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“Richest programming of its history” at Cinémania 2020

The francophone film festival will be held entirely online and available across Canada

Against all odds, this year’s edition of Cinémania is set to begin with great optimism. From Nov. 4 to 22, Canada’s largest film festival dedicated to francophone cinema is presenting its most ambitious programming to date — entirely online — proudly adding new features such as a short film program and homemade documentaries.

“We were simply ready,” said Guilhem Caillard, the festival’s managing director, about having to face social distancing measures in the second wave of the pandemic. “The most important aspect is that our public has access to our films, and honestly, in terms of programming, this year is the richest of the 25-year history of the festival.”

Along with other institutions in the film and performing arts industries, Cinémania was put under tremendous stress recently. Until last week, they hadn’t been able to confirm whether they would be able to show their films in theatres. When the provincial government announced that red zone restrictions would remain in effect until Nov. 23, the festival already had an online platform ready to go —  one they had been working on since last April.

In total, only eight films (out of 130) could not be moved online as their distributors didn’t allow it, but Caillard has promised that when it’s permitted, these films will come to theatres in Montreal.

Among those removed from the festival was the opening film, Aline. Directed by and starring renowned French actress Valérie Lemercier, Aline is a fictional film heavily inspired by the life of Céline Dion. The most anticipated feature of the festival, its release on both sides of the Atlantic has been postponed to an unknown later date.

Cinémania is now bigger than ever, adding short films and homemade documentaries this year.

“Opening to short films allows the festival to open up even more to emerging filmmakers, to diversity, and to more francophone countries,” said Anne de Marchis, the director of marketing and communications at Cinémania.

This year the festival adds short films to its programming for the first time ever, including more than 30 films encompassing many different genres. Most of them are from Québec, as Cinémania will also present films that were set to be shown at Regard, a short film festival in Saguenay, which was cancelled on its first day, in March, due to social distancing measures.

Another addition this year are two documentaries produced by the festival itself: a short documentary about Louis Bélanger, this year’s festival’s guest of honour, directed by Kalina Bertin (Manic, 2017), and another by Gauthier Aboudaram on the film La nuit des rois, Ivory Coast’s 2020 Oscar submission, which is also featured at the festival.

A diverse programming to discover francophone cultures worldwide.

Once again, Cinémania proves to be an eloquent testament to francophone cinema’s diversity; encompassing many genres, approaches, and themes.

“This year we observed a strong presence of Quebecois cinema, stronger than ever at the festival,” said Caillard. A good example that might interest Concordians, according to Caillard, is Maryanne Zéhil’s La face cachée du baklava, a comedy about how Lebanese people are perceived in Quebec. Also, for every ticket sold, a dollar will be donated to the Canadian Red Cross for reconstruction in Beirut.

L’État Sauvage, a feminist western and a France-Quebec coproduction, is another of Caillard’s favorites this year, “which brings out the western side of the Quebec landscapes,” he said, and depicts a French family in the midst of the American civil war.

Caillard also noted that many of his films this year — more than ever — centre around LGBTQ+ issues, allowing his audience to discover how they can be seen and portrayed around the world. Among those are A good man by Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar, which tells the unconventional story of a transgender man’s pregnancy, or Deux, by Filippo Meneghetti about the beautiful lesbian love story of octogenarians.

Cinémania also presents itself as a good opportunity to see some high-profile directors’ work, including films that were part of the official competition at Cannes this year, and new anticipated features such as François Ozon’s Été 85, or Cédric Klapisch’s latest, Deux moi.

The entire programming is available here. It costs $8 per individual film, or $65 for the entire online selection.

 

Photos courtesy of Cinémania.

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Arts

Solidarity in art: FIFA reinvents itself

Watch films from one of Montreal’s biggest festivals online until March 29

The Festival International de Films sur l’Art (FIFA) was set to take place from March 17 to 29. Along with all other public gatherings,  they had to cancel last week, for the first time in 38 years. They announced the decision five days before their opening ceremony, only to be reborn online two days later.

“Art is nothing without its stories,” reads the festival’s website. They are known for showcasing, among other things, portraits of artists, documentaries about various forms of art and experimental films. Their new online platform, hosted by Vimeo, now gives viewers the opportunity to become art experts and refine their film tastes, from the comfort of their homes.

“We’ve seen such a remarkable wave of solidarity for the festival,” said Jacinthe Brisebois, head of programming. Indeed, on March 18 only, not even 24 hours after its release, the festival’s online viewing platform had sold more than 1,200 tickets.

“Surprisingly, many of our featured films this year relate to art therapy, proving that art helps our well-being and that we need activities that stand out of our daily lives,” said Brisebois.

 We Are Not Princesses, a Syrian-American documentary by Bridgette Auger and Itab Azzam, opened the official launch of FIFA’s online platform on March 17. It follows a group of Syrian refugees in Beirut as they put together a rendition of the Greek tragedy Antigone by Sophocles.

“It’s a beautiful story of resilience,” Brisebois said. We get to know each of the actors’ difficult life stories, and how they relate to Antigone, who became one of the most prominent examples of strength and resilience in classical literature. Daughter of Oedipus, Antigone is remembered in Greek mythology (mostly thanks to the Sophocles’ tragedy) for having fought fearlessly for her brother Polynices’ honour against King Creon.

We Are Not Princesses also won the grand prize of the festival, awarded by a special jury of artists and programmers.

