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.


The story of the battles and struggles of Iranian women photographers

Online screening of Focus Iran in Montreal: a French documentary about Iran

The International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA), in collaboration with the Maison de la culture de Côte-des-Neiges, presented a free online screening of Focus Iran from Nov. 18 to 19, available to all Canadian residents.

The documentary, Focus Iran (2017), follows the efforts and struggles of five Iranian photographers, including four young women, who have to overcome  many barriers to continue working in their country. It is a story which shows the honest personal narratives of these artists about how they could battle the religious and social taboos to shoot a real image of the invisible folds of current Iranian society.

Directed by French duo Nathalie Masduraud and Valérie Urréa, Focus Iran speaks about the different styles of photography like portraiture, staging, and documentary photography via the personal experiences of their photographers to explore the challenges of being a photographer in Iran.

“After the Islamic revolution in 1979, many artists had to leave Iran. I was lucky to be one of them,” said Montreal-based humanitarian photographer Aydin Matlabi in a phone interview. He was a guest from FIFA for the public screening of this documentary at the McCord Museum two years ago. “The Islamic regime stopped shooting my project because I broke the taboos,” said Matlabi. “This documentary is about these taboos.”

Some photographic subjects are considered taboo by Islamic rules in Iran. For example, it is not possible to shoot a nude body or show women without a veil. If a photo presents a couple, the man is not to be shown beside the woman, and it is forbidden to shoot homosexual people.

Even if photographers could shoot these subjects, they may not be able to display the photos in galleries in Iran.

In this circumstance, it seems impossible to be a photographer, but the documentary tells the story of the photographers who are still working. “They are like the real heroes for me,” said Matlabi. “Despite their chance to leave Iran and despite many social, political and traditional issues, they continue to create the art with their nation.”

These artists use different methods to bypass censorship and limitations. Some of them use metaphor.

“I tried to take the pictures of my subjects in front of my room window where there is a unique background of a grey concrete building. This building was like a metaphor of Iran, whose people suffer the economic and political problems,” said Newsha Tavakolian, one of the women photographers featured in the documentary.

She also discussed another limitation: “The woman artists in Iran are moving in the minefield.”

Iran has a patriarchal society where women encounter many obstacles. The documentary navigates all of the barriers but never talks about them directly. While watching this documentary, the viewer follows the women on their shoots, in their studios, and at different locations to find out how these barriers forced the women to redouble their efforts to reach their goals, despite lacking freedom.

Focus Iran documented the voice of these artists and gave them [the] freedom to express themselves to the world,” explained Matlabi.

From Tehran to Kashan and the lake of Urmia in the northwest of Iran, the documentary gives a new image of Iran that is far from the usually discussed nuclear issues and political negotiations.

Focus Iran tried to avoid the negative aspects of Iran and mostly focused on the artist’s beautiful struggles,” Matlabi said. “It is interesting that the staff could get all the permissions to talk with the interviewees and provide a real image of current Iran for their audiences.”


MENA 2020: diverse narratives, cultures and perspectives

Sharing the works of filmmakers of the Middle Eastern and North African diaspora

The 2020 edition of the Middle East and North African (MENA) Film Festival is taking place online until Nov. 27 and offers a variety of works by filmmakers from the Middle Eastern and North African diaspora. The virtual film festival offers the public a chance to discover films that shed light on a variety of cultures, diverse dialogues and stories.

This year, MENA presents 20 short films and three feature films. Comedy, documentary, experimental films and more have been included in the film festival’s programming.

The festival offers a variety of works, providing a space for the voices of artists that are a part of Middle Eastern and North African communities. MENA also aims to provide a place for emerging artists and new voices to share their work and create a welcoming space for various dialogues.

My Dream Goes All the Way to Iran (2019), directed by Negar Mojtahedi, documents the stories of six Iranian-Canadians sharing the most painful and beautiful moments of their journeys from Iran to Canada. The film is a powerful portrait of the Iranian expatriate, portraying an immigrant population that is often misunderstood and misrepresented. The movie depicts the realities that refugees and immigrants face, uprooting their lives for a hopeful future.

