Relations have never been particularly good between the Montreal and Toronto fests, though the long-simmering rivalry had cooled in recent years.
But all that changed this summer with a surprising feud over Quebecois films.
Toronto, which runs Sept. 9-19, snared many of the most anticipated made-in-Quebec pics of the season and, to add insult to injury, Canada’s largest film fest announced its hot Quebecois lineup the same day (Aug. 10) that Montreal unveiled its programming.
Montreal managed to reel in only two big Quebec features this year, “Route 132,” from Louis Belanger, and Julie Hivon’s “Silence Lies.”
Toronto, on the other hand, hosts the world preem of three Quebec pics: Montreal writer-director Jacob Tierney’s “Good Neighbours,” Robin Aubert’s “Crying Out” and Deborah Chow’s “High Cost of Living,” which stars Zach Braff. Toronto also has a slew of Quebec non-world preems including Denis Villeneuve’s “Incendies,” which bows at Venice.
Villeneuve made headlines on the opening day of the Montreal fest when he declared, “The truth is that the Montreal World Film Festival doesn’t exist anymore on the world stage.”
“Incendies” producer Luc Dery says the pic is at Toronto rather than Montreal because TIFF is a great place to reach the international marketplace. “But the two festivals are so different that it doesn’t make sense to make the comparison,” says Dery.
Some in the Quebec industry question the wisdom of taking films made chez nous to Toronto.
Patrick Roy, president of Alliance Vivafilm, Quebec’s leading distributor, argues that Toronto is not a good launch pad for films from La Belle Province — which is why he gave Montreal “Route 132.”
“Ninety-nine percent of the box office for Quebec films comes from Quebec, so for me the best place to launch a Quebec film is the World Film Festival.”
For Kevin Tierney, who produced “Good Neighbours,” the choice to world preem in Toronto rather than his hometown of Montreal was a simple one. “It’s a business decision,” says Tierney. “The buyers are in Toronto, and there are no buyers in Montreal. But it’s just a different film festival. Montreal is not a business film festival.”