Film fest turns 35

Arts & Entertainment/Film and TV by

The Festival du Nouveau Cinema is the oldest of its kind in Montreal, celebrating its 35th birthday this October. The festival opens tomorrow with Philippe Falardeau’s Congorama and closes Oct. 26 with a spotlight on the Spanish cinema screening of Pedro Almodovar’s Volver. The Tribune sat down with Don Lobel, director and programmer for the festival, who dished out the insider’s look at the world film scene as well as what the festival has to offer this year.

Lobel, who has also been the programmer for the closed-but-soon-to-reopen Cinéma du Parc for the past seven years, believes that in running a movie theater, “you only rely on what’s going to happen tomorrow, not what happened yesterday.” As the world constantly evolves, the film industry is also constantly adopting new ways of artistic and aesthetic expression. FNC, in Lobel’s words, is “a cinephile’s wet dream”; it not only offers world-class, amazing movies, but also the opportunity to appreciate New Media: “the convergence of films with digital media and new modes of distribution and consumption, such as watching movies on mobile phones.”

“In the film business,” Lobel continues, “it’s all about the long-term goals, how you sustain year after year [film] qualities and audience interest. [The festival] is a remarkable achievement. What makes this festival stand out from the others in Montreal, perhaps even across Canada, is that there is a real insistence on quality, not just showing films that are catered to popular taste. We anguish over every single film that we show, [because we] want to make sure that we are showing the best of the best. It takes us months of work to look at everything out there in the world, especially those that are cutting-edge, avant-garde and controversial, addressing current-day social and political issues.”

FNC is not strictly characterized by independent films, but also those that have a vision, are not driven purely by story or plot concerns and look at the world in a transcendental or metaphysical way. With 189 films from 39 countries categorized into eight groups, the festival’s offering seems like an impressive yet overwhelming lot – where does one start?

The prolific International Selection includes 18 movies that are in the Louve d’Or competition. Lobel personally recommended a few that he has screened:

“The Bothersome Man is a surreal satire about living in an IKEA world in Norway. This guy gets dropped off in a wasteland, transported to the city, and offered a job, a place to live and even a lover. While everyone is always smiling and happy, a series of strange things happen. It’s a really funny movie about a world of smiling people in Scandinavia. Highly recommend it.”

“Darratt is a movie from Chad, a country where very few movies come from. It’s a fascinating story about a young boy who moves to a small town looking for the murderer of his father. However, this man ends up befriending him and takes him on as his son. However, there is this tension throughout the film as to when all hell’s going to break loose, when he’s going to seek vengeance. “

“I highly recommend Peter Pan Formula, beautifully directed by Chang-ho Cho, about a teenager whose mother falls into a coma and abandons the family. He then becomes so infatuated with the woman who lives across the street to the point of constantly masturbating about her and finally ends up having a relationship with her.”

“Son of Man is an interesting film by Mark Dornford-May, who did the film that won the Silver Bear Award at the World Film Festival last year in Berlin. This movie takes the story of Jesus and turns it to the town of Suetta in South Africa, acted by an all black cast – very unusual.”

“There is also a mind-blowing documentary called Rampage, about an ultra-violent neighborhood in Miami. The film follows a family full of hip-hoppers who are involved in daily life-threatening wars to the point of bullets flying throughout the shooting of the movie… The director had just came back from Baghdad and said that it is tamer there and much less violent than what he has seen in Miami!”

In addition to the international competition, there is also the Special Presentation section composed of reputable and already-known directors around the world. Lobel recommends the Taiwanese I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, “a gorgeously shot and framed meditation on loneliness and desire,” set in the swampland of Australia 1,000 years ago, Ten Canoes, and Flandres, a Cannes hit that focuses that explores human relationships from the Normandy countryside to the Middle East.

Other festival features include International Panorama (films that have all enjoyed success in their own country before landing here in Canada), Focus Quebec/Canada (an all-new section this year added due to all the world attention Quebec cinema has been receiving in recent years), Temps (in its third year promoting genre cinema and animations), Shorts (with films competing for the NFB Short Film Award), Retrospectives/ Tributes (commemorating four 20th century directors who have made significant contributions to cinema) and Open Source (a public forum that includes a series of exhibits, talks and workshops).

“There is bound to be something for everybody at this festival.” Lobel points out. When asked what is the one thing that sets this year apart from previous years, he answers ruefully, “the one thing that stands out in my mind is that after all the turbulence of the past few years, the scandals around film festivals and with movies coming and going, we are still here. Not only are we not fading away, we are growing stronger in quantity, with phenomenal selections in so many genres. If you are somebody who loves movies, this is the major event of the year, because you have the opportunity in 10 days, to see some of the greatest films played around the world this year.”

The 35th Festival du Nouveau Cinema runs Oct. 18-28 at Ex-Centris, Imperial Cinema, Cinéma Parallèle, Cinémathèque Québécoise, and Just For Laughs Museum. For more information, check out www.nouveaucinema.ca.