We continue with our series of snippets highlighting parts of the top stories from the MIPCOM Issue of VideoAge. This week, we asked industry insiders to compare Canada’s two upcoming film festivals: The 33rd Montreal World Film Festival (Aug. 27-Sept. 7) and the 34th annual Toronto International Film Festival (Sept. 10-19).
According to a Toronto-based film and TV financier, “Toronto is much more important [than Montreal]. It is number two in the world after Cannes. Montreal is a niche event, and has had a volatile past.”
A Montreal-based filmmaker provided a similar comparative assessment: “The Montreal World Film Festival is more or less the launching pad for new filmmakers as well as a more intellectual festival. It is truly an international event, as it showcases films from everywhere. A few sales industry people go to Montreal although it mainly has a huge local consumer following. The Toronto Film Festival is definitely a more festive, Hollywood type event. It’s a business hub. Business and stars are the driving force there. Montreal is more where you discover films and filmmakers, while Toronto is where you make deals, meet the stars and enjoy big parties. Montreal World Film Festival is the very personal vision of a film historian while Toronto has a mercantile and cultural bottom line.”
Another Toronto insider who, like the other executives, preferred not to be named, provided a further assessment: “Montreal is a small, part-time organization run by a difficult executive director who has alienated all of Hollywood and many people in the Quebec film industry. Toronto is a massive organization whose programmers and management are respected the world over. Both organizations claim approximately the same attendance. They do not really compete with each other for films or talent any longer. Montreal is Canada’s ‘official’ competitive film festival as sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale des Associations de Producteurs de Films. Toronto is non-competitive. The Festival has no jury and presents no awards, other than a people’s choice award voted for by filmgoers. Broadly speaking Montreal is more of an ‘art film’ festival. These days it programs few, if any, studio films. Montreal has an official market, Toronto does not, but instead operates a sales office to match buyers and sellers on an as needed basis.”
Finally, Ron Moore, CEO of Toronto marketing firm SONARmediathink and executive producer of Los Angeles-based, internationally syndicated Red Carpet Diary, best summarized Canada’s two fests by saying: “Toronto is a colossus that just keeps growing in scope and reputation. It’s not only one of the most well-run film festivals on the planet but among the best-run cultural events. Montreal just isn’t in that league any longer but that’s not to say it doesn’t provide a great experience for cinephiles. It simply does not put Montreal on the map any longer.”
Film festivals at a glance:
Montreal World Film Festival (Aug. 27-Sept. 7 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel with screenings throughout the town).
This year’s Montreal World Film Festival screened a record 240 feature films from 78 countries. As usual, the festival also included a small market. One talked-about premiere was that of Everlasting Flame, the official film of the Beijing Olympics, directed by Gu Jun. PR manager Henry Welsh explained that highly anticipated films like Flame are what set the festival apart from the others. That, and the fact that regular movie-goers screen films alongside critics and industry executives. Unlike other festivals, Montreal does not award cash prizes to its winners, and that, Welsh said, helps it maintain a less commercial feel.
Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), Sept. 10-19 at Sutton Place Hotel with screenings around town.
This year, the festival featured screenings of 335 films, including 271 feature-length films from 64 countries. Seventy-two percent of those were either world, international or North American premieres. And there were about 500 bold-faced names in attendance, including Oprah Winfrey, Clive Owen, Natalie Portman, the Coen brothers, Ricky Gervais and Snoop Dogg. The festival opened with Creation, a biopic about Charles Darwin. It also caused a stir with its inclusion of Lars Von Trier’s controversial Antichrist, which elicited boos after its premiere in Cannes in May.