40th MWFF: 4 decades that marked the cultural life of the country

Monday March 21, 2022

“The MWFF is the best film festival in the world.” -  Bille August

“The MWFF is THE planet of cinema.” - Gérard Depardieu



For four decades, the World Film Festival of Montreal and its International Film Market has been the Quebec film event of the first order for professionals and the public with the presentation of no less than 36,000 films from around the four corners of the globe and made by the most prominent creators of the 7th Art. Among the wide range of directors who were invited to – and many discovered in – Montreal: Pedro Almodovar, Robert Altman, Jean-Jacques Annaud, Nic Balthazar, Xavier Beauvois, Jean-Jacques Beineix, Marco Bellocchio, Sergei Bodrov, Tim Burton, Claude Chabrol, Clint Eastwood, Rainer Maria Fassbinder, Jean-Luc Godard, Marion Hänsel, Howard Hawks, Werner Herzog, Agnieszka Holland, Dennis Hopper, Chen Kaige, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Akira Kurosawa, Majid Majidi, Nanni Moretti, Jiri Menzel, Nikita Mikhalkov, Maurizio Nichetti, Ermanno Olmi, Alexander Payne, Eric Rohmer, Carlos Saura, Volker Schloendorff, Eliseo Subiela, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, François Truffaut, Liv Ullmann, Andrzej Wajda, Wim Wenders, Zhang Yimou and Andrzej Zulawski -- not to mention the many Quebecers who were selected by MWFF: among them, Denys Arcand, Louis Belanger, Manon Briand, Gilles Carle, André Forcier, Denis Héroux, Denis Villeneuve, Claude Gagnon, Jean-Claude Lauzon, Robert Lepage, Catherine Martin, Benoit Pilon...


The MWFF has always offered pride of place to innovation and the discovery of new talent by organizing the Student Film Festival (the oldest film festival in Canada) and an International Student Film Festival along with the First Films Competition that promotes the next generation of local and international filmmakers. It was this desire to open our screens to the cinemas of the world - over 80 countries have been represented in various editions of the MWFF – a result of which has been that over 500 films have subsequently represented their respective countries in the race for the Oscar for foreign language film of which 28 were finalists or eventual winners.


Also worth mentioning is the perennial tide of screen superstars who have washed ashore at the Festival, among many others: Isabelle Adjani, Charles Aznavour, Marlon Brando, Sandra Bullock, Robert De Niro, Catherine Deneuve, Jane Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Isabelle Huppert, Daniel Day Lewis, Gong Li, Sophia Loren, Steve Martin, Marcello Mastroianni, Christopher Reeve, Gloria Swanson, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Denzel Washington, Fay Wray, Sayuri Yoshinaga…


Among members of the international juries who have served over the years are such renowned film luminaries as Bibi Andersson, Theo Angelopoulos, Bille August, Jacqueline Bisset, Sergei Bondarchuk, Evelyne Bouix, Alain Delon, Gilles Jacob, Anna Karina, Abbas Kiarostami, Ben Kingsley, Sergio Leone, Dany Laferrière, Gina Lollobrigida, Majid Majidi, Toshiro Mifune, Claude Miller, Édouard Molinaro, Jeanne Moreau, Francisco Rabal, Istvan Szabo, Krzysztof Zanussi and Claude Zidi, to pick just two dozen. And we would be remiss to omit mentioning the great Iranian director Jafar Panahi, who presided over the 2009 jury and has since not been able to attend any other festival, including Cannes, Berlin or Venice. No less than the creators of the films that they judged, these jury members contributed to make Montreal the recurring “cinema capital” every year in late summer, and were witness to the continuing excellence of the MWFF’s broad program. A worldwide reputation that was confirmed in a study conducted by Influence Communication, which found that the Festival has acted as the “standard bearer of Quebec culture across the world”.


The numerous awards of the MWFF in its international competition or its first films category, as well as the tributes to many of the greats of the 7th art, have gained an enviable reputation and prestige. Pierre Drouot, director of the Flemish Audiovisual Fund – Belgium, opined that for him “Montreal is the most important festival after Cannes”, and filmmakers from China, Japan, Iran and other countries have made the FFM a launching pad for their films and their lieu par excellence for professional meetings in North America.


Over the past 40 years, more than 16 million moviegoers (including a significant number from beyond Quebec) have attended the MWFF’s screenings (access to the Festival’s theatres has always been easy), press conferences (open to public), free outdoor screenings shows (the No Smoking Orchestra concerts with Emir Kusturica, among others), film lectures and master classes (one particularly memorable one with Gerard Depardieu), all contributing to make Montreal one big film party in the days leading annually to Labour Day. In doing so, the organization of the festival has also had a major impact on local economy and tourism: to the tune of $20 million annually and the creation of more than 4,000 jobs.

The mission of the Montreal World Film Festival and its Foundation, have also enabled Montreal to enrich its cultural heritage through the preservation of the Imperial Cinema, last of the city’s historic movie palaces; the creation of INIS film school, one of whose initiators was the President of the MWFF; the donation of the collection of the Conservatory of Cinematographic Art to the Cinémathèque Québécoise, making Conservatory’s founder the Cinémathèque’s most important private donor; the essential contribution to the writing of Jean-Luc Godard’s seminal book, Introduction to a True History of Cinema and Television (translated by Timothy Barnard) via the Conservatory’s invitation to Godard to come to Concordia University to do research on the history of the cinema, the result of which was a series of 14 one-hour talks at Concordia as part of a projected video history of cinema. “When Serge Losique proposed to me to take up the mantle of Henri Langlois, I said: this is not to follow Langlois, this is to continue in another manner the work he had started or that he was doing in a different way” (p. 166). Through dialogue between Serge Losique and Godard, a complete range of cinema themes was covered. And Losique was also instrumental in the founding of the first Cité du Cinéma, studios by the Montreal riverfront.

The 40th Montreal World Film Festival, to be held from August 25 to September 5, 2016, will reflect these unforgettable moments and will offer, as it has every year, a wide range of works and guests.



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