The Canadian documentary Traces of Hope, by Christine Doyon, is another story of healing through art in the Middle East, and one of the most important films of the festival, according to Brisebois. A group of young Syrian refugees, also in Lebanon, are invited to create an animated short film, and through their creative process, discuss what art means to them.

FIFA also remained true to their old habits, as many of their feature films remain documentaries on the lives of artists—this year, that included documentaries of artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Ernest Pignon-Ernest, Raôul Duguay, Paul Auster, Leonardo da Vinci and many more. They also feature documentaries on various stories of the art milieu, such as Caravaggio’s lost painting and how a Brazilian diplomat saved a massive east German art collection.

Nicole Gingras, a part-time instructor at Concordia’s Faculty of Fine Arts, curated a selection of experimental films titled FIFA Experimental. Most of that selection is now also offered on FIFA’s online platform.

Marjan Ansari, a Concordia MFA student, directed a film presented as a part of FIFA Experimental. Titled Paper Planes, it was created in collaboration with Concordia’s Department of Contemporary Dance and is also part of the festival’s Spotlight on Iranian Art Films. The short film shows choreographies around Montreal, inspired by the real lived experiences of refugees and Ansari’s own story of immigration.

The entire selection is available here until March 29 at midnight. It costs $30 for unlimited access to over 150 films.

 

 


With files from the Festival International de Films sur l’Art (FIFA).

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Music

Boiler Room X Igloofest: Making history for the entire world to see

DJs Overland, Danny Daze, Ellen Allien and Trance Wax participated in the coldest Boiler Room event to date

Boiler Room, the world-famous music platform, put together their first-ever show in collaboration with Igloofest last Thursday, Feb. 6. It was their coldest event to date, and one of Igloofest’s most attended parties ever.

The London-based company, founded in 2010, has become one of the major players worldwide in the distribution and marketing of electronic music. They claim that they were born as they “installed a webcam on a wall at a warehouse party and streamed it on the internet,” in their very beginning, back in 2010, connecting a larger audience to local underground club cultures.

Boiler Room’s concept of live streaming and archiving their events online became viral. They now have more than three million subscribers on Facebook and two million on YouTube. Hosting regular events in London, Amsterdam, New York City, Berlin, and Los Angeles, they have also been in more than 100 cities worldwide, co-organizing events spanning across many genres, such as garage, house, techno, dub, hip hop, and even jazz.

Although last Thursday was the first time that Boiler Room collaborated with Igloofest, it was not their first time in Montreal. For more than five years, they have streamed and co-organized about 30 parties in the city.

Keeping warm. Photo by Ora Bar.

The Igloofest show was almost sold-out before its lineup was even announced, proving how well-established their reputation is. And when they finally released it, they did not disappoint.

Their special stage, built especially for the one-night event, welcomed, in order of appearance, Vancouver DJ Overland, Miami techno DJ and producer Danny Daze, Berlin techno world-star Ellen Allien, and the British trance project Trance Wax.

The stage was indeed unique to the so-called “off-igloo” night. Instead of using the usual Igloofest configuration, Boiler Room remained true to their style and had an open stage, allowing the public to dance all around it and get close to the action.

“We are very happy and proud to have organized another Boiler Room event with Multicolore,” said Nicolas Cournoyer, co-founder of Igloofest and Piknic Électronik. His company Multicolore manages both festivals. Boiler Room had already participated in Piknic Électronik a few times.

Ellen Allien. Photo by Ora Bar.

“Igloofest was a great fit and interesting experience for Boiler Room, because it gave them something new: a cold and snowy outdoors setting, in the middle of the Quebec winter,” Cournoyer said. “They were very interested.”

As for the music and ambiance last Thursday, needless to say, it was stunning. The thick snowfall and warmer weather called for an even more pleasant experience. The four DJs all put on a great show, the most notable being Ellen Allien and Trance Wax.

We can only wish for Multicolore to bring us more of such events, for us to dance to, and for the world to see what makes Montreal’s party scene so unique.

Photos by Ora Bar

 

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Music

Igloofest 2020: 14 years of electric winters

From embracing local hip hop to welcoming new international DJs, the festival slightly reinvents itself this year.

The biggest music festival of the winter enters the new decade, facing past concerns head-on, from diversifying and expanding its programming, to managing gender diversity and sustainability issues.

Montrealers eager to warm up by dancing on the coldest nights of the year will flock to the Quai Jacques-Cartier in the Old Port for the festival’s 14th edition, spanning over nine nights between four weekends, from Jan. 16 to Feb. 8.

This year, Igloofest seems to have found the right balance in its programming, knowing how to please its loyal festival-goers in an ever-changing electronic music landscape.

“We are aware that people’s tastes evolve, and we have always been trying to dig out future trends while pleasing our loyal audience,” said Nicolas Cournoyer, co-founder of Igloofest and Piknic Électronik.

The festival’s aspiration for trendiness might explain why they have dedicated an entire night to hip hop for the first time this year. Along with other so-called “Off-Igloo” events, the night of Jan. 30 will feature local hip hop stars, including rappers Loud and White-B, along with DJ Charlie Shulz.

Closer to Igloofest’s roots, some Montreal favourites are also making their comeback this year. Having just released a very well-received new album, Kaytranada will warm up the Sapporo stage on Feb. 1, along with High Klassified. Kaytranada’s last Igloofest appearance in 2018 broke the attendance record of the festival at that time, likely making his 2020 appearance the most anticipated show at Igloofest this year. Cournoyer said he is very proud to welcome the two DJs once more.

