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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