Directed by Franco-Tunisian director and writer Manele Labidi, Arab Blues (2019) tells the story of psychoanalyst Selma (Golshifteh Farahani) who comes back to Tunis after living in France for 10 years. Selma has decided to set her practice as a shrink in Tunis, which is seen as a skeptical practice in the capital of Tunisia. Presented as a comedy, Arab Blues opens a window into modern Tunisia but also presents cultural clashes in a humorous form.

Amphitheater (2019) by Qatari filmmaker Mahdi Ali Ali, tells the story of a photographer named Sarah who follows a rebellious girl in her hideout: an amphitheater. Sarah is intrigued by the girl’s behavior and captures her in candid portraits.

There is also the coming-of-age film from Lebanese director Oualid Mouaness, 1982 (2019), which depicts 11-year-old Wissam, who is determined to confess his love to his classmate Joanna on the last day of school. Meanwhile, school teacher Yasmine, alongside other teachers, try to mask their fears as many are on different sides of the political divide. The story is set during the beginning of the 1982 Lebanon War.

Voice of Silence (2016) by Iranian director Panahbarkhoda Rezaee is a documentary narrative that tells, through a photographer’s lens, the story of the Iran-Iraq war that lasted from 1980 to 1988. The movie gives a voice to the victims of the war.

MENA offers the chance for the public to engage with a variety of works coming from different places in the Middle East and North Africa. This is a great opportunity to get to know the various stories and perspectives of Middle Eastern and North African filmmakers.

Many events happen in the Middle East and North Africa that tend to be less spoken of in Canada and the virtual film festival is a great place to experience the different realities lived in these areas and authentic Middle Eastern and North African works.

The virtual film festival serves as a cultural experience where walls are broken down and different dialogues are presented in space, without geographical divides. MENA serves to celebrate the many cultures present in the world and share stories that tend to be less known.

The MENA Film Festival is on until Nov. 27. Tickets are sold onlineViewers can obtain a pass for full virtual screenings for $40, giving the opportunity to the audience to see as much as they want, and individual passes for $10 each.


“Exploring Nature” at Montreal’s International Documentary Festival

RIDM’s 23rd edition showcases some of the best nature documentaries from the past year

The Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM) kicked off its 23rd edition on Nov. 12, allowing filmgoers the opportunity to screen a wide variety of documentaries from the comfort of their own homes. The 2020 festival showcases some of the best documentaries from the past year and boasts a wide selection from all over the globe.

This year’s festival is divided into eight thematic categories, each available for a period of seven days. Among the first sections available for screening is “Exploring Nature,” an assortment of films about the environment and our complicated relationship with it. Here are just a few of the nature docs that caught my eye!

Watch The Concordian’s interview with Bruno Dequen, RIDM artistic director below.

Cenote (dir. Kaori Oda, Mexico/Japan, 2019)

Despite its presence at RIDM, Cenote is far from a conventional documentary. Director Kaori Oda is even reluctant to label her latest feature a film, instead referring to it as an “experimental documentary.” With its swirling, often disorienting camera work and its hypnotic auditory cues, “experimental” is certainly an apt descriptor, as Cenote is more akin to a sensory experience than anything else.

As its title suggests, the film examines cenotes; deep, natural sinkholes formed by collapsed limestone. Armed with an 8mm camera and an iPhone X, the Japanese filmmaker travels to Yucatan, Mexico to document the land’s many cavernous pits and explore their ties to the ancient Maya civilization. Opening text explains that Mayans saw cenotes as spaces of great spirituality, areas that connected present life with the afterlife. Ritualistic offerings in the form of human sacrifice were habitually presented to the Rain God Chaac, who Mayans believed lived at the bottom of the cenotes. Given this information, the cenotes develop an air of intrigue and Oda’s dreamlike and indistinct imagery paints them as something otherworldly and mythical.


Stray (dir. Elizabeth Lo, United States, 2020)

Stray opens to a quote by Greek philosopher Diogenes of Sinope which tells us that “Human beings…would do well to study the dog.” If unconvinced by this statement, one would only need to sit through the next 72 minutes to realize that there is indeed a lot to learn.

