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A new Festival in Montreal


One of the more intriguing announcements made here in Berlin is the establishment of a new film festival in Montreal, to be held from October 12 to 23 of this year. Industry watchers have followed the political drama that has been slowly emerging since August with the announcement that the Montreal World Film Festival, a fixture for several decades, had lost its governmental funding from Telefilm Canada and a host of other professional institutions.

Criticism had centered around the Festival Director Serge Losique, long a controversial figure on the Canadian film scene. Losique, who is in his mid 70s, had been expected to retire, however he had made it clear that he would continue as Festival head, despite severe criticism in the local press and a damaging report from a government commission that lambasted the Festival for weaknesses in organization, programming and attracting professional visitors.

Into the swirl of this controversy comes the announcement that Moritz de Hadeln, has been appointed as the new chief of what is now called the New Montreal FilmFest. De Hadeln is well known in film circles as the longtime head of the Berlinale, and more recently the Director of the Venice Film Festival.

Bringing in a man with de Hadeln’s international reputation gives the new event instant credibility. Joining him for the new effort is his wife and business partner Erika de Hadeln, who will hold the position of assistant director.

The Festival has announced an international team of advisors that include such figures as Alberto Barbera (director of the Turin Film Festival and former Director of both the Turin and Venice film festivals), National Film Board of Canada Commissioner Jacques Bensimon, filmmaker Lea Pool, veteran festival expert Jean Lefebvre, and film consultants Robert Meunier, Andre Paquet and Danny Lennon.

De Hadeln is also working with a respected group of international delegates including Christel Buschman (German cinema), Norman Wang (China and Southeast Asia), Hans Joachim Schlegel (Eastern Europe and Russia), Oscar Iarusi (Italy) and Al Newman, a well known Hollywood publicist, who will be the Festival’s liaison to the Hollywood studios. The Festival is being produced by the Spectra Team, which also produces Montreal’s internationally known Jazz and Comedy festivals.

When interviewed in Berlin about the new event, de Hadeln was quite candid. “We are still at the very early stages of the planning”, de Hadeln offered. “We are still setting up our offices and hiring the remaining staff and international delegates who will help us launch the Festival this October.”

When asked how his event would be different from others on the Festival calendar, particularly the gargantuan Toronto Film Festival one month earlier, de Hadeln offered his vision “to create a classical European film festival in North America.”

The New Montreal FilmFest will offer a Competition section, made up of World and International Premieres, as well as various sidebar section. For this year, there will be a relationship with Cinema de Noveau Monde, an arthouse event that has been a staple of the Montreal film scene for over 20 years, run by Claude Chamberlain.

“We are not necessarily fixed in the October dates for the future”, de Hadeln explained. While 2006 dates have yet to be announced, de Hadeln did not rule out the Festival moving to mid Summer dates or even to taking over the late August/early September dates of the old Montreal World Film Festival, if that event should not continue. “The Festival this year will be like a first answer print”, de Hadeln joked.

The new Festival chief expressed the desire to create an event that would be both classical and have popular appeal, particularly reaching out to a younger movie going public. The Festival will also be a showcase for original Quebec productions and highlight the production, sales and distribution companies in the region.

De Hadeln does not intend to add a Market to the mix, but would like to bring buyers to Montreal to sample the films, and “create the possibility of co productions and helping the local industry have a more global outreach.”

Summing up, de Hadeln passionately believes that “there is a place for two major film festivals in Canada, but we need to differentiate ourselves from Toronto, since that has become such a major event for the international film community.”

Even as announcements are being made in Berlin, lawsuits are being threatened in Montreal and there is sure to be many more battles in the press as a changing of the guard is apparently taking place in Montreal’s established film festival scene.

Sandy Mandelberger
Industry Editor


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