, a bitter fight ensued.

The New Montreal FilmFest was originally slated to take place in mid-October, but as a result of the conflict with Nouveau Cinema, it moved to mid-September.

The Canadian public film agencies had clearly wanted — and expected — a smoother transition. It might not get smoother any time soon. Losique is proceeding as if it is business as usual, and vows his event will be around for years to come.

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