It was a special weekend for Montreal filmmaker and Concordia communications professor Federico Hidalgo. His latest chef d’oeuvre, Le Concierge, premiered Friday, Feb. 3 at La Cinémathèque Québécoise, attracting film enthusiasts and the general public alike for an evening of entertainment, reflection and intrigue. Hidalgo not only wrote the film, but also acted in it and directed it.
Le Concierge tells the story of a concierge responsible for the upkeep of a small apartment in Montreal. As part of his duties, the concierge must also show the vacant space to potential renters. Despite its lackluster appearance, the space becomes highly desired by people from all walks of life, including an immigrant artist, a widower and a teenage girl seeking independence.
As he meets with more interested clients, the concierge becomes increasingly disturbed by a peculiar reality—the owner of this building refuses to choose a tenant. With people continuously opening up to him about their house-hunting struggles, the concierge bears a heavy weight on his shoulders. The audience is urged to reflect on notions of honesty, humility and, ultimately, home.
Members of the audience at Friday night’s screening included some of Hidalgo’s students from Concordia. Nasim Gizabi, who is completing a specialization in communications, said seeing his teacher on the big screen was “a great experience.”
“I think maybe now, when I see him in class, it will be different,” he said. “He always talks about the films we make in his class, and now we know how he himself makes them. I saw him actually doing the things that he has been teaching us about—cinematography, mise-en-scène and acting. It’s amazing.”
Gizabi also pointed out the similarities between Le Concierge and works by Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk. “He makes films with characters who don’t speak at all. I personally prefer films with minimal dialogue, and Le Concierge was something like that. I liked it,” he said.
Zoé Realffe Dagenais, who is pursuing a major in communications, said she enjoyed the way the film was shot, and agreed that seeing her professor on screen was a unique experience.
“It was kind of weird seeing my prof on screen, but I have more of an appreciation for him now,” she said. “When you see your prof actually doing something that he’s teaching you, it’s kind of cool. That he acted, directed and wrote this film is really inspiring.”
As an exploration into the many reasons why we seek a place to call home, Le Concierge maintains an ambiance that is both insightful and introspective. “The mood is kind of mysterious and psychological,” said Hidalgo, who starred in the film as the concierge. The idea for the story emerged from his own experience renting an office in an apartment complex.
“I saw a lot of people who were going through difficult transitions in their lives, taking these little apartments like the one in the film,” he said. “I became interested in how you can pick up a sense of the types of difficulties they were going through, even though you don’t know them very well.”
Staying true to his real-life inspiration, Hidalgo sought out a small space to film. However, this meant working with a smaller production team of three to four people, plus Hidalgo, compared to some of his previous films which could include over 50 crew members.
Le Concierge did not receive any grants. Instead, Hidalgo relied on the support of family and friends to put the film together. Making use of the resources provided by family and friends is one of the ways Hidalgo encourages aspiring filmmakers to get their foot in the door. “Start by taking stock of what things you can put together, aside from getting some money. Then, start writing and think of things you can do with the resources you have already at hand.”
“Instead of writing something that you would need a lot of resources for and hoping that one day you get it together, think of [scenes] you can make with the resources you already have,” said Hidalgo. Similarly, he also encourages writers to create scenes according to the spaces which are available to them.
With a series of accomplishments under his belt, including winning Best Screenplay at the Brooklyn International Film Festival and the Miami International Film Festival for his 2003 film, A Silent Love, Hidalgo maintains a special appreciation for the film scene here in Montreal.
With so many beautiful locations in the city and such a diverse population, Hidalgo said Montreal filmmakers hold a unique ability to tell many different kinds of stories. “I find it very, very inspiring because you don’t feel limited by one homogenous culture that can only understand certain types of films or certain languages,” he said. “It’s very competitive, but it’s competitive everywhere. I think it’s a pretty good place to make films.”