Arts and Culture Festival

A brief history of one of Canada’s oldest film festivals

Since 1971, Montréal’s Festival du Nouveau Cinéma has transformed audiences through their dedication to independent films, and this year was no exception.

We go to the cinema expecting to be changed in some way. To be reprieved, perhaps, from malaise, boredom, or a Tuesday afternoon with forgotten responsibilities. Or rather to be fed when hungry for new stories, perspectives, knowledges, colours, textures, and realities—or maybe that dimension of flavour in popcorn only the concession stand can produce. It may be that we wish to be held by that particular fabric that is always tender (if not a bit scratchy) or by an emotion released by a skilled performance. We go to the cinema because we seek to be transformed, even for a moment. 

Founded in 1971, the Festival du nouveau cinéma (FNC), one of Canada’s oldest film festivals, lets you do just this as it continues to reveal new explorations in the style, story, and structure of film to Montréalers and its visiting national and iInternational audience.

Originally known as the Montreal International 16mm Film Festival, founders Claude Chamberlan and Dimitri Eipides created the festival out of a desire to provide space for films possessing urgent, experimental and exciting aesthetic, narrative, and structural explorations—but lacking distribution. This first festival offered selections such as “Political and Social Cinema” and “Visual and Structural Cinema” alongside “European Short Films”—revealing a dedication to social struggle as well as to aesthetic exploration. In 1980, the festival changed its name to the Montreal International Festival of New Cinema, dropping 16mm to signify the festival’s embrace of all practices devoted to explorations in film structure and content. 

Other names through the years include the Montreal International Festival of New Film and Video (1984), New Montreal International Festival of Cinema, Video and New Technologies (1995), and Montreal International Festival of New Cinema and New Media (1997), until it was named Festival du nouveau cinéma in 2004. 

Despite these changes in names, what remains constant is an ardent devotion and respect for evolutions in cinematographic language and form. Indeed, FNC has continued to evoke empathy, excitement, and exploration at the shores of the familiar, providing festivalgoers with unique experiences for over 50 years. The urgency and importance of such a festival cannot be understated: at $13 a ticket for students (or $11 if you go in groups of ten), FNC makes the magic of cinema accessible. It provides the opportunity to learn, grow, and take an hour or two of your day to be changed, quite possibly forever.

Visit the FNC’s website here to see what films were screened this year and to check out the winners of their various contests.

Arts and Culture Festival

MOMENTA returns to Montreal with a new face

MOMENTA’s 18th edition maintains the great axiom: the only constant is change.   

Since 1989, Montréal’s MOMENTA Biennale de l’image has brought artists from around the world to collaborate with the local creative community in celebration of contemporary art that speaks to global concerns. Expanding on its origins as an exposition of cutting edge photography, MOMENTA’s 18th edition puts forth a program of artists who employ a breadth of methodologies in their work including video, sculpture, lenticular printing, projection, performance, miniature painting, and more. 

The opening event was held at Fonderie Darling—a converted 19th century industrial building that had been abandoned in 1991 until it was revived as a visual arts centre in 2002. The repurposed foundry served as the perfect venue for the vernissage, for its history aptly suits MOMENTA’s theme for this year: Masquerades: Drawn to Metamorphosis.

Curator Ji-Yoon Han Speaks at MOMENTA’s Opening Event, Fonderie Darling. Photo By Emma Bell / The Concordian.

In a world of fixed identities that tether us to limited ways of being, the masquerade invites us to embrace transformation, fluctuation, novelty and possibility. It is an intervention that offers a space for reimagining identity as a continuous process of becoming. 

“This biennial is about desire—it is about becoming; becoming other, becoming image, becoming oneself through the tangles of the gaze. Becoming is appearing and disappearing—showing and concealing. It is a transformation in time and space—bringing to the surface the energies of the archaic, the forgotten, the subterranean. This is about experimenting with one’s place and one’s boundaries—never affixed in this world; embracing transitional states,” said curator Ji-Yoon Han to the crowd outside the foundry. 

View of Artist Jeannette Ehlers’ Video Installation Moko Is Future (2022) in their Exhibition Play Mas, Fonderie Darling. Photo By Emma Bell / The Concordian.

MOMENTA provided 23 artists with the opportunity to exhibit a solo-show at one of the 16 participating venues around Montréal from the Mile End to the Old Port. The first exhibition to open was Séamus Gallagher’s “Mother, Memory, Cellophane” at the McCord Stewart Museum near McGill University. Han remarked that Gallagher was one of the first artists she had in mind as she was developing the theme for the biennale, for their interdisciplinary work is rooted in transformation, liminality, and motion. 

“Mother, Memory, Cellophane” is Gallagher’s first museum scale exhibition. Upon entering the gallery on the third floor of the McCord, the viewer encounters an illuminated pink platform occupied by an invisible figure wearing an extravagant plastic pink-and-blue dress with a sash that reads “Miss Chemistry.” This dramatic, phantasmic display introduces the viewer to the protagonist of the show, the ghost of Miss Chemistry.  

Gallery view of Mother, Memory, Cellophane, McCord Stewart Museum. Photo by Emma Bell / The Concordian

The 1939 New York World’s Fair, titled “World of Tomorrow,” showcased the anticipation for rapid scientific advancement as a new dawn for society. It was here where the DuPont company launched their new nylon stockings, donned by a model named Miss Chemistry, who personified chemistry as human progress, calling her the “the plastic woman of the future.” Her stereotypical feminine beauty, enhanced by the synthetic material of the stockings, stood as a symbol of mid-20th century values and visions of the future. Today, we look back on these sensibilities with eyes that have witnessed the true legacy of the 20th century—so-called progress at the cost of violence, pollution and uninhibited consumerism. 