Stray documents the lives of several dogs living in the streets of Istanbul and Turkey, primarily focusing on a hazel-eyed canine named Zeytin. Zeytin wanders through the city in search of food and shelter, encountering numerous other strays and passersby along the way. Eventually, she is “adopted” by a group of teenage vagrants, all refugees living in similarly poor conditions.

What’s particularly striking about Lo’s film is how instantaneously we become invested in the plight of the animals. Stray appeals to our empathy at a very instinctual level; it doesn’t require any frills or embellishments to evoke an emotional response from its viewers.

As Zeytin roams the streets, she sees crowds gathered in protest, a couple arguing on a restaurant terrace, homeless men keeping warm by a barrel fire. She stares attentively. How much does she really understand? While the animal world lacks many of the intricacies of the human world, the film shows us that there is in fact a significant overlap found in our shared compassion, curiosity and desire for companionship.


Jiíbie (dir. Laura Huertas Millán, Colombia/France, 2019)

Jiíbie is a medium-length documentary that examines the cultivation and production of coca powder in the Amazonian community of Muina-Murui. Immediately, the film makes its purpose clear; “This is not a movie about cocaine,” a title card reads. For its many centuries of spiritual and ritualistic use by the native people of America, the coca plant cannot shake its reputation as the raw material from which the narcotic is extracted.

Jiíbie aims to dispel the many misconceptions associated with the plant by showing us the reverence it holds within these communities. In intimate detail, we watch as the Indigenous people of the Amazon crush, burn and mash the coca leaf into powder for spiritual purposes, all while listening to local stories and myths centered around the plant.

While it might not rid the leaf of its negative connotations, Jiíbie is still a powerful educational tool and a fascinating insight into the world of coca powder production.


Icemeltland Park (dir. Liliana Colombo, United Kingdom/Italy, 2020)

In a far-off future, nature is exploited to the point of no return. Unrestrained industrialization has led to the creation of an amusement park where attendees can watch the environment decay in real time. Sounds scary, right? This is the inventive premise behind Icemeltland Park, and sadly, Liliana Colombo’s dystopian vision is far too realistic for comfort. Colombo’s darkly satirical take on climate change takes us on a guided tour across the world to watch glaciers melt as part of a hypothetical theme park attraction.

The film is composed almost entirely of iPhone footage pulled from YouTube and runs with its clever framing device all the way to the very end. Included are “commercial breaks” and popup text that orders viewers to “please keep recording” despite the potential danger and implications of the horrific events unfolding. It’s a film that speaks to our indifference and general apathy towards climate change and how greed and spectacle triumph over the environment. Icemeltland Park ends with a foreboding warning that more natural catastrophes will come at the hands of climate change. An ominous message, but a necessary one, nonetheless.

The Montreal International Documentary Festival runs from now until Dec. 2. For more details including tickets and programming, please visit their website.


“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.


Last and First Men: a warning to humankind

Not your usual sci-fi movie

“Listen patiently.” Tilda Swinton’s voice reverberates against an orchestral score while the camera pans out on a sculptural installation. Then, the screen goes black.

Directed by Jóhann Jóhannsson and originally released in 2017 prior to his passing, Last and First Men, presented by the Festival du nouveau cinéma, is not your average sci-fi movie.

Based on Olaf Stapledon’s 1930 science-fiction novel Last and First Men: A Story of the Near and Far Future, the film tells a message from billions of years into the future. The message is an alert to humanity, warning them of their inevitable extinction.

If you’re looking for an action-packed sci-fi movie, this is not it.

The experience resembled that of watching a nature documentary (Swinton might just be David Attenborough’s female counterpart). Her narration, which is similar to a dramatic audiobook reading, spans the length of the film and can be heard over the liturgical-style instrumental music composed by Jóhannsson himself.

The film offers an abstract anecdote of a post-apocalyptic world; there is no acting, there are no characters. Throughout the film, the camera pans over grayscale futuristic architectural details and archaeological sites. The stark architectural elements, which are socialist-era monuments and can be recognized as Spomeniks from the former Yugoslavia, contrast Swinton’s smooth voice. Her narration is at once compelling and deadpan.

Like watching a documentary or walking through an exhibition gallery, Last and First Men requires full and undivided attention. Jóhannsson’s film captures what it means for a film to be considered art.


