Art Film Festival

Festival International of Films on Art

The 28th Fifa has just ended. Not that FIFA about to take part in South Africa and occupy billions of eye-spaces this summer when the top soccer/football countries in the world compete, but rather Montreal’s FIFA–Festival International du Film sur l’Art, the world’s premier art film festival.

In Wendy Keys’ award-winning film MILTON GLASER Glaser quotes Horace: “The purpose of art is to inform and delight.” This quotation the graphic designer and co-founder of New York Magazine takes as his touchstone. But it could serve as the criterion for all the films at this outstanding festival in Montreal.

Winner of the award for Best Essay, DAVID HOCKNEY: A BIGGER PICTURE shows Hockney’s rediscovered passion for photography and rural England. Films about painters ranged from the 16th century to the 21st. MAGRITTE LE JOUR ET LA NUIT presents an investigation of the man and his works; PICASSO: CHALLENGING THE PAST shows Picasso’s concern with tradition; PICASSO AND BRAQUE GO TO THE MOVIES examines the influence of the invention of the airplane and moving pictures on Cubism. The award for Creativity went to HUBERT VOS ET L’IMPERATRICE in which we are shown the Chinese court in 1905 when Vos painted the Empress’s portrait and China a century later when Dutch restorers repair the badly damaged portrait. The opening film, VIVRE AVEC L’ART…UN ART DE VIVRE, is a sensitive portrayal of a Quebec collector and the works in his collection.

The Jury Prize went to THE NEW RIJKSMUSEUM (Belgium, director Oeke Hoogendijk) which relates the difficulties encountered during the major renovation of this renowned museum of Dutch art. The Chinese-American architect I.M.Pei was the subject of three films, including LEARNING FROM LIGHT: THE VISION OF I.M.PEI, which focuses on his latest work, the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar. EXPANSIVE GROUNDS, which conveys director Gerburg Rohde-Dahl’s responses to Peter Eisenman’s Berlin Holocaust Memorial, won the award for Best Reportage.

BORIS VIAN, LA VIE JAZZ was rated best film for television. Writer and poet, Vian saw jazz as a way of being. Also popular was HARLEM A MONTMARTRE: UNE HISTOIRE DE JAZZ A PARIS. Best Canadian film was won by SYMPHONIE MONTREAL, a musical celebration of the 75th season of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, conceived by Kent Nagano. In his bicentennial year L’ART DE CHOPIN pays tribute to the composer and in the lively, charming VIENNA BOYS’ CHOIR – SONGS ALONG THE SILK ROAD we follow the boys for a year. Best Portrait was awarded to YA SHARR MOUT which recounts the story of a Swiss-Arabian project combining music, poetry and video images.

Professional and personal lives were captured in fine films on English actor Paul Scofield, choreographer and theatre director Jerome Robbins, actress Romy Schneider, and espionage novelist John Le Carre.

Two other films resonate days after viewing. One, the inspiring SAVE THE LAST DANCE FOR ME, follows a company of dancers in London whose ages range from 61 to 85. The second, IL ETAIT DEUX FOIS UN JARDIN/TWICE UPON A GARDEN, won the People’s Choice Award. Through still photographs and the diary of Elsie Reford we follow the first life of the Metis Garden, in Quebec province, through the moving image we follow today’s gardens over the course of a year, with Alexander Reford, Elsie’s great-grandson, as our guide.

The Grand Prize was awarded to ARCHIPELS NITRATE (Belgium, director Claudio Pazienza). The film celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Cinematheque Royal of Belgium with a montage of rare clips from carefully preserved and restored films. A fitting prizewinner in a festival of films on art!

There is such a cinematic a cornucopia here–230 films from 23 countries. And art is interprested widely–e.g. one very well-received film, Reeel Injun: on the Trail of the Hollywoood Injun, by Cree filmaker Neil Diamond is an entertaining exp-loration of pop culture, American myths and Hollywood fantasies about the “Indians of the Wild west.: When it went on general release, at the Cinema du Parc after the festival, is was hailed as :”entertaining and essential viewing.”

The catalogue takes two pages to list films by subject. Prhps the best summing up is an ad by architects, one of the main sponosrs–quoting the great artist Paul Klee–:L’Art ne Produit pas le Visible, il rend visible–Art doesn’t produce the visible, it makes things be seen.”

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