“It is the first time that Séamus is dealing with an historical moment,” said Han. “This is one of the reasons why we thought it would be a good match with the McCord museum.” 

McCord Stewart Museum Façade. Photo by Emma Bell / The Concordian

The title of the show is drawn from a 1940 survey that claimed the words “Mother,” “Memory,” and “Cellophane” as the most beautiful words in the English language—a testament to the entanglements between femininity, nostalgia and synthetic material culture. These notions intertwine and constitute the character of the phantom of Miss Chemistry that Gallagher appropriates through drag performance.

Moving through the gallery, lenticular prints line the periphery of the space. The holographic quality of the surface denies the audience a fixed image to gaze upon, and rather offers an oscillation between text and image that changes along with the viewer’s movement. The print “Desire’s Inherent Vice Belongs in its Accumulation” (2023) superimposes the titular text over a still image of the artist performing as Miss Chemistry. As they perform, their face is transformed through a projection mapped onto a mask, creating layers of identity. These layers are further complicated by the shimmering surface of the print that obscures just as much as it reveals. 

Gallagher has thus created a persona that cannot be grasped; “an image that can never be seized” as Han describes it. Their technique and materials speak to the ever-shifting and evolving nature of identity and expression. Hear more from the artist during their free virtual discussion of their work on Nov. 22, 2023 at noon, which will be livestreamed on the museum’s Facebook page.

Find MOMENTA’s upcoming calendar of discussions, conferences and workshops as well as their exhibition map at their website here. The biennale will be ongoing until Oct. 22, 2023.

Arts Festival

Art Souterrain: an atypical contemporary art festival that redesigns Montreal’s underground pathways

An exhibit with no borders, spread across five Montreal locations

Festival Art Souterrain returns this year for its 15th edition. From March 18 to April 9, thousands of spectators can see a variety of artworks and performances throughout Montreal’s large underground network.

This non-profit organization was founded in 2009. Every year, they exhibit international contemporary art institutions, artists, and the architectural and cultural legacy of downtown Montreal’s underground city.

Exclusive to North America, Art Souterrain leads artworks out of artistic institutions and merges them into the daily lives of citizens. The organization aims to create a unique and distinctive concept in the realm of performing arts by facilitating exchange, diverse tools, and cultural mediation.

For this edition, the organization has commissioned Quebecois artists Eddy Firmin, Jean-François Prost, and Brazilian artist Ayrson Heráclito to oversee 30 artistic projects on this year’s theme “The Party.”

“From all the night and the city offer to our capacity for exploration, the party rises up and asserts itself, occasioning fortuitous encounters,” described Prost.

This year, the festival takes place in five different buildings in downtown Montreal. 

Entry points are situated at Place Ville Marie, Montréal World Trade Centre, the Jacques Parizeau Building, Palais des Congrès de Montréal, and Place de la cité international.

To make your journey easy, festival organizers have placed signs at the entrance of the buildings. They also provide a map on their website.

Arts Festival

Pushing the limits: The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour

The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour comes to Montreal

The 27th edition of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour came to Montreal this year from Jan. 18 to Jan. 21, offering a selection of films from jaw-dropping to heartbreaking. 

Tickets were completely sold out, as people were excited for the festival to be back in-person.

Out of a record submission rate of 453 films, the festival chose ten. 

Every film ranged from five to 45 minutes. The whole evening lasted for three hours. 

The first film, Colors of Mexico by Kilian Bron, featured a mountain biker riding the vibrant streets. The filmmaker played with shapes through architectural angles,  accentuating the beauty of the scenery and the danger of the sport. 

Doo Sar: A Karakoram Ski Expedition film showcased breathtaking footage from the Karakoram mountain range, located in the Kashmir region, featuring Polish duo Andrzej Bargiel and Jędrek Baranowski, who ice climbed to the peak in 12 hours, to then descend in 90 minutes. 

The short Walking on Clouds showed record-breaking highline athlete Rafael Bridi walking between two hot air balloons. The elegance of his movements and the perfect balance of his core seemed almost inconceivable. 

The film was poetic and stress-inducing enough to have the audience sitting on the edge of their seats as the highline trembled under Bridi’s weight. 

The 45-minute-long To the Hills and Back – Know Before You Go proposed a preventative approach to ultimate sports, narrating two storylines of adventurers having lost their loved ones in avalanches. 

The fast-paced editing did not leave much to the imagination, as the audience was propelled into the story. It warns that accidents are frequent. 

The Process, drenched in irony, follows mountaineer Tom Randall, seeking to complete a mountain running challenge over 42 peaks and across 142 kilometers in less than 24 hours. He humors taking on the challenge as a non-runner. 

Flow, follows skier Sam Favret, who decided to hike up a French Alpine resort during confinement, to enjoy the bare slopes. The ungraded slopes permitted breathtaking footage. 

Clean Mountains counts the tourist pollution on Everest from a Sherpa’s perspective, as one woman decides to climb Everest and while descending clears the mountain of tourist waste. 

Her father had lost his fingers helping a client tie his ice crampons, impeding him from continuing to work. His experience burdened the family and exposed the harm of unprepared tourists on Everest. 

North Shore Betty teaches the possibility of starting a new sport at any age. At 45, Betty took up mountain biking. On screen, she was 73. 

A Baffin Vacation trailered a couple on the struggles of ultimate sports on the body and mind. They comically preface their story by ridiculing their experience on the brawling effects of canoeing and mountain climbing. 

The light short Do a Wheelie concluded the festival positively, showing that ultimate sports weave communities together. 

The international documentary festival will tour around the province until the end of March.

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