With all the bells and whistles of this year’s premiere film festival in Montreal, you’d think the FNC was already turning forty. Yet, with one year to go before that momentous date, the diverse cinematic orgy that graces the independent screens of Montreal once a year launches tomorrow (October 13) with all the fireworks of an ageing, energized and unstoppable fest-beast.
According to liner notes and press releases, the buzz word for the 39th edition is innovation. This theme is realized in new forms of dissemination and exhibition at the FNC, including 3D screenings, iPhone apps and more. Xavier Dolan’s hair will even make an appearance. But beyond the more flashy trimmings of this established extravaganza of world cinema, there is a solid foundation of serious, engaged, and political programming.
Beginning with the epic, the FNC will screen Carlos (directed by Olivier Assayas) – a five and a half hour revolutionary ride that follows the tumultuous life of mythic Ilich Ramierz Sanchez (Carlos the Jackal). The liner notes boast that Carlos “is everything that Soderbergh’s ambitious Che was not.” This pop-thriller, which played at Cannes without intermission (bring your power drinks), demystifies Sanchez, and independent freedom fighter/terrorist fighting eventually for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine whose political adventures span the globe.
The infamous Bruce LaBruce has sneaked into the fest with the gore-porn odyssey L.A. Zombie, which is sure to provoke, shock, and maybe disgust. FNC liner notes: “The ever controversial Bruce LaBruce recounts the odyssey of a sex-driven demon in the concrete jungle of LA in what can only be described as the first gay porn goriest.” The political? “gay porn gore” says it all.
The timely Les Mains en L’air (Hands Up) is Romain Goupil’s denunciation of France’s regressive and racist immigration policy. The feature film captures the politics of exclