The M60 Festival is hitting town again, and is here to show Montrealers how to do just that. Showcasing over 70 films chosen at their launch party this past July, it’s taking over the screens of the Rialto Theatre for two days. Each film is just a minute long.
The festival is the brainchild of siblings Lily and Sylvan Lanken, and their childhood friend Toby Harper, as well as Douglas Hollingworth and Sean Michaels. It has also grown to include organizers RaphaÃ«lle Aubin and Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet.
The way Lily Lanken tells the story, it got off to mystical beginnings.
“The festival was dreamed up the night of the eclipse of the moon four years ago,” recalled Lanken. “There was definitely alcohol involved and a walk up and down Mont-Royal in the dark. Out of the five original members/organizers, three of us were doing film-related things so it seemed quite natural that a film idea would evolve. I think we also played on the fact that Montreal is this city of festivals, and here was our idea for a fest that wasn’t going to take up too much of your timeâ€”except for maybe us, the organizers!”
What sets M60 apart, and what has helped it to carve a niche in the sea of festivals, is its emphasis on the short in a world where filmsâ€”as action-packed and fast-paced as may beâ€”are still an average 90 minutes in length. This is something that Lanken explains has a lot to do not only with modern film trends, but also with the challenge a 60-second limit imposes.
“I think the one-minute film is an excellent length to get an idea across. Think how TV ads manage to make an impact at only 30 seconds. Take Super Bowl ads for instance, they are epic narratives done in only 45 to 60 seconds max,” she said. “It is always impressive to see just how much story filmmakers can squeeze into 60 seconds.”
The festival adds in a democratic element by accepting any and all submissions on a first-come, first-served manner. On top of that, there are no juries, prizes, or registration fees. Both amateurs and established filmmakers had but a month in which to create their films, leading the festival to showcase what Lanken calls “talent that is untapped.”
“Most film festivals are jury-based and that makes it very subjective,” she continued. “I think we are trying to go with a sort of salon des refusÃ©s [an exhibit of rejected works, started in 19th century Paris] by doing a festival where we accept all submissions, however good or bad they may be.”
If this year’s trailer (which can be found on the festival website) is anything to go by, festival-goers are in for a whirlwind of a cinematic experience, up on the technicolour and WTF-inducing moments, and devoid of any pretension or snobbery. With films that range in style and subject from stop-motion to vampires, virtually the only thing tying them together, besides the time restraint, is that they play on this year’s theme of chance.
“Chance, like all our previous themes, is agreed upon by a vote,” said Lanken. It’s a theme that can work in both French and English, she noted.
Chance, or rather opportunity, also played a role in the festival’s adoption of the Rialto Theatre for its screenings, a departure from its usual haunts of La Sala Rossa and Cinema du Parc.
“The Rialto Theatre re-opened again into a multi-use venue and so it was a chance to show films back in an original filmhouse,” said Lanken, recalling that the venue was a steakhouse for a few years. “[It] is also one of the last remaining icons from Montreal’s golden era of grand cinemas.”
With filmmakers that keep participating year after year, and past screenings taking place before sold-out crowds, what will the festival offer audiences this time around?
“The want to make films for next year’s festival!” exclaimed Lanken. “Also, because the films are done over the summer, we get to see the lush city in all its splendour, so it’s a nice send off for the season.”
The M60 festival is taking place Sept. 16 and 17 at the Rialto Theatre. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $8. For more info and to buy tickets, visit www.m60.ca.