♦ The show must go on! Against all odds, the 41st Festival des Filmes du Monde is a go this year, thanks to founder Serge Losique’s furious determination… and a massive bail-out from an old friend. The once-fêted Montreal film festival has faced a few difficult hurdles in the last decade — including a complete exodus of government funding in 2014 and the looming foreclosure of its historic venue, The Imperial Cinema — but just two days before the doomed festival’s planned start date, with no electricity in the theatre and nothing but scribbled-on scrap papers in place of a programme, Québecor announced plans to invest nearly $5 million into saving the Imperial. CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau acknowledged that he has known Losique for decades and stressed the cultural importance of both the festival and its venue, asserting that Québec’s corporate leaders have “an obligation, moral and ethical, to protect our heritage”.
♦ The Montreal International Animation Film Festival, also known as ‘Animaze’, has had another successful run this year as locals and tourists alike flocked to the McCord Museum in August to celebrate animation in all its forms. Festival-goers watched screenings of animated works from 65 countries around the world, attended Q&As and workshops and lined up to experience previously-unseen viewpoints through the use of virtual reality technology. Perhaps the most awe-inspiring draw of this year’s festival was a panel discussion called VR Healing Through 360, in which experts shared insights on the blossoming role of VR technology in medical research and therapy. Panelists included Hannah Cohen of Osmos Academy, who uses cartoon-themed VR headsets to help sick kids cope with being hospital-bound, and Samir Sangani of the Jewish Rehabilitation Hospital, whose research revolves around the therapeutic use of virtual reality in treating stroke patients.
♦ The Just For Laughs Homegrown Comics competition made national headlines this summer after announcing this year’s winner. Why? Because for the first time in the event’s 19-year run, the top prize was awarded to not one, but two women, who tied for first place. Toronto comedian Courtney Gilmour and Montreal-based funnywoman D.J. Mausner will both be featured on All Access on the Comedy Network next year, alongside other JFL standup sets. In interviews, Mausner has acknowledged that being a part of the first-time female victory is “very cool and very affirming” (noting that co-winner Gilmour is “hilarious” and equally deserving of the crown), but that there is still a long way to go for women to break into such a male-dominated area of the industry. She has high hopes that her joint win with Gilmour will encourage more female comics to step up to the plate — and, more importantly, prompt more agents, promoters and bookers to work towards breaking down the stereotype that women aren’t funny.
♦ English-speaking moviegoers of the world have it so easy. Although a great deal of effort and money does go into dubbing Hollywood films into other languages for better global reach, regional dialects often become marginalized in the process — and there’s no better example of this problem than the French language. To an outside observer, dubbing an English film into French seems simple enough, but the differences between European French and Québécois French can be vast… and the film industry’s failure to make the distinction can be irritating to those who get the short end of the stick. Though the battle of French accents vs. other French accents has been ongoing for years, Québec’s Union des Artistes (UDA) took action this spring and collaborated with the National Association of Professional Dubbers (NAPD) to launch an awareness campaign called “Doublé au Québec”, which aims to generate more public support of Québec-French dubs in popular cinema. It could be a long and arduous journey to the end goal, given that language dubs are already quite costly and that some Québec audiences are so used to hearing European French dubs in film that they would find even their own accent jarring. As our Québécois friends would say, “Y’en aura pas de facile” (it’s complicated).
♦ While some Montreal locals were stoked to spot celebrities like Sophie Turner, Nicholas Hoult and Michael Fassbender in town to shoot the latest X-Men instalment, others were not so pleased with the film crew’s disruptive presence at Mount Royal, the city’s namesake public park. Posing as New York City’s famous Central Park for X-Men: Dark Phoenix, certain areas of Mount Royal were closed off to the public in August, a move which was met with vocal opposition from various public interest groups and citizens who insisted that the use of the park for locals and for the city’s 375th anniversary celebrations should have taken priority over a foreign film production. Mayor Denis Coderre defended the city’s decision, taking to Twitter to reassure the public that the shoot would only limit access for a short period of time and that the brief inconvenience was well-worth the economic boost trickling down from the film’s multi-million dollar budget. X-Men: Dark Phoenix is the second film in the X-Men franchise to shoot in Montreal in recent years.
By Miranda Cross