Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

So Who Needs Buzz?: Discovering Unheralded Films At the 27th Montreal World Film Festival

Indiewire By Indiewire | Indiewire September 16, 2003 at 2:0AM

So Who Needs Buzz?: Discovering Unheralded Films At the 27th Montreal World Film Festival
0

So Who Needs Buzz?: Discovering Unheralded Films At the 27th Montreal World Film Festival

by Brandon Judell



Jason Priestly as Tony Parker and Natasha Lyonne as Edith Sussman in "Die Mommie Die." Courtesy: Sundance Channel


From August 27 to September 7, the Montreal Film Fest raised its beleaguered head for the 27th time, and its president, general director, and programmer, Serge Losique, was yet again taken to task: Why is his creation no Toronto? Where's the buzz? Where are the stars? Where's the excitement? "Off with Serge's head!" numerous Canadian film folks yelled, mostly behind his back.

Adding to the ado, this year the Montreal fest decided to leave FIAPF (the International Federation of Film Producers Associations). Its reason: "this so-called accreditation was of no use." Accordingly, Montreal's running dates were changed in defiance, and now its screenings overlapped with both the Toronto and Venice Fests. Take that, FIAPF!

But is there really any reason for Montreal to hold its head down, other then the fact most American distributors are avoiding it? With an estimated 700,000 attendees, according to the Greater Montreal Convention and Tourist Bureau, plus more than 400 offerings from 70+ countries, including the Czech Republic, Sweden, Switzerland, Romania, South Korea, Croatia, Slovakia, Montenegro, India, Hungary, Iran, and China, what is there really to complain about?

Is a film festival really about watching Nicole Kidman strutting down the red carpet in heels or is it about discovering the new and unheralded? Besides, Martin Scorsese did show up, although no doubt because he was filming in the area.

Anyway, there were plenty of free films screened nightly in the streets for the local populace including "Amadeus," "Dr. Strangelove," and "Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India." There was also a huge video library, a few adequate parties, plus daily late-afternoon beer gatherings for the press and market folks, mostly without pretzels. Additionally, the Montreal staff was there to solve all problems with an extreme graciousness.

As for the films themselves, there was much to rave about.

The opening night, home-grown affair, Louis Bélanger's "Gaz Bar Blues," was affable enough to have the locals cheering. Plot: It's 1989, and a widower wants his three sons to work in his gas station. Sadly, only the youngest has that dream. Of the others, one wants to play a harmonica in a rock band, and his bro is aching to photograph the downfall of the Berlin Wall. Sadly, Serge Thériault as Pops has the charisma of overpriced fuel. Don't expect to see this one Stateside even with all the prizes it's won.

Juan Carlos Desanzo's "El Polaquito" (Argentina/Spain) is a beautifully acted, searing take on Buenos Aires street life. Thirteen-year-old Polaquito sings on trains for coins and then has to give all his earnings to his sleazy, limping protector or else. One day, the boy, a virgin, falls for Pelu, a prostitute who's nearly his age. Shortly thereafter, when he tries to protect her from a brutal customer, he gets anally raped. His attacker turns out to be a cop. Can matters get worse? They do but not without moments of humor, romance, and fleeting hope.

Charles Busch's "Die Mommie Die" (U.S.) is sort of a drag queen version of a Bette Davis B-movie of the '50s. Is that redundant? Here Angela Arden (Busch), after killing her husband (Philip Baker Hall) with a poisoned suppository, has to cope with her gay son who loves her too much, her daughter (Natasha Lyonne) who loves her too little, and a gigolo (Jason Priestley) with an oversized penis. Expect several plot twists and lines such as "Tony, I think you broke my hymen" and "Nobody said it would be easy being an old Jew."

A video offering from Israel, Anat Zuria's "Tehora," might have just been the surprise sell-out offering of the fest. How many folks do you think would run to a doc on kosher menstruation? Yes, "Tehora" is about how the Jewish laws of Taharat Hamishpacha (family purity) and mikvahs (ritual baths) are used to subvert a woman's sense of herself. While she is menstruating and seven days afterwards, a female is not allowed to be touched by her spouse. Even if she is sick and has fallen on the floor, her husband can't help her. But if the hubby is ill, allowances can be made.

