From all over the world, with love

It’s not every day that you have the opportunity to see the North American debut of a film or watch a movie seen by over a million people in France. If that’s not reason enough, imagine watching the film on the big screen at the majestic Imperial Cinema in downtown Montreal. This week, the 17th annual Cinemania French Film Festival begins, and will give Montrealers the chance to do both.
Cinemania is known for captivating audiences by bringing films from around the world to Montreal and has facilitated many Canadian premieres. This year’s selection of 35 films range from thrillers, to romantic comedies, to political dramas. The festival is also committed to bringing notable directors, such as Cédric Klapisch, to present their work in person.
The selection process begins at the Cannes Film Festival, held in France and one of the most prestigious festivals of its kind in the world.
“The opening and closing films are definitely must-sees,” said Natalie Belanger, the managing director of Cinemania. 

Polisse, the first film on the line-up, won the Grand Jury prize at Cannes and will be making its first appearance in North America on Thursday. It is a realist portrait of a child protection unit attached to the Paris police force which details the psychological stress the team undergoes each day. The closing film, Les Neiges du Kilimanjaro, was also featured at Cannes and received very positive reviews.
This year over 100 films competed to be chosen for a spot on the coveted list. It’s a difficult task, and Belanger says there are no hard and fast criteria.
“It’s not scientific. We have an eye for it, and we know what the public likes,” she said. “It’s the cinematographic experience you have to feel it. It’s really done with the heart.”
Of the 35 films listed, Belanger recommends Des vents contraires, which is the story of a man with two young children whose wife suddenly disappears, and La Fee, a whimsical adult fairy tale full of humour and the quirkiest of love stories. There is also Ma part du gateau, which Belanger calls the “blockbuster” of the festival, and was immensely popular in France.

She believes it’s important to be exposed to as many foreign films as possible.  “It’s great, and it really opens your mind to different perspectives and cultures,” she said.
All the films selected are in French, but never fear, the English-speaking Montrealer will be able to enjoy the festival as well. “Every single film is subtitled. For us it’s essential,” said Belanger. “It’s very important to widen the audience and share with as many people as possible.”
Last year, the festival drew about 20,000 people and this year Belanger is confident audiences won’t be disappointed.
The Imperial Cinema is not open to the public except for special events. It is charmingly old-fashioned on the inside and seats approximately 800 people. Belanger says the atmosphere fits perfectly with the event. “To see the films in this magnificent theatre is just such an experience,” she said. 

Cinemania kicks off at the Imperial Cinema on Nov. 3 and runs until Nov. 13. General admission is $12.50, and $10 for students. For more information, check out

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