French movies for all, even Montreal’s anglophone audience

Some Cinemania films worth checking out, and a Q & A with Thomas Cailley, director of Love at first fight (Les Combattants)

With an extended program of 55 films and special guests, the 20th edition of the Cinemania francophone film festival is an opportunity to discover big names or rising stars of the French and Belgian cinema.

You do not even need to understand French in order to appreciate the festival, since all movies will be screened with English subtitles. Cinemania Creator Maidy Teitelbaum’s goal was to launch the first French-language film festival with english subtitles—she had Montreal’s many english speakers in mind.

If you plan on seeing as many of the films as possible, passports are available, allowing you access to the entire festival. If you do not have time to see every film, here are a few of our recommendations.

Price of Fame (La Rançon de la Gloire)
Xavier Beauvois’ latest movie is a pleasant surprise in this festival. The filmmaker of Des hommes et des dieux (2011) and Le petit lieutenant (2007) offers a sublime homage to Charlie Chaplin. The ‘dramedy’ literally makes Chaplin turn in his grave—the movie recounts the story of Chaplin’s coffin being stolen.

In a ‘70s small town on Lac Léman in Switzerland, Eddy Ricaart (Benoît Poelvoorde), fresh out of prison, is welcomed by an old buddy, Osman Bricha (Roschy Zem). Money is scarce for Osman to take care of his seven-year-old daughter and his hospitalized wife, Eddy hatches a wild idea: kidnap Chaplin’s coffin who just died in a neighbouring town and ask for a ransom.

From a real minor item news, (Chaplin’s coffin really was stolen from its grave), Beauvois made a tender comedy around a family, with a touch of love and suspense, and two superb actors. The granddaughter of Chaplin, Dolores, is also part of the cast.

SK1 (L’Affaire SK1)
If you are a fan of thrillers, or even just a movie person overall, you should definitely go see this crime film, which dives into the 36, quai des Orfèvres—the criminal investigation division of French police in Paris. While presenting the real circumstances that lead to the revision of justice in France in the ‘90s, you will face a gut-wrenching story.

We directly jump into a sordid investigation with the newly-recruited police detective Franck Magné (Raphaël Personnaz). He researched and cross-referenced proof of a long-term serial killer perpetrating horrific crimes in the East of Paris.

From performance to staging, all is strongly done to make this a tenacious and efficient movie based on the real 10-year tracking of Guy George (Adama Niane).

Saint Laurent
To get a taste of the ‘70s and of high-end French fashion, you should try watching Bertrand Bonello’s Yves Saint Laurent biopic. Gaspard Ulliel successfully personifies the famous couturier and his tumultuous life.

The story is built around Saint Laurent’s schizoid personality. He goes from spending his days surrounded by luxury and creativity—supported by Pierre Berger (Jérémie Régnier)—to darkness following his love at first sight, Jacques de Bascher (Louis Garrel).

The dichotomy of Saint Laurent’s life is apparent from the first scene. Filmed from behind with a voice-over, the film opens with Saint Laurent arriving in a hotel as Mr. Swann, and thus immediately displays an unexpected facet of this well-known figure of international fashion’s persona.

The ambiance is clearly aesthetically pleasing, sometimes disturbing, but definitely ‘70s-inspired, with incredible actors and a lot of talent to display.

The 20th Cinemania film festival will be taking place until Nov. 16 at the Imperial Cinema, Cinémathèque québécoise and Cinéma du Parc. For more information, visit


Love at first fight (Les Combattants) will be the subject of an important gala evening on Nov. 11 that the film team will be attending. A second screening is planned for Nov. 12.

Love at the first fight (Les Combattants) will premiere in theatres from November 14.

Originality is the best word to describe Thomas Cailley’s first feature. The film was showcased at the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes and features Adèle Haenel who won a César for “best supporting actress” in Suzanne (2013). Humor is one important aspect of the dialogue and accordingly balances itself well with the rest of the movie. The stormy weather and other elements of nature following the the two traveling lovers, Madeleine (Adèle Haenel) and Arnaud (Kévin Azaïs), add a sense of complexity and a little je ne sais quoi to the movie. The unusual beauty of this film comes from the setting of the deeply-forested French Gironde region. Arnaud, completely smitten for Madeleine, chases after her.