For nudity aficionados and censorship freaks, Siobhan Devine's "My Tango With Porn" (Canada) will please you both -- or not. This is filmmaker Devine's own tale of how she, being a liberal lesbian, joined the Ontario Film Review Board to loosen things up, that was until she saw "Baise-Moi." Seventy percent of the films she watched during her three-year-sojourn was porn, which she viewed with folks old enough to be her parents. Her task: to watch for no-no's including "blood and tissue damage" and "explicit defecation." To her shock, within three weeks after she started, she found herself eating lunch while critiquing offerings titled "Enema Nurses." This is an often hilarious doc that asks if no one draws a line, will things get out of control? Devine, to her own surprise, answers in the affirmative.

Moving from condoms to plastics with an air-proof seal, Laurie Kahn-Leavitt was on hand to introduce her doc "Tupperware" (United States): "I was at the Smithsonian, looking through collections of papers on plastics...when what jumped down on me were the papers of Earl Silas Tupper and the papers of Brownie Wise, the woman who created the Tupperware parties. I said, "Oh, my God! This is incredible. This is a film staring me in the face." That's sort of how "Pulp Fiction" began, isn't it? Anyway, back in 1946, Tupper decided to go into housewares when the demand for his plastic gas mask parts plummeted. With his products and Brownie's salesmanship, our lives were changed forever. And yes, this crazy tale is about greed, backstabbing, feminism, brilliance, and disillusionment. There's also lots of singing and costume changes. Advice: Hang around for the end credits.

Lawrence David Forbes, who previously had helmed "Don't Go Near the Park" (1981) and "Malibu High" (1979), also showed up with "Finding Home," which he had brought fresh from the lab. This is the story of Amanda, a young woman with an anguished past she can't remember. When she was a girl visiting her grandmother (Louise Fletcher) on a remote island, was she attacked? Amanda's wicked, self-centered mom won't speak about it, but now that grandma is dead, and Amanda has to return to the locale of the incident, she just might learn the truth. This film, which would be a perfect addition for the Lifetime Movie Network, had an intriguing birth according to Forbes: "This was a long journey for us. About five years ago, I was at a place in my career where I was very disillusioned with the motion picture industry and the types of films which I was making. Then our producer, my wife Victoria Meyerink, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. That made me completely reevaluate everything. I thought what do I want to do for the rest of my life? I made a lot of action films and teenage comedies. What is the legacy that I want to leave in this world when I'm gone? Do I want a bunch of titles on a video shelf or do I want to do something that is meaningful? So I said, 'It doesn't matter to me how many films I make in my lifetime as long as I make something that can touch people.'" He then added he had put all of his own money into the film. All. Enough said.

Also of note: Emmanuelle Schick Garcia's "La Petite Morte," a doc on the star of "Baise-Moi"; Tom McCarthy's must-see "The Station Agent"; Antonio Mercero's "Planta 4a" (4th Floor), a humorous, touching tale of kids with missing limbs in a hospital ward who like to play basketball; Gus Van Sant's "Elephant," an intermittently engrossing film about a Columbine-like incident which showcases lots of footage of teens walking and walking and walking; John Deery's "Conspiracy of Silence," a pertinent, slightly didactic, Irish-based narrative about the Church's hushing-up of incidents of priests with AIDS; and the hilarious short by Michael Bergmann, "In Bed with My Books," which tells of a woman's fantasies as she surrounds herself with literary classics on her mattress.

But what about the Montreal Market? Is it worthwhile even showing up there?

According to buyer Eva Kammerer of ZDF German Television, "There is less competition to buy films here. As we all know, it's a relaxed laid-back festival. There's always a chance to get a good movie.

Philippa Kowarsky of Israel's Cinephil, who was trying to sell "Miss Entebbe" among others, noted, "Montreal's good. It works. Normally we sell our films to a few territories here or get promoted pretty significantly. Our films are bought by Canada, Europe, and sometimes Montreal's a door for America."

Natasha Rybina of Canada's Filmoption International, concurred: "The Montreal Film Festival is considered to be a very small market, and everybody complains about it. But at the same time that there aren't many buyers here, of the ones that are here, I can take very good care of. We can talk. They are not rushed. I make some of my best sales here because it's very relaxed." No one can say that about Toronto.


