The Dangers of World Premiers

in 39th Montreal World Film Festival

by Oscar Peyrou

The 39 edition of the Festival des Films du Monde/ Montreal World Film Festival featured films from 86 countries, including Bermuda, Afghanistan, Congo, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Nepal, Malawi, Nicaragua, Azerbaijan, Turkey or Greenland.     

Moreover, a record number of short films were submitted (over 1,200 shorts including Canadian and foreign student films, an increase of 42 percent over last year’s figures), out of which seven hundred and twenty six films from 64 countries were selected.              

These numbers eloquently express the organizers’ intent to offer as culturally comprehensive, and also as politically and geographically inclusive a picture of the extant film world as possible. Another important aspect of this festival’s drive for prestige seems to be presenting of an inordinately large number of world premières. Which would have been fine if these premières were up to cinematic quality standards, a task however too ambitious when the competition takes place at this time of the year. The chances to show an original work for the first time in late August are really slim, since the best films have already been shown in Berlin (February), in Cannes (May), or in Venice (which happens to almost overlap with Montreal). And certainly some more would be shown in Toronto (which follows immediately after Montreal), as well as in San Sebastian. Yet this is a pity since Festival des Films du Monde is the only North American festival with category A – of the same category as Cannes – the highest category awarded by the FIAPF, the International Association of Producers.                  

On the positive side, although less known than Toronto, the Montreal Festival des Films du Monde is regarded as the more independent and the less commercial one. Perhaps that fact encourages the festival organizers to seek out these premieres for the competition – this year the Grand Prize of the Americas went to Mad Love, by Philippe Ramos (France) – with such a misguided fervor due to the above mentioned circumstances, which might paradoxically have the opposite effect!   

One of the sections that could theoretically be more interesting, is the one bringing together first films by new directors. It is there that one might find occasionally – and by miracle – a worthy film. Such a film among twenty-five works of all kinds, some puzzling, other conventional, were, perhaps, the Peruvian Rosa Chumbe, directed by Jonatan Relayze Chiang and the Japan Lost and found (Hoshigaoka Wonderlan)d, by Show Shaganisawa. If the first, which won the FIPRESCI Prize, is a subtle parable about the unreality of religion and the reality of its consequences, the Japanese tape is a fresco, which enmeshes repressed memories and desires in a harrowing web. Another film awarded by the International Federation of Critics was Misafir, by Turkish director Mehmet Eryilmaz, screened in the official competition, where it won the Special Jury Prize.            

The film tells a classical story of a complicated mother-daughter relationship, suggestive however of a well-hidden, dark incestuous secret – a fact very rarely discussed in the open, no matter how common for the Turkish society.        

Edited by Christina Stojanova