Director Thomas Cailley spoke to The Concordian about his first full-length movie.

The Concordian (C): In a few words, how do you sum up the story of Love at first fight (Les Combattants)?

Thomas Cailley (TC): It is a love and  survival story with a girl waiting for the end of the world and a boy who will offer her the beginning of a world.

C: How did you choose this duo?

TC: I like the duo figure and I immediately wanted antagonistic characters. Antagonistic characters are often very complementary. They have two different life supports. Arnaud struggles for the conservation of his world while Madeleine is a war person, waiting for a fight that does not arrive. While he toughens up, she opens herself to the world; the story is a journey to [each] other. What I like about having antagonistic characters is that it creates conflicting viewpoints; he looks at her, tries to understand her.  Eventually they contaminate each other. I do not think the two characters cure each others from this combination. Arnaud speaks like her at the end and Madeleine becomes aware of the necessity to have a partner.

C: How did you choose Madeleine’s character? She is a bit atypical of the image of women in cinema.

TC: The problem comes from the representation of the woman in cinema, moreover in romantic comedies. I am not interested in representing something I do not see in real life. I know a lot of girls like Madeleine. I find her quite realistic and contemporary. And more as an observation, I took my inspiration from Bear Grylls, creator of the U.K. television series Man vs. Wild, to create Madeleine. He puts survival as a top condition of life.  Surviving is not living less, but living more intensely.

C: What about the choice of the military background? Is it not in contradiction with the way of living intensely?

TC: Yes, it does not work for her. She goes to the army to find concrete things for her but the army just offers values. This confrontation becomes funny. She is in a such selfish approach, the army could not be hard enough in relation to her self-discipline.

C: The link between natural elements and character development is quite strong. How did you build on this? Is nature a character in itself?

TC: I do not see nature as a character but as an extension of the characters. Roughly, there are three parts in the movie; first, there is Arnaud’s world being an area quite flat in Aquitaine. There is no horizon, there is always something to cut and hide it wherever you place yourself It’s precisely Arnaud’s problem, who can not project himself in the future, thus his absence of “horizon.” Then comes the disrupted world of the army with mountains and assault courses, something with a bit more texture. Finally, with these two worlds resulting in failure for the two characters, they decide to create their own. At first the characters realize that if the world surrounding them does not pleased them, they can create their own with the power of imagination. Then, the further they go into this fictive idea, catastrophes starts to to happen. Those events happen because of Madelaine; you try to help her, you get a storm; you take the train with her, you see fiery tornadoes through the windows; if you go into the forest with her, the forest burns. I like this idea of confusion between the characters and the environment around them.

Love at the first fight (Les Combattants) will premiere in theatres from November 14.

This Q&A has been condensed and reordered for readability. The interview was translated from French.


Cinemania celebrates its 20-year anniversary

The francophone film festival will be screening the best of what France and Belgium have to offer

Cinemania, the francophone film festival, is back and celebrates its 20th edition with an extended program of 55 films, all with English subtitles, and special guests.

Screenings will include 33 premieres that the chief programmer Guilhem Caillard defined as “the best of French and Belgian cinema,” at the festival’s press conference on Oct. 28. His goal is to screen films with big names as well as rising stars. Each film will display different aspects of the vibrant French-language film industry.

Niels Arestrup and André Dussollier in Diplomatie, Volker Schlöndorff’s presented at this year at the Cinemania festival.

Seven of the films that will be screened at the festival were featured at the Cannes Film Festival this year and three were in the running for an award: Bertrand Bonello’s Saint-Laurent, a profile of the famed fashion designer starring Gaspard Ulliel in the title role; Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s Deux jours, une nuit, a drama with Marion Cotillard as a factory worker trying to save her job; and Olivier Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria, an account of the relationship between an aging actress (Juliette Binoche) and her assistant (Kristen Stewart).

One of the highlights in the lineup is Volker Schlöndorff’s masterpiece, Diplomatie. For its Canadian premiere, Diplomatie will enjoy a special presentation on Sunday to honour the performance of the actors. The film recounts the 1944 historic duel between General Dietrich von Choltitz (Niels Arestrup), who prepares to execute Hitler’s direct orders to destroy Paris, and Swedish consul Raoul Nordling (André Dussollier).