AWARDS OF THE 2003 MONTREAL WORLD FILM FESTIVAL (information provided by the festival)

Grand Prize of the Americas (Best film):

"KORDON (THE CORDON)" by Goran Markovic (Serbia and Montenegro)

Special Grand Prix of the Jury:

"GAZ BAR BLUES" by Louis BÈlanger (Canada)

Best Director:

"PLANTA 4a" (4TH FLOOR) by Antonio Mercero (Spain)

Best Artistic Contribution:

"BINECUV¬NTATA FII "NCHISOARE" (BLESS YOU, PRISON) by Nicolae Margineanu
(Romania)

Best Actress:

MARINA GLEZER for the film "EL POLAQUITO" (THE LITTLE POLISH) by Juan Carlos
Desanzo (Argentina-Spain)

Best Actor:

SILVIO ORLANDO for the film "IL POSTO DELL' ANIMA" (THE SOUL'S HAVEN) by
Ricardo Milani (Italy)

Best screenplay:

"PROFESIONALAC" (THE PROFESSIONAL) by Dusan Kovacevic (Serbia and
Montenegro)

Innovation Award:

"LE INTERMITTENZE DEL CUORE" (MEMORY LANE) by Fabio Carpi (Italy)

Short films:

1st Prize:

"VIE ET MORT D'UN INSTANT D'ENNUI" (LIFE AND DEATH OF A BORING MOMENT) by
Patrick Bossard (France)

Jury Award:

"IN BED WITH MY BOOKS" by Michael Bergmann (U.S.A.)

The Golden Zenith for the Best First Feature Film:

"I ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A SAINT" by GeneviËve Mersch (Luxembourg-Belgique)

The jury has also recognized the merits of the following two films:

"DOGS IN THE BASEMENT" by Leslie Shearing (U.S.A.) for its complex view of
modern society and the role of cinema in it.

"MOVING MALCOLM" by Benjamin Ratner (Canada) for its incisive and
compassionate comedy.

Golden Zenith for Best European Film:

"KOPPS" by Josef Fares (Sweden)

Golden Zenith for Best Canadian Film:

"THE DELICATE ART OF PARKING" by Trent Carlson (Canada)

Golden Zenith for Best American Film:

"DIE MOMMIE DIE" by Mark Rucker (U.S.A.)

Golden Zenith for Best Latin American Film (Glauber Rocha Award):

"CLEOPATRA" by Eduardo Mignogna (Argentina-Spain)

Golden Zenith for Best Asian Film:

"WATASHI NO GURAMPA" (MY GRANDPA) by Yoichi Higashi (Japan)

Golden Zenith for Best African Film:

"EL KOTBIA" by Nawfel Saheb-Ettaba (Tunisia-France-Morocco)

"LE SOLEIL ASSASSIN..." by Abdelkrim Bahloul (France-Algeria)

Golden Zenith for Best Film from Oceania:

"ALEXANDRA'S PROJECT" by Rof de Heer (Australia)

Golden Zenith for Best Documentary Film:

"SEXE DE RUE" (STREET SEX) by Richard Boutet (Canada)

AIR CANADA PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARD OF THE 2003 MONTREAL WORLD FILM FESTIVAL

"PLANTA 4a" (4th FLOOR) by Antonio Mercero (Spain)

The 2nd most popular film was:

"GAZ BAR BLUES" by Louis BÈlanger (Canada)

AWARD FOR THE MOST POPULAR CANADIAN FILM AT THE 2003 MONTREAL WORLD FILM
FESTIVAL

"GAZ BAR BLUES" by Louis BÈlanger (Canada)

FEDEX Award for the Most Popular Short Film of the 2003 Montreal World Film
Festival:

"CHERRY FRUITBREAD" by Laura Turek (Canada)

The 2nd most popular short film was:

"ISLET" by FranÁois Brault (Canada)

FIPRESCI PRIZES (INTERNATIONAL FILM CRITICS):

Feature film:

"PROFESIONALAC" (THE PROFESSIONAL) by Dusan Kovacevic (Serbia and
Montenegro)

Short film:

"VIE ET MORT D'UN INSTANT D'ENNUI" (LIFE AND DEATH OF A BORING MOMENT) by
Patrick Brossard (France)

ECUMENICAL PRIZES:

"GAZ BAR BLUES" by Louis BÈlanger (Canada)

Special mention to:

"BINECUV¬NTATA FII "NCHISOARE" (BLESS YOU, PRISON) by Nicolae Margineanu
(Romania)

OTHER PRIZES:

Special Grand Prizes of the Americas for their exceptional contribution to
the cinematographic art:

ERLAND JOSEPHSON, actor

DENISE ROBERT, producer

MARTIN SCROSESE, director





SnagFilms

Watch Over 10,000 Free Movies!

Ultimate Animal Countdown: Attack: This episode counts down the top ten ultimate animal attackers to find who creates the most carnage.