“It was important for us, since the very beginning, to push for Montreal artists to have a platform here,” he said. “Although at first, when we used to be much smaller, we could almost only have Montreal DJs, we still grew in a way that would allow space for emerging local talent.”

With that goal in mind, Cournoyer said that in the early 2010s, the festival decided to build a second stage, dedicated strictly to Montreal artists, that would compensate for the arrival of international DJs. Voyage Funktastique and Cri are among the favourite local stars that had participated in the first editions of Igloofest to come back this year.

Igloofest has diversified itself in many ways — its lineup encompasses many genres, from EDM to house, hip hop to techno, but also with guests from all over the world, and a growing presence of women artists.

Cournoyer said that gender equality is a priority for his festival. “We are flirting with parity in our lineup this year,” he said. “We have been very lucky to find exceptional women artists, such as Nina Kraviz and Charlotte de Witte.” This will be minimal techno DJ de Witte’s second performance in Montreal, following a successful show at Osheaga last summer.

If festival-goers had been complaining about lack of representation of women in music festivals recently, they also raised important questions regarding sustainability. Cournoyer said that Multicolore, the company responsible for Igloofest and Piknic Électronik, will do more this year, as past editions’ efforts might not have been enough to reduce their environmental footprint.

Not only does he claim they will try to compensate for the gas emissions caused by the transportation of their guests by planting hundreds of trees, he says Igloofest will also ban plastic water bottles and will bring reusable cups and straws this year.

Once the festival comes to an end, Montrealers can measure if these efforts have been successful. Until then, they can fight off winter blues by dancing to their favourite DJs.

For more details about the programming, visit https://igloofest.ca/

 

Photos by Youmna El Halabi

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Arts

Queerement Quebec: Young queer stories at Image+Nation

Concordia students were particularly well represented at Queerement Quebec

Queerement Quebec is always a favourite among the public of Image+Nation. The Montreal LGBTQ+ film festival has been organizing the Quebec short film night for 19 years now. This year’s edition was held at the Phi Centre, on Nov. 26.

Out of the eight filmmakers who presented their work that evening, six were Concordia students or alumnae.

“Thank you, Concordia,” said Charlie Boudreau, the director of the festival. “Every year this school produces great filmmakers who end up having a well-deserved place either here at Image+Nation, or in the wider Montreal festival circuit.”

Boudreau mentioned that Image+Nation received four times more submissions than the number of films they were able to show at Queerement Quebec. “This proves that Quebec cinema is very much alive, and that every year there are new queer voices which we try to put out there,” she said.

The last film of the evening, Delphine, by Chloé Robichaud, was probably the best directed. Ever since Robichaud graduated from Concordia 10 years ago in film production, she has become one of the most prominent queer directors in contemporary Quebec cinema, having directed two feature films and many television series episodes, in French and English.

Her last picture won the best short film prize at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) earlier this year. Inspired by the play Delphine de Ville Saint-Laurent, it tells the story of Delphine, a Lebanese immigrant who arrives in Quebec at 10 years old. She starts going to a Montreal elementary school, very shy, not knowing a word of French. Her difficulties are told through the narration of Nicole, a classmate, who seems more at ease with her environment. The last scenes of Robichaud’s short, situate her characters years later, in high school, where Delphine appears as a changed girl, fearless, almost aggressive, as she begins to have to embrace her homosexuality.

“It is one of those films which are queer and feel queer, but don’t explicitly mention their characters’ sexuality, and rather let them be,” said Robichaud. 

As the director stood on the Phi Centre stage to talk about her film, she also talked to Zachary Ayotte, who is currently studying at Concordia, and also presented a film that evening.

The two generations of Concordia filmmakers presented very different pictures. Mon père travaille de nuit is Ayotte’s very first film. He made it two years ago in a film production class. While it was not made to be a comedy, it was the funniest film of the selection. Depicting a teenage boy’s strange relationship with a fellow student whom he meets in swim practice, it was awkward yet very entertaining. Ayotte showed skillful cinematography, considering that it was his first attempt at filmmaking.

“I learned so much in the process of making this film,” said the young director. “I am also very moved by the reaction of the audience tonight, I never would have thought such a personal story could have an impact.” Ayotte said his main character’s experience of sexual discovery had been inspired by his own, a few years back.

While this year’s selection didn’t always showcase the best quality films, compared to last year, for example, it still felt important. Not only did it represent the first film festival experience to many of the feature filmmakers, it also gave the Montreal public the chance to see how the young are portraying queer issues and relationships on screen

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Arts

Image+Nation brings new voices of queer cinema to Montreal

The LGBTQ+ festival stands out with its quality Canadian and Latinx programming

Turning 32 this month, Image+Nation is the oldest still-running LGBTQ+ film festival in Canada. Every year, they aim to explore new themes and ways of filming queer stories.

This year’s edition marks a special turn. They brought back their animation film selection after 10 years of absence, added a selection of Canadian short films, and put forward nine Latinx feature films – the most they have ever had.

“These are all films that center on self-acceptance,” said Kat Setzer, the programming director.

In today’s context of diversity and inclusion in cinema, one could think that a queer film festival in Montreal would have lost its necessity, political power and relevance. Charlie Boudreau, the director of Image+Nation, defended her festival at the opening night on Thursday Nov. 21. She said that this year’s films bring to Montreal exclusive screenings that embody the constant evolution of queer cinema, putting forward new directors, new parts of the world and new issues.