Gemma Bovery will open the festival on Thursday. This modern version of Gustave Flaubert’s novel Madame Bovary, starring Fabrice Luchini, will be presented by director Anne Fontaine (Coco avant Chanel) at the Opening Gala at the Imperial Cinema.

Other guests will be present, such as Adèle Haenel, for the gala screening of Les Combattants – Love at first fight next week. Aged 25, the French actress gained an instant iconic reputation and a César award, the highest film honour in France, for Suzanne in 2013. Her career will be celebrated at the Cinémathèque québécoise with two movies, Naissance des pieuvres (2007) and Les Diables (2002).

Party Girl, winner of Caméra d’Or and the Un Certain Regard Prize at Cannes 2014, will close the festival on Nov. 16. Angélique Litzenburger performs in a semi-autobiographical role of her life of entertaining men in a seedy bar near the French-German border. She will be in attendance with Samuel Theis, who is one of the co-directors as well as her son, in real life and on the screen.

Cinemania’s guest of honour will be Lambert Wilson. A special tribute will celebrate his career with a retrospective of nine films, including Five Days One Summer (1982), co-starring Sean Connery, at the Cinémathèque québécoise. His international career was prolific and as a reflection of his altruistic and compassionate nature, Des hommes et des dieux (2010) and Hiver 54, l’abbé Pierre (1989) are two must-see French movies.

The 20th Cinemania film festival will take place Nov. 6 to 16 at the Imperial Cinema, Cinémathèque québécoise and Cinéma du Parc. For tickets and information, visit


Abortion at sea, the story of Women on Waves

Vessel shares the tale of women’s rights activist Dr. Gomberts helping all around the world

How can the obvious become disputable? How can a basic human right for a Dutch woman become an assault course for thousands of other women around the world? Vessel tells such a story and the fight of Dr. Rebecca Gomperts.

Diana Whitten’s documentary movie follows the trials and tribulations of Women on Waves, a Dutch organization led by Gomperts. This organization takes advantage of international marine law to provide legal and safe abortions to women who live in countries where abortion is illegal.

Winner of the South by Southwest Film Festival’s Special Jury Recognition for Political Courage award for documentary, Whitten made a portrait from inside of the 15-year history of the organization. Using her own camera as well as footage filmed by previous aspiring documentarians who boarded Gomperts’ ship, Whitten succeeds at bringing us into the depths of the vessel. It also presents intelligibly to the audience Women on Web, the organization that was created to share informations about safe abortion around the world.

“If men could get pregnant, there wouldn’t be abortion laws,” said Gomperts to The Times last week. The doctor keeps promoting and developing the underground network of emboldened, informed activists, working at the radical cutting edge of global reproductive rights, who trust women to handle abortion themselves. Polish activist Kinga Jelinska mentions at the end of the movie that Women on Waves has received an increasing number of inquiries from the United States in recent years.

Even if animated sequences with medical and statistical details provide valuable context, some detractors may find that the subject would need a more distanced approach. But if you want to change people’s minds, you need to bring them inside the reality.

That is one goal of documentary cinema: to show a reality. Vessel does exactly that, even it it means not being objective. Vessel is the reality of activism, with its successes and defeats.

This documentary movie is a must-see for anyone interested in human rights or activism. It keeps reminding us how a right is never totally gained and must always be fought for to assure its preservation.

Vessel premieres in Quebec as part of Cinema Politica Concordia on Monday, Nov. 3, at 7 p.m. in the Hall Building, 1455 de Maisonneuve W. The movie is co-presented with Fédération du Québec pour le planning des naissances and the Concordia Centre for Gender Advocacy. The director will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A.

For more information, visit


Polar bears bike for Greenpeace campaign

Greenpeace calls on preservation of fragile Arctic

Dressed-up cyclists rode in cities all around the world this weekend — including Montreal — as part of Greenpeace’s Arctic campaign.

Despite the rain, about 50 people met Saturday afternoon in Laurier Park for the Ice Ride organized by the non-governmental environmental organization. After decorating their bikes and dressing up as polar bears, the riders went along a 12 km ride hoisting 16 letters spelling “Sauvons l’Arctique” (save the arctic).

