FilmFest sets Sept. dates

MONTREAL — Alain Simard, president of the upstart New Montreal FilmFest, announced Friday that his event is moving a month earlier to avoid a conflict with another Montreal film event, the smaller Festival du Nouveau Cinema.

The first edition of Simard’s event is now set for Sept. 18-25. The New Montreal FilmFest was originally skedded to run Oct. 12-23, at almost exactly the same time as the Festival du Nouveau Cinema, which unspools Oct. 13-23. This date overlap led Nouveau boss Claude Chamberlan to slam Simard’s festival, saying the new Spectra-run event was out “to get rid of our festival.”

“We’re satisfied that Spectra is finally respecting the Telefilm rule of not having conflicting dates,” Chamberlan said Friday.

But the new dates for Simard’s film fest now overlap with those of another major Canadian film event, the Atlantic Film Festival. The Halifax fest runs Sept. 15-24. Atlantic Film Festival executive director Gregor Ash said his event had no prior warning about the new Montreal dates, saying he found out only when the calls start coming in Friday afternoon.

“We have some strong concerns about it,” said Ash. “It’s our 25th anniversary, so we have plans for a big party in Halifax.” Ash said this will cause problems in terms of access to prints of films as well as scheduling headaches for industryites and journalists. Ash plans to contact the New Montreal FilmFest today to try to work out a solution.

Film funding agency Telefilm Canada has a policy that discourages Canuck festivals from taking place at the same time, and its rules state that it could even withdraw financing due to such date conflicts.

But a Telefilm spokesman said the agency had asked the Spectra fest to find a solution to the overlap with the Festival du Nouveau Cinema and that Telefilm was satisfied with Simard’s decision to move the event a month earlier. Simard said given the availability of cinemas in Montreal, these were the only dates available. “Obviously you can’t please everybody,” said Simard.

“But we have the mandate to build an important festival in Montreal and (the date change) was really in the interest of the film community here.” Simard said his festival will move to the summer next year, but the fest organizers still aren’t sure where to place it given the many cultural festivals during the summer in Montreal.

Simard also announced Friday that the fest has tapped Michel Ciment, editor of the magazine Positif, to become the event’s delegate in charge of French film. Simard said French film will be a major focus of the inaugural edition of the event. The New Montreal FilmFest will have an official competition, and 10 Iris Awards will be handed out at the first edition.

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