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


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 for more details.


2019 South Asian Film Festival Preview

Six days, 24 films.

The 2019 South Asian Film Festival of Montréal (SAFF) is back for its 9th edition, kicking off the first of two consecutive weekends of films from South Asia and beyond, on Oct. 25 at Concordia University’s J.A. de Sève cinema.

The SAFF aims to bridge geographical and cultural distances through film, and the festival itself is a celebration of filmmakers from the Indian subcontinent, as well as diaspora filmmakers all over the world. This year’s film selection includes both fiction and documentary, ranging from shorts to feature-length films. The broad thematic range covers subjects of activism, aging, women’s rights and more.

“We try to include films from as many countries as possible and also in as many languages as possible,” said TK Raghunathan, President of Kabir Centre for Arts & Culture, the non-profit parent organization of SAFF. India, Afghanistan, Nepal, New Zealand and Pakistan are a few of the countries of origin appearing in the credits.

The popular Diaspora Panel will continue this year, with filmmakers, academics and activists from the diaspora present after selected films to discuss their work with the audience. Among this years panelists is Thomas Waugh, Professor Emeritus at Concordia’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, English Professor Jill Didur, and Yasmin Jiwani, Communication Studies professor and Research Chair in Intersectionality, Violence & Resistance at Concordia.

“In the past few years, audiences have been incredibly responsive and we are gaining quite a following in Quebec,” said Dipti Gupta, Director of the SAFF. “We have managed to bring films for all ages and from different parts of South Asia.”

Along with a selection of new films, the 9th annual festival is ushering in a few changes to the program as well; this year, each film will be subtitled in both English and French, and a new section called “Cinema Of Art” has been added to highlight films about art and artists. The festival will close with a screening of Neel Akasher Neechey, to celebrate the legacy of its director Mrinal Sen, who died last December.

Here’s a preview of what’s in store, and if you like what you see, check out the full list of films here.


WEEKEND 1 (Oct. 25-27)

Oct. 25 @ 6:30 p.m.

“In modern Mumbai of glass skyscrapers, the young widow Ratna works as a maid for Ashwin, a young man from a wealthy home, who apparently has everything it takes for a comfortable life. On the other hand, Ratna has one thing above all: the desire to work for a better life and to realize her dream of becoming a fashion designer. When Ashwin’s carefully arranged storybook wedding bursts, Ratna seems to be the only one who understands Ashwin’s deep melancholy. Ashwin falls in love with the housemaid and discovers in her a strong-willed and sensual woman who is ready to stand up for her dreams.”

The Soundman Mangesh Desai
Oct. 26 @ 6:30 p.m.

“Mangesh Desai, one of the top ten sound mixing engineers of the world according to the New York Times, was a colourful character whose understanding of the craft and technique was unparalleled. The film narrates the fascinating story of how he created sounds for iconic movies such as Sholay, Pakeeza, Kabhi Kabhi and many others. His dynamic range of work goes from the artistic extremes of Satyajit Ray and Shyam Benegal’s art films to Manmohan Desai’s commercial films. He could blend himself according to the needs of the subject, the film and the director, but no one could proceed without receiving his approval and availability.”

The Orphanage
Oct. 27 @ 12:00 p.m.

“The Orphanage is a beautifully photographed, quietly methodical portrait of 1989 Kabul and tells the story of young Quodrat rounded up by the cops and sent to a public orphanage. The movie was shot in Tadjikistan, mixing natural splendors with the starker institutional interiors. A grainy look makes the film feel like it was actually made in the 80s, adding to its historical authenticity. When, at the end, the orphanage risks tumbling along with the Soviet regime, you’re left with the harrowing feeling that for Quodrat and his friends, it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire.”

After Sabeen
Oct. 27 @ 6:30 p.m.

“Karachi, Pakistan. 24 April 2015. A car stops at a red-light. Inside are two women: Sabeen and her mother Mahenaz. Two men on a motorcycle stop and open fire. Sabeen dies on the spot; her mother gets wounded but survives. Moments before she was killed, Sabeen Mahmud, founder and director of the non-profit cultural institution Peace Niche, had hosted a discussion on the unexplained and ongoing disappearances of more than 20,000 activists and civilians in the country. Sabeen had been warned and advised to cancel the event but she went ahead insisting, “someone’s got to do this!” In the wake of the killing, the director tiptoes ”After Sabeen“ following her mother and friends to record not only their memories and grief but also their ongoing impetus to continue Sabeen’s work.”