Greenpeace’s main demand is creating a sanctuary in the Arctic region. “The idea is to create around the North Pole, an area free of oil exploration and fishing,” said Charles Latimer, Greenpeace’s Arctic campaigner. “Climate change impacts the Arctic more than any other ecosystem. [The] Arctic is a climate stabilizer for the planet. If the Arctic changes, we are all affected.”

This ride followed the International Declaration on the Future of the Arctic launched in 2013 by Greenpeace. The declaration explains what the protection of the Arctic should be and was signed by well-known Canadians like David Suzuki and Margaret Atwood and will ultimately be presented to the leaders of the Arctic Council as well as to representatives at the United Nations.

“Definitely, [the Ice Ride] is a people’s mobilization targeted to our politicians and the leaders of the Arctic states as well as the entire world,” Latimer said. The Ice Ride happened in 150 towns around the world; Thailand’s efforts brought 1,200 people in Phitsanulok and created one of the biggest showings.

“We did a poll this summer that showed that three-quarters of people wanted the Arctic protected,” Latimer said.

A participant in the Montreal’s ride, Elisabeth Segura, said, “It is important here because Canada has a big part of the Arctic, we are very affected for everything happening in the Arctic; anyway I believed it is important for everybody, Arctic changes affect the climate in the whole world.”

The wind and rain did not encourage a lot of Montrealers to ride for the Arctic Saturday. Noe Lizarazo, one of the participants, was a bit disappointed by the numbers. “I think unfortunately we need more publicity for the environment for people to start realizing we need to do something,” he said. “As part of the industrial world, we are the more contributing to global warming so it is an obligation to do something.”

The Ice Ride in Canada also supported Inuit communities. Greenpeace helps residents of Clyde River, Nunavut. The National Energy Board gave a licence for seismic testing in Baffin Bay that will have an impact on marine mammals, according to the Inuit community. “We want to share their story,” Latimer said. “Often indigenous people are at the forefront of climate change or industrial development and often they are left with any say on that is happening on their lands.”


Thousands of Montrealers march against climate change

Already the biggest demonstration for the climate, the People’s Climate March on Sunday rallied hundreds of thousands of citizens around the world including over 1,000 in Montreal.

Following up the Bill McKibben and Ellen Gabriel climate talk that took place in early September, Concordia students and representants of Concordia Student Union joined the march starting in La Fontaine Park on Sunday afternoon.

CSU representatives had been visiting Concordia’s classrooms for the two last weeks to try to get students out for the march and raise awareness about fossil fuel economy.

The vice-president for external affairs and mobilization explained the importance of getting involved in the climate change movement.

“The impact was more the collective showing up [of] different parts of civil society. We were happy to see students from Concordia and [to] be here in support of what is the largest crisis facing humanity, which is anthropogenic climate change,” Anthony Garoufalis-Auger said.

Banners reminded the public of the the main concern of Canadian and Quebec environmentalists: the construction of pipelines and development of tar sands.

“We want the government to be fiercely opposed to the Energy East pipeline project,” Isabelle St-Germain, deputy director of Équiterre, said.

“While Quebec has an ambitious climate plan that brought down greenhouse gas emissions to 15 per cent since the ‘90s, emissions went up to 15 per cent in the whole of  Canada because of tar sands.”

The march was set up to precede the UN Climate Summit this week in New York on Sept. 23 — a summit which Prime Minister Stephen Harper will not attend.

“It is very much in line with his current policy of just expanding the tar sands. Stephen Harper is clearly not on the side of the scientific community on climate change but on the side of the fossil fuel industries which want to continue these extraction projects,” Garoufalis-Auger said.

While some think capitalism can’t mix with the environment — which is the subject behind Naomi Klein’s latest book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate — the coordinator of the People’s Climate March in Montreal was optimistic. “Economy and ecology go together hand by hand,” Jenny Loughran said. “We can invest in a greener future, in green technologies and this is going to benefit to the global economy, not just Canada.”

Volunteers organised the march in five weeks through the use of social media.

For Loughran, Montreal must be an example for the rest of the country. “As part of Canada, unfortunately, we have a terrible reputation when it comes to climate change,” she said. “So it was really important to make sure we are part of this movement.”

The organizations joining the march will continue organizing other protests against climate change in a near future. Earth Day in particular, held on April 22, will be the next big event — in 2012, it gathered 250,000 people in Montreal.

More about the People’s Climate March and pictures from all around the world on

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