Weird World: Festival des films du monde
Million Dollar Crocodile
Montreal’s most elusive film festival may not have as many exclusive premieres and hard-partying starlets making fools of themselves as some of its international brethren, but that doesn’t mean that the Festival des films du monde (FFM) isn’t worth a look from Montreal film buffs. With hundreds of films screening from 75 different countries, the FFM schedule can be a little daunting. Here are some highlights from this year’s slate.
For starters, the opening film is called Million Dollar Crocodile and no, that’s not a euphemistic, Albino Alligator type of situation. This Chinese monster comedy about an escaped 36-foot crocodile should satisfy festival goers with the Fantasia blues and, even if it doesn’t, you can say you saw a movie called Million Dollar Crocodile. It’s a win-win situation, really.
The slate of Quebec films is thin in this year’s edition; the highest-profile feature, Karakara sees filmmaker Claude Gagnon renewing his love affair with Japan, seven years after Kamataki. The festival is also screening a wide variety of local films from the past year for free at the G-E Lapalme cultural space in Place des Arts – a perfect opportunity to catch up on award winners like Café de Flore, Le vendeur and Monsieur Lazhar.
Speaking of returns, Danny Huston re-teams with director Bernard Rose more than a decade after their masterful, little-seen ivansxtc with Two Jacks, in which he co-stars with his nephew Jack Huston. The pair of Hollywood royalty will be in town to present the film as well.
After Paris and New York, it’s Havana’s turn to be immortalized in an anthology film. 7 Days in Havana collects seven shorts from international filmmakers such as Julio Medem, Elia Suleiman, Benicio del Toro and Gaspar Noé, who probably isn’t centering his section on a good-time dance party. On the documentary side, Philémon chante Habana chronicles local troubadour Philémon and the recording of his album in Cuba.
Senegalese director Alain Gomis teams up with American slam poet Saul Williams for the story of a seemingly healthy man who senses that it is his last day alive in the vaguely Ikiru-like Today. Also from Senegal: 24-year-old director Jeremy Teicher’s feature debut Grand comme le baobab, following a teenage girl in her attempt to free her 11-year-old sister from an arranged marriage.
The documentary slate at FFM may be stronger than its feature counterpart this year. Amongst the highlights, we find Davy Chou’s Golden Slumbers, about the short-lived history of Cambodian cinema; Mohammed to Maya, about a Muslim transperson; and Une brique à la fois, from Canadian director Megan Durnford, which documents the peculiar passions of adult Lego fans. Straying rather far from the likes of his big studio projects like Tango & Cash and Runaway Train, Russian filmmaker Andrei Konchalovskiy’s Battle for Ukraine is a politically-charged analysis of Ukraine after the fall of the Soviet Union.
With so many small films from first-time filmmakers sharing the program with films from established auteurs like Volker Schlöndorff, Jan Troell and the late Raoul Ruiz (his last film, Night Across the Street, is screening out of competition), FFM can often be a crapshoot. The only way to really know what’s worth seeing is, well… seeing stuff. ■
The Festival des films du monde runs through Sept. 3