WEEKEND 2 (Nov. 1-3)

Nov. 1 @ 6:30 p.m.

“A mini-bus is on a journey across the mountains to Kabul. Each person on the bus has a reason to make this journey. An old man is traveling to give a turkey to his grandchild, as his last wish before dying. However, the main road is blocked by insurgents. They decide to use an alternative road, which is not very secure, and there is still the possibility of getting caught by insurgents.”

Shit one Carries*
Nov. 2 @ 2:30 p.m.
India/New Zealand

“Avinash, a Silicon Valley engineer, returns to India to care for his bedridden father. Unlike the warmth his father shares with his professional caregivers, the father and son’s relationship is prickly. One afternoon when the usual attendant is unavailable, Avinash confronts awkward intimacies for which he was never prepared.”

Untying the Knot*
Nov. 2 @ 2:30 p.m.

“Untying the Knot tells the powerful story of Rumana Monzur, the blinded survivor of a domestic attack, and her courageous pursuit of a career in Canada. A powerful exploration of marriage in Bangladesh, the film also follows three women in Dhaka as they struggle with abuse and social pressure, laying bare the sacrifices made by women in the name of marital expectation.”

* Post-screening discussion led by this year’s Diaspora panelists.


The Sweet Requiem
Nov. 3 @ 12:00 p.m.

“When a young, exiled Tibetan woman unexpectedly sees a man from her past, long-suppressed memories of her traumatic escape across the Himalayas are reignited and she is propelled on an obsessive search for reconciliation and closure.”


Tickets for each film are available online, with the option to purchase an all-access festival pass for one or both weekends.




Feature still from the film Sir


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.


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:


Image+nation film festival comes to Montreal

Image+nation film festival comes to Montreal

From Nov. 24 to Dec. 4, the image+nation film festival will present a diverse array of LGBTQ+ films hailing from all corners of the world.

“I think it’s an important opportunity to see great independent film, and it’s also an opportunity to see yourself reflected on the screen if you happen to be a queer person,” said Katharine Setzer, the programming director for the festival.

Image+nation, which is in its 29th year, is the oldest queer film festival in Canada. It will present films from a variety of genres and formats, including powerful documentaries, beautiful shorts and award-winning features. There are over 30 films to choose from.

“There’s a power in coming to a festival,” said Setzer. “It is a genre festival—it is a queer festival. There’s a power of being with your people, sitting and congregating in the dark and watching images of yourself on the screen.”

This year, the festival will have a focus on Irish and American cinema, two countries that legalized same-sex marriage in the last year. Handsome Devil, the opening film of the festival, which will screen on Nov. 24 at 7:30 p.m. is part of this Irish focus. Directed by John Butler, the film is a coming-of-age story about Ned, a young outcast in a rugby-crazed, all-boys boarding school who sets out on a mission to finally have his voice heard.

According to Setzer, queer cinema has evolved over time. Although there’s still a place for coming-of-age and coming-out stories, the focus has shifted to representations of queerness that go beyond this, looking instead at the experience of living as a queer person in the world.

Golden Boys, an Israeli film directed by Revital Gal, takes a look at the ageing gay community in Tel Aviv and explores the challenges these men faced coming to terms with their own sexuality in a country which hasn’t always been open or tolerant. Golden Boys will screen on Dec. 3 at 3:15 p.m.

Although the festival includes films from around the world, it still has a local focus. Long-time festival staple Queerment Quebec gives an opportunity to see short films produced by Montreal filmmakers. These shorts will be presented on Monday, Nov. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Phi Centre and include bustling local talent.

Films from this year’s festival will be screened at a number of different venues, including Cinéma Imperial, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Concordia’s JA de Sève cinema and Cinémathèque québécoise.

Tickets can be purchased both at the door and online. Regular passes are $12.75 per film or $9.50 for students. For information on the festival or to buy tickets for screenings, visit

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