In that regard, Image+Nation helps redefine queerness and its relationship to national cinemas and their political ramifications.

For its opening weekend, it brought to the forefront surprisingly high-quality filmmaking.

And then we danced marked the opening ceremony last Thursday.

“This film is my love letter to Georgia,” said director Levan Akin, in a video directed to the Montreal public prior to the screening. It was shown in a Montreal theatre for the second time after its Quebec premiere at the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma (FNC).

The Swedish-Georgian film depicts the love affair of Merab, a dancer training in the National Georgian Ensemble, with a new rival in the team, Irakli. In a conservative Georgia and dancing ensemble, where masculinity is “the essence” of the dance, their relationship is fraught and forbidden. Their love is subtly and gently told, mostly unsaid but very much felt.

Filled with enticing Georgian music, warm golden lighting throughout the film, and dynamic choreography, it was a wise choice for the opening of Image+Nation.

And then we danced also very much connects with the political relevance of such a festival. When it premiered in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, on Nov. 8, it was welcomed by hundreds of anti-LGBT protesters, blocking the entrance to the film. Despite the scandal forcing Georgian theatres to stop showing the film after three days, it still sold an estimated 6,000 tickets.

Proving the necessity of queer storytelling worldwide, And then we danced was well received by both the public and critics, and deserved the spotlight.

Adding to the films that kicked off the festival, This is not Berlin and José, presented one after the other at l’Impérial on Friday Nov. 22, were particularly good. They were both part of the Latinx programming of the festival.

“This is one is superb, one of my top five of this year,” said Setzer, when talking about the Mexican feature film This is not Berlin.

 

Directed by Hari Sama, it tells the story of two high-school students as they dive deep into the Mexican underground punk arts scene. Because, as the title says, this is not Berlin, things get complicated when they try to make art and fall in love the way they want.

José, by Li Cheng, was probably the best film of the entire weekend and the most underrated. It was the first Guatemaltecan movie in the history of Image+Nation and turned out to be a naturalistic and poetic gem. Unlike many movies that tackle the hookup culture among some modern gay men, this film avoids clichés and touches people with its beautiful yet believable and relatable love story. It has to have more screenings in Montreal, or at least be available to stream in Canada.

With even more events coming in the course of this week, including short film programs of Quebec and Canadian films, as well as documentaries about LGBTQ+ issues and award-winning feature films, Montreal has not seen the last of Image+Nation this year.

The Concordian will follow their activities and review some of their featured films next week.

For more information about the festival’s history and programming, visit https://www.image-nation.org/

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Arts

New streaming platform opens Concordia students to experimental film

Vithèque, a self-proclaimed digital anti-giant, offers access to more than 2,000 titles

Since Spring of 2019, the online streaming service Vithèque has been available to students of the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema through the school’s library website. The new platform is now   on a campaign to encourage Concordia students to use it. They have been touring the university’s classes and advertising their services all November.

Vithèque has been serving as the online streaming platform of Vidéographe since 2017. It is a film production and distribution company that was founded as a division of the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) in 1971. Two years later, Vidéographe became independent of the NFB, and has been growing ever since. While they don’t directly produce as much content themselves nowadays, they still help Quebec artists push the boundaries of experimental filmmaking and video art. They offer workshops, residency programs, bursaries, equipment and more.

Their work encompasses animation, multimedia art, video essays, documentary, dance videos and some fiction. Their new platform, Vithèque, brings together their entire archive, and makes it available to their subscribers.

“We’re a good alternative to mainstream streaming services such as Netflix, because not only is our offer more interesting if you’re looking for more specific auteur films, […] Vithèque also pays the artists better,” said Karine Boisvert, who put together the platform for Vidéographe.

She added that 50 per cent of the platform’s revenues go directly to the content creators. Vithèque and Vidéographe function like NGOs; their main goal is to give back to the community of artists they work with. The other half of the revenue helps to keep the platform functioning, extending their public and funding additional services for artists.

“It’s the subscribers and agreements with schools and libraries which allow us to keep expanding,” said Boisvert. “Since the beginning, Concordia seemed like an important collaborator for us, along with UQAM, because of its large film program and interest in experimental filmmaking.”

Pierre Falardeau, Robert Morin, Anne Émond, Pierre Hébert and Sylvie Laliberté are among the most well-known artists to have their work available on Vithèque. The platform’s website claims it hosts films “documenting key events in contemporary Quebec, such as the workers movement, the October crisis, the feminist movement, counterculture and LGBTQ2+ affirmation.”

Some video installations which Montrealers might have seen in a gallery or museum could also very much be found on Vithèque. For example, Chloë Lum and Yannick Desranleau’s What Do Stones Smell Like in the Forest, which was displayed at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC) this summer, is also available on the website.

Vidéographe adds about 30 new titles to its collection every year. Whether it be to deepen their research or just to explore Quebec experimental film history, at home, on a rainy Sunday afternoon, Concordia students now have access to an even wider array of possibilities.

For more details, visit https://vitheque-com.lib-ezproxy.concordia.ca/en/home.

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Arts

Festival du Nouveau Cinéma 2019: Three Highlights

The Concordian’s selection is coming to our big screens this fall

With the end of the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma (FNC) last week comes excitement about the films we will have the chance to see this fall. The Concordian picked three of its favourites from the 2019 programming, which spanned Oct. 9 to 20.

Although some other impressive films also caught our attention, we decided to focus on the ones we will be able to see outside of the festival.

