Highlights from Montréal's 40th Festival du Nouveau Cinéma

FNC 40

After a cancelled, rescheduled, and delayed flight from Chicago, I finally made it to Montréal on Sunday night. Unfortunately, I missed the last of the evening's festival events, a performance by Malena Szlam & Radwan Ghazi Moumneh, which I heard was great, as well as a scheduled meeting with VDB artist Marie Losier, who was here showcasing her feature, The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye. It's the second Festival we've both attended where we haven't been able to cross paths - we will meet one of these days, Marie!Basilique Notre-Dame-de-Montréal

But my visit got off to a wonderful start the next morning with a long walk through beautiful Vieux-Montréal (Old Montréal). Exploring the cobbled streets of the oldest part of the city was like a stroll through history. Especially breathtaking was the Basilique Notre-Dame-de-Montréal. 

With a bit of my tourist itch scratched, I was able to throw myself into the Festival Monday afternoon. My strategy over the past three days was to focus on events featured in the FNC Lab sidebar, which according to the program book is "a no-holds-barred section of the Festival devoted to exploring the relationship between sound and image." The Lab includes installations, performances, web projects, and films.

The shorts programs featured in the Lab, programmed by Philippe Gajan, provided some of the best work I saw this week. Highlights included Imperceptihole by Lori Felker and Robert Todd, Slow Action by Ben Rivers, Jan Villa by Natasha Mendonca, The Artist by Laure Provost, Why Colonel Bunny was Killed by Miranda Pennell (narrated by VDB's own John Smith, whose latest short, Flag Mountain, screened in the international shorts competition here at FNC), and Moving Stories by Belgian VDB artist Nicolas Provost, which he'll be bringing to Chicago next month when he visits us for the VDB co-presented Conversations at the Edge screening (November 10 at the Gene Siskel Film Center). I was also lucky to see Provost's new feature this week, The Invader, a dark and moody story of an illegal African immigrant in Brussels.

Some other interesting programs I caught at the Festival were the films of Bill Morrison, Surface Tensions, part of 2 X Toscano, a special collection of restored prints brought to Montréal by film preservationist Mark Toscano, Sport and Cinema: Hors Pistes Presents…, a program curated by the Centre George Pompidou festival exploring the theme of sports, multimedia performances by Daneil Oniszeczko/Philiippe Leonard (Operating Theatre) and Optical Machines (Shift), and the beautiful National Parks Project, a film composed of 13 shorts on 13 of Canada's national parks made by different groups of Canadian filmmakers and musicians. Overall, everything I've seen has been a well curated group of thought-provoking experimental moving image work.

I've met some wonderful people in Montréal as well. One of the highlights of my trip was a dinner organized by programmer Madeleine Molyneaux. (We actually have Madeleine to thank for instigating VDB's involvement in the FNC this year - after enjoying working closely with her recently on co-producing one of our latest box sets, Broad Daylight and Other Times: Selected Works of Kevin Jerome Everson, I can now also confirm that she is a truly excellent hostess!) She brought me together with some of the most lovely and interesting dinner companions - Mark Toscano of the Academy Film Archive, Daïchi Saïto and Malena Szlam of Montréal's Double Negative Collective and CinemaSpace, Lindsay McIntyre, Kate Dollenmayer of Bennington College, Chris Cohen, and David Schwartz of NYC's Museum of the Moving Image - at the wonderful Greek restaurant, Cava, in Montréal's hip Mile End neighborhood.
Nelson Henricks with part of his installation at the MAC

It was also my pleasure to get together with two VDB artists who call Montréal home - Donigan Cumming and Nelson Henricks. Donigan and I met over coffee to exchange stories about what he's been doing lately and what's happening in VDB's world. He's got a book launch and screening - Splitting the Choir: The Moving Images of Donigan Cumming - coming up on Saturday, November 5 at Pleasure Dome in Toronto. Nelson escorted me to the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, where his latest installation, 2287 Hz, is part of the Québec Triennial 2011. I was lucky to get a guided tour of the whole exhibition from Nelson - it's definitely worth checking out if you will be in Montréal this year. 

I owe a great deal of gratitude to the Quebec Consulate in Chicago, who generously provided VDB travel to Montréal, and to the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma staff who organized the trip, particularly Executive Director Nicolas Girard Deltruc, Guest Office Manager Anthony Doncker, Institutional Relations Manager Tao Fei, and of course, Programmer Madeleine Molyneaux. It was a wonderful trip, and ended on the perfect note tonight, over the quintessential Montréal meal - smoked meat sandwiches, pickles and poutine! 

Brigid's first bite of poutine

Madeleine Molyneaux


Festival du Nouveau Cinéma