Is the Montreal World Film Festival doomed?

The Regroupement des distributeurs indépendants de films du Québec is not going to send films to the Montreal World Film Festival this year unless it gets significant reassurances from organizers.

Independent film producers pulling out of annual film fest

Serge Losique announces the films showing at the 2000 Montreal World Film Festival. Losique started the festival in 1977. (Paul Chaisson/Canadian Press)

Regroupement des distributeurs indépendants de films du Québec is not going to send films this year to the Montreal World Film Festival unless it gets significant reassurances from the festival organization.

“We've asked them to give us some kind of guarantee that the festival will take place under the same conditions as in the past. We’ve had no feedback," said Andrew Noble, president of the umbrella group which distributes smaller, niche Canadian and European films and documentaries in Quebec.

"We know they've lost major sponsors and their public funding. For us to put our films into that reality becomes very, very difficult.”

City, SODEC and Telefilm also out

The decision comes on the heels of the announcement by the City of Montreal, SODEC and Telefilm to withdraw their money for the 2014 edition of the festival.

That’s a $680,000 hit to the festival, founded by Serge Losique in 1977.

Manon Gauthier, the city councillor responsible for culture, says the three funding agencies have had several discussions with the festival asking for a new strategic plan.

Organizers have refused to answer questions about the fate of the festival, but said in a release that the 2014 edition will have a ' rich and varied selection of films, as in the past.' (Montreal World Film Festival )

“Our various conditions were not met so we said, 'If you can't meet these conditions, we can't support the festival.' It was also an issue with allocating this money in support of the festival to pay debts, past debts.”

Last gasp for Montreal fest?

For years, the Montreal World Film Festival billed itself as the only competitive film festival in North America accredited by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAPF).

But since the decision by American producers to use the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)  to launch their fall films, the World Film Festival has lost notoriety and the business side of the festival.

For Martin Bilodeau, chief editor at Media Film and former film critic for Le Devoir, the decision to cut public support for the Montreal World Film Festival is long overdue.

“The reality is this festival is of no relevance for the film industry," he said.

"Whether this festival takes place or not it has no impact whatsoever on how films circulate around the world. A lot of films rejected by other festivals will have a few screenings in front of very, very empty rooms and mark it on their itinerary and that’s it.”

Festival stands firm

Serge Losique stands by his claim that the Montreal World Film Festival and its selection of hundreds of films from around the world greatly enriches film culture in the city.

Organizers have refused to comment on the situation the festival is facing. 

They instead point to a news release from earlier this month stating:  "The 38th edition will be a quality edition with a rich and varied selection of films, as in the past.”  

In that release, the festival accuses the city and funding agencies of reneging on their promise to fund the 2014 edition.  

The city says the festival's funding was condition that the festival could prove its sustainability and provide a long-term plan. 

Gauthier said they don't feel the festival met that obligation. 

About the Author

Jeanette Kelly

Jeanette Kelly works as the arts reporter at CBC Montreal. She's also the host of Cinq à Six, Quebec's Saturday afternoon culture show on CBC Radio One.