Bacurau – Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles, Brazil, 2019

This story of a small Brazilian town which finds itself in the middle of a bloody and spooky manhunt is a must-watch. It certainly deserves all the praise it has been getting this year.

Winner of the FNC Temps Ø Public’s Choice Award and Jury Prize at Cannes, Bacurau is a unique and provocative picture.

Named after the small and isolated village of Bacurau, the film starts as its inhabitants are grieving their matriarch Carmelita. As we get to know its strange characters, we begin to sense an imminent danger. More and more people mysteriously disappear. Even the village itself somehow vanishes from all maps and gets cut from civilization.

The inhabitants of Bacurau suspect extraterrestrial involvement or a divine intervention of some sort, but never what really causes their town’s disintegration

The film manages to provoke one of the most surprising, exhilarating and funny finales of this year’s FNC lineup. The last 30 minutes of Bacurau are worth the movie ticket, encompassing murder, mystery, vengeance, psychedelic drugs and occult forces.

Although it might seem innocent and joyful at the beginning, Bacurau becomes a profound meditation on social inequality and colonial violence towards the end, while remaining coherent, unpretentious and entertaining.

Pain & Glory – Pedro Almodóvar, Spain, 2019

If Pain & Glory were to wind up as Pedro Almodóvar’s last film, it would end the filmmaker’s career beautifully. But after watching the Spanish artist’s last opus, one is undoubtedly touched and has to want to see more.

Pain & Glory relates the existential tribulations of Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas), an old and deprived filmmaker who struggles to get past his health problems and to get to work again. It is very close to the director’s own life and ruminations. Antonio Banderas said it himself as he received his award for best actor at Cannes last year, “it is no secret that Salvador Mallo is Pedro Almodóvar.”

The film goes back in time, showing the young Mallo growing up in a small village in the south of Spain. We also see many characters of the director’s past reappearing in his present life. One scene is particularly moving and feels very personal to Almodóvar, as Mallo meets his ex-boyfriend who he had not seen in decades. They talk about love, sexuality, growing old and battling drug addiction in a thoughtful and beautiful way.

The movie also charms with the naïveté and liveliness emanating from its use of light and color, specific to the work of Almodóvar.

The very last shot of Pain & Glory feels like one of the most dazzling and bittersweet movie endings of the year. Probably our favourite picture of the entire 2019 FNC programming.

I lost my body – Jérémy Clapin, France, 2019

With I lost my body, Jérémy Clapin creates a poetic, yet relatable and universal first animated feature film.

It starts as Naoufel, a young man trying to survive by himself in Paris, remembers his childhood. He appears scared by the loss of his parents but also marked by a rigorous musical education from his mother. We see him fascinated with various sounds of nature as a child, recording everything he encounters.

In parallel, a lonely hand escapes from a lab, where it is being stored. We then embark on two journeys, which connect at the end of the movie. We see Naoufel doing everything in his power to seduce a young woman named Gabrielle, as well as the hand, roaming the streets of Paris in search of the body it was once attached to.

Although its narrative is sometimes predictable, and dialogue somewhat cheesy, I lost my body still deserves attention. It shows beautiful poetic imagery, and impressive sound design. The sound effects and music immerse the viewer in the story and embellish the often dark and dirty streets of Paris suburbs.

While it does not have more screenings planned in Montreal yet, I lost my body will be available on Netflix later this year. The trailer is already on the website and really inspires to see the full picture.

Praised Canadian content to follow

Canadian films from across the country were also very much put forward by the festival this year, some of which will be in cinemas in Montreal this fall.

The Grand Prix of the National Competition was won this year by The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open, by Kathleen Hepburn & Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers. With two First Nations women as its protagonists, it raises awareness about domestic violence issues Indigenous women face in Canada. Presented at the Toronto International Film Festival and Berlinale earlier this year, it has amassed considerable critical acclaim.

The Twentieth Century, which will be presented in Montreal theatres in December, has won the most promising Canadian feature film prize at FNC this year. It takes an original look at the life and career of Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King.

Finally, the short film The Physics of Sorrow, winner of the Prix National Dada at FNC, would be another one to try to find. Theodore Ushev’s last film centers on a man remembering his childhood in the midst of an existential crisis. Winner of an honourable mention for the Best Canadian Short Film at TIFF, it is sure to attract more praise for the already successful director.

Pain & Glory will be presented all week in Spanish with English subtitles at the Cinéma du Parc and Cineplex Forum. Bacurau has been presented again at a few screenings in Montreal last week, including at the Brazilian Film Festival on Oct. 28. It will be shown in Toronto on Nov. 3 for the same festival. More screenings should follow this year.

Concordia students have a discount at Cinéma du Parc, setting the price of a ticket at $9.75. Many FNC films will be in their programming in the next few weeks. Visit https://cinemaduparc.com/ for more details.

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Arts

Shannon Amen at FNC: Mourning in beautiful animation

Chris Dainty’s short film is a mesmerizing tale of grief, friendship and inventiveness.

For his first film in collaboration with the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), Chris Dainty tells the story of his departed best friend and queer artist Shannon Jamieson, who committed suicide in 2006. He reanimates her art and poetry, and does it with innovative techniques and poignant storytelling.

Shannon Amen seems like a very suitable title for the film. Not only does it feel like an elegy, but it also relates Jamieson’s struggles with religion and sexuality.

