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The Montreal Film Festival: how close to the cigar are they?

Giuseppe Valiante | Concordia University | Lifestyles | September 12th, 2005

MONTREAL (CUP) — With financial difficulties and lagging competitiveness with larger festivals in places like Toronto and Venice, this year's Montreal World Film Festival has attracted many more films from lesser-known alternative filmmakers.

The fest's line-up is filled with more young undiscovered talent than ever, as the festival rearranges its focus to create a more alternative climate. Among them are students currently studying at Concordia University.

Communications students Paul Aflalo, Emmanuel Hessler and Tomoe Yoshihara, have taken advantage of the new shift in the festival's emphasis. The group's film, Garbage Girl, was accepted in the experimental film section within the Canadian student category of the fest, which also includes documentary, fiction and animation categories.

Although Aflalo and Hessler are excited about their film's premier, the controversy surrounding this year's festival has left them with many questions. They hinted at the fact that Montreal may be shifting its emphasis to lesser-known filmmakers for reasons other than ideology.

“I'm having a hard time understanding what is going on with this festival,” said Hessler. “It's great that this year's fest is more open, but did they choose these films because they really wanted to choose them, or because they didn't really have a choice?”

The Montreal World Film Festival has reportedly lost $1 million of grant money, and la Société de Développement des Enterprises Culturelles gave the festival a negative review. The event is also being eclipsed by the much larger and star-studded festival in Toronto, which has seen enormous growth over the past few years.

“The money is in Toronto,” said Aflalo, agreeing that Montreal's fest is no longer the prestigious event it used to be. “Look at the stars the Toronto festival is attracting—that is what makes the difference.”

Regardless of the state of this year's fest, the two filmmakers understood that Montreal is still competitive in the film industry, and continues to hold avenues for artists to express their work.

As far as Montreal serving as a vehicle for artists to get ahead in the industry, Hessler noted that “it's very hard to get a job just like that, I do think there are opportunities locally, although the question is, ‘Do you have enough contacts to get in?'
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