“I believe every word of the Bible and still desire a relationship with God but feel like I can’t because I’m gay.” Those are the words of Jamieson which the film uncovers. Dainty only realized the gravity of his best friend’s inner battles after her death.

“She felt like a different person almost,” said Dainty, when talking about his experience of going through Jamieson’s art and poetry, after her suicide. He had never known about most of what he found, and never suspected how tormented she was.

The film recreates some of Jamieson’s relationships and art projects. It starts as she climbs inside a church in Lyon, France, and sings, with her guitar.

One of the key settings in Shannon Amen is a farm, probably inspired by the rural town of Hawkesbury, Ontario, where Jamieson and Dainty grew up. Over the years, they worked on many art projects. One of them is beautifully told in the film, mixing animation and archival footage, when Chris went to take pictures of Jamieson and her girlfriend, portraying queer love gently and candidly.

Jamieson was a multidisciplinary artist who delved into poetry, music, painting and more. One of her paintings, Self-portrait, becomes animated in Dainty’s film, and seems to perfectly encapsulate her struggles with her sexuality and fierce personality.

Self-Portrait, Shannon Jamieson.

The artist graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts at Concordia. She exhibited her artworks in various solo and group shows, most notably in Montreal, Vankleek Hill, and San Francisco.

While Dainty didn’t follow his best friend to Montreal, he still pursued an artistic career and has been living in Ottawa for most of his life. He has been practicing ice sculpting there for many years and, for the first time in his life, has combined that skill with his animation film career.

He developed a technique for Shannon Amen that he calls “icemation.” He literally animated ice sculptures, which allowed for more poetic possibilities, gorgeous images and unusual sound effects.

Dainty said he and his team carved up to 30 blocks of ice, which weighed about 300 pounds. It would take them three to six hours for each. Luckily, even though we only see them for a few seconds, the animated ice sculptures were worth all the effort. The scenes they create are quite beautiful.

It felt more organic, more natural, to use frozen water to represent the character of Shannon,” said Dainty. “The ice was her essence, her soul […] It was strong, yet fragile. It was the perfect analogy for Shannon.”

Dainty was very happy the NFB decided to take on his project. The desire of developing icemation was just one of the very challenging goals he had in mind when thinking about making Shannon Amen, and he thinks he could not have done it without them.

“They are the only ones that would support a project this ambitious,” he said. He also talked about how his producer would always question him and challenge his ideas, which resulted in them making “the right decisions” for the movie and making it as good as it could be.

The entire process of making Shannon Amen was supposed to take two years but turned out to be a four-year journey, because of the various technical developments and script rewrites.

Despite all the work and all the wait that it took before he could see his film come to life, Dainty said he is now very happy about it. It is indeed a beautiful film that will certainly resonate with the public. It not only tells a touching story, but also redefines the power of art and film, transcending purely temporal issues and giving a new life to important memories.

Shannon Amen will be presented at the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma on Oct. 17, at the Cinémathèque Québécoise, in the national short films competition. Chris Dainty will also host one of the free Artist’s talk of the Sommets du cinéma d’animation, where he will talk about animation filmmaking, at the Cinémathèque, on Oct. 24.

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Arts

The 2019 edition of the Festival de Nouveau Cinema brings viewers beyond the screen

Starting Oct. 9, the film festival will be more political, feminist and diversified than ever

The year’s most anticipated rendezvous for cinephiles and filmmakers alike is set to be memorable, with a lineup encompassing unique screenings, as well as events and parties every night.

While the Montreal movie festival circuit has a wide array of events for everyone all year round, the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma (FNC) once again proves it is the most versatile and attractive of all. All of their screenings are also open to the public, many of which are even free.

FNC Programming Director, Zoé Protat. Photo by Maryse Boyce.

This year’s edition of the FNC will be the first of Zoé Protat as Programming Director. While she has been working with the organization as a programmer and critic for many years, this is the first time she is responsible for the entire festival. The programming seems more politically engaged and audacious than in previous years.

Two main themes certainly stand out in the programming, which the FNC released on Oct. 1: feminist cinema, and climate change.

“It was inevitable,” said Protat when talking about why she and her team decided to focus their work on those two subjects. While she believes the FNC had to act on climate change and keep the conversation going, as it starts only two weeks after the historic climate march, she said the idea of presenting more feminist cinema happened “more organically.”

“We were stunned by the relevance of their discourse,” said Protat, referring to feminist films she picked up for the FNC. “Whether it be old classics or more obscure pictures, from the 1950s to contemporary cinema, we were able to find films that profoundly resonate with the conversations we have about feminism today. These films can change our perception of feminism, and all have a unique angle on it, an interesting way to express it.”

Agnès Varda, the famous French director who passed away this year, will be honoured at the festival. Protat considers her to be “one of those by pioneers who fought and paved the way for the creators of today.” Her film L’une chante, l’autre pas (1977) will be shown in a newly restored version, as well as her last autobiographical documentary Varda par Agnès (2019), pictured right.

Many contemporary filmmakers are also being put forward by the FNC to show us how feminism has evolved through representation. Among those artists, Mania Abkari and Douglas White, for A moon for my father (2019), and Maryam Touzani, for Adam (2019), have received considerable critical acclaim.

The FNC’s political engagement doesn’t stop at their screening’s programming, however. They have organized many events and conferences in order to widen the conversation some films are opening.

As part of their focus on environmental issues, which they have called Films for the planet, the festival has organized talks with Luc Ferrandez, Laure Waridel, and Bernard Lavallée; all important figures when it comes to climate change debates in Quebec.

“We realized how some catastrophe or apocalyptical science-fiction movies had resonance today,” said Protat. Indeed, the FNC’s Films pour la planète will feature many of those because, according to her, “they don’t feel like fiction anymore.”

“We’re realizing that eco-anxiety is a real issue and that some catastrophe movies, even older ones, definitely have a stronger meaning today,” she added.  Take Shelter (2011), by Jeff Nicols, and Silent Running (1972), pictured left, by Douglas Trumbull, are two examples of special screenings that the FNC is organizing as part of that conversation.

Local arts and films also in the spotlight

Looking at Canadian cinema differently than other festivals in Quebec, Protat said she wants the FNC to “show a Pan-Canadian approach to film, mostly focusing on first feature films, by creators from all over the country.”

She wishes for the FNC to feature various languages, ideas and aesthetics, and their 2019 lineup certainly reflects that.

Among the most anticipated Canadian films, this year is Antigone (2019), by Quebec director Sophie Deraspe (right.) Based on the Greek tragedy by Sophocles, the film follows the tribulations of a young Lebanese immigrant trying to get her brother out of prison. The film was awarded the best feature film prize at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this year and was nominated as Canada’s entry to the Academy Awards. Its soundtrack was also co-written by Jad Orphée Chami, a Montreal musician who has just finished his BFA in music at Concordia.

Current Concordia students will also be featured at the festival. As part of their series of free events happening at L’Agora Hydro-Québec, the FNC and Concordia student-curators are co-organising an exhibition showcasing the university’s talents in various disciplines, such as painting and drawing, print media, video, and performance art.

“We are starting an interesting tradition this year where we want to have a Quebec university showcasing their work through a one-night event at the festival each year,” said Protat. “And we thought Concordia was a good place to start. It has a very active arts community, and many filmmakers that present their work at the festival are from Concordia,” she added.

Spotlight on Concordia Fine Arts will showcase student work on Oct. 17, at 9 p.m., at L’Agora, in the Quartier des Spectacles.

From local indie documentaries to major international feature films, the FNC is always a good opportunity for everyone to get a glimpse of what the best of contemporary (or old, through a contemporary lens) cinema is like.

The FNC will be held across many movie theatres, all in the Quartier des Spectacles, most notably at Cinéma Impérial and the Cinémathèque Québécoise, from Oct. 9 to 20. For the full programming, visit nouveaucinema.ca

 

 

 

Feature photo from Take Shelter (2011). This article contains files from the Festival de Nouveau Cinema.

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Arts

Experimental films to showcase materiality

FIFA Experimental displayed a wide variety of artistic short and feature films

Concordia University has been contributing to one of the most creative aspects of FIFA (Festival International des Films sur l’Art) for years now. Its FIFA Expérimental portion, dedicated to experimental films of all kinds, was held on campus at the J.A. de Sève Cinema, between March 23 and 24.

Nicole Gingras, the programming director of FIFA Expérimental, said the 37th edition of the event “rendered the materiality of images and the ephemeral nature of shared experiences.”

Those elements could be appreciated in the entire two-day selection, but most notably in the program From eye to ear, on Saturday night. The program’s six films either showed the aesthetic effects of the physical manipulation of the filmstrip itself, or deconstructed the viewer’s perception of the materiality of the images before us.

Louise Bourque and Guillaume Vallée, both Canadian experimental film directors who had contributed to each other’s projects, were present at the theatre to discuss their works with the public.

Bourque, a veteran of the experimental film scene in Canada, presented her most recent project, Bye Bye Now. The artist used old black and white photos of her father who had just passed away and brought life to them with sound and colour, giving texture to the film and animating her family history. It emphasized how images can be associated with vivid memories, as if sometimes the photos’ subjects were interacting with the viewer directly.

Also related to family, was Vallée’s mesmerizing Le dernier jour du papillon lune, narrated by his young son, William. The voice of the infant raising questions about death and the meaning of life accompanied the colourful images of a butterfly’s life. Vallée, who studied animation and studio arts at Concordia, said he became inspired by a visit to the Butterflies Go Free exhibition at the Montreal Botanical Garden with his son. That’s where he saw a luna moth, or papillon lune, and wanted to capture it for a movie. “I learned that the luna moth only lives as a butterfly for one day,“ he said. “It inspired me.” The moth then became a metaphor to illustrate his son’s growing insecurities about life and death. “I used 72 photograms and manipulated them, changed their form, their colour,” Vallée added. The butterfly’s constantly changing colour and textures made some of the most beautiful images of the program.

The last guest to be featured that night was Kim Kielhofner, a video, drawing and collage artist from Montreal. She presented the longest film of her career, Whose Language You Don’t Understand, which lasted 62 minutes. It was the only feature film of the program. Kielhofner took the public on an eclectic journey as she narrated her thoughts about language, images, and representation, referencing the book of the same title by Austrian writer Marianne Fritz. She divided her film into 12 sections, based on the 12 sections of the book. Extremely intellectual, the sometimes repetitive and monotone narration, serving the purpose of recontextualizing the book’s ideas, lost some of the audience. Nonetheless, it brilliantly demonstrated the artist’s collage talents and called for an interesting discussion on the limits of language.

Gingras, who teaches in the studio arts department at Concordia, has greatly contributed to the evolution of FIFA Expérimental since she started working at the festival in 2003. Encompassing many techniques, styles and subjects, the selection aims to showcase “works by Québécois, Canadian and international artists, presented in cinemas, but also in exhibition contexts,” she said.

“For every edition of the festival, I also want to highlight the work of one artist, by creating a monographic program specifically for them,” Gingras said. “This year, I wanted to focus on Belgian artist Anouk De Clercq, because her oeuvre touches on architecture, animation, weightlessness, memory, and luminous phenomena, all of that in black and white.”

Many of the experimental films De Clercq had been making since the 1990’s were shown at the J.A. de Sève Cinema prior to From Eye to Ear.

“If I look at the quality of the interactions between the artists and the audience at the screenings, the reception has been very good,” said Gingras, regarding her impressions of the weekend.

“[During the festival], the J.A de Sève Cinema of Concordia offers a diversity of experiences, physical and poetic, and the projectionists who work there are conscious of that,” Gingras added. “The FIFA Expérimental screenings only being held in a few consecutive days in the same room, it creates a sort of microcosm, ideal for meetings and exchanges between the artists and the public.”

As the biggest experimental film event in Montreal, FIFA Expérimental is a unique feature, allowing the public to connect with exclusive and beautiful works. To learn more about FIFA, visit their website: artfifa.com.

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Arts

Films to promote diversity of culture and opinion

Art festival FIFA kicks off with a controversial but beautiful documentary

Art and film enthusiasts were once again delighted to gather in museums and cinemas across Montreal to experience various screenings, installations and conferences, exploring the topic of art, as the 37th Festival International des Films sur l’Art (FIFA), began last week.

Au temps où les arabes dansaient, a documentary by Belgian-Moroccan director Jawad Rhalib, opened the festival at the Monument-National last Tuesday, in a formal ceremony, welcoming both artists and the public to the event. The film was followed by a discussion with Rhalib.

The film certainly is a unique and necessary picture. It tells the story of various artists from Arab countries where Islamic fundamentalism seems to have taken over the government and the population’s mores, often shutting the artists down, forcing them into more conservative forms of art, or self-censorship.

The documentary starts in an old Moroccan couple’s kitchen, as they speak about a time they once knew when Arabs “could dance.” Looking at old pictures of the woman performing “oriental-style dance,” the couple is nostalgic of that early postcolonial era in the 1960-70s.

We then learn that Rhalib, who narrates in the beginning and end of the documentary, experienced severe psychological trauma and discrimination in his adolescence in Morocco. His mother was a traditional Egyptian dancer and his reputation suffered, in a time of growing fundamentalism and conservatism amongst North African and Middle Eastern countries.
With the camera closely following the different dancers and theatre performers’ every move, and traveling to Egypt, Iran, Morocco, France, and Belgium, the public gets to know them all intimately.

One group is particularly interesting, and consists of Arab-Belgian artists putting on a play based on the novel Soumission by Michel Houellebecq. The group of performers externalize their fear of appearing Islamophobic and criticize the author for his dramatization of the Muslim Arab diaspora’s impact on Europe, while still defending their right to free speech.
“Our lives are in danger here,” said one performer to his stage director. “I need to know you’ll be with me when my fans from Molenbeek come looking for me.” He was emotional, afraid of the angry reactions he would get from a mainly Muslim crowd at a play questioning the authority of Islam and its role in politics.

This film is not about Islam, it’s only a tiny portion of it,” said Rhalib at the end of the screening. “It is about art and free speech, about respecting one’s individuality and humanity.”

Between the mountains of Teheran, the beaches of Morocco, and the cafés of Paris and Brussels, one thing unites everyone in the film: the desire to come back to the freer days of Nasser and pre-revolution Iran (shown in the film with archival images). That era is portrayed as a time when women were not forced to wear headscarves and Arabs were allowed to dance and express themselves independently.

Although very controversial because of its free critique of Islamic fundamentalist politics and its depiction of Iran as an Arab country, Au temps où les arabes dansaient is a visually compelling film, as it beautifully captures Arabic dance and performance art. It is also a necessary one in today’s context of political correctness and extreme viewpoints leading to censorship, all over the world.

Even a viewer who wouldn’t necessarily agree with the film’s point of view, nor have a strong knowledge of the issues raised in the film, would still enjoy the participants’ energy and the commentary they make about the importance of art in general.

Jacinthe Brisebois, the festival’s programming director, is one of the new members of the FIFA team, with Philippe U. del Drago, the executive director of the event, who arrived in the last year. The new team is aiming to “connect with a younger audience” and “create more interactive opportunities” with the public. Brisebois said the opening film served that purpose, as well as promoting diversity of culture and opinion.

Our programming will be very much dedicated to engaged art,” Brisebois said. “We felt the need to put diversity forward, diversity of opinion, languages, and practices.”

“With the arrival of virtual reality and immersive films, we’re trying to reach a younger audience,” Brisebois said. FIFA Experentia, at Place des Arts, was a new addition to the festival, consisting of 11 virtual reality immersive video works, from March 20 to 24, at l’Espace culturel Georges-Émile-Lapalme.

“We’re also organizing more and more events outside of Montreal, and we’re starting a year-long series of conferences and screenings,” said Brisebois. She added that the winners at this year’s FIFA will also be touring in cinemas across Montreal and in other festivals.

Au temps où les arabes dansaient will be shown again on March 28 at 5:30 p.m., at Cinéplex Quartier Latin. FIFA will continue its activities until March 31. For showtimes, tickets, and to learn more about FIFA, visit their website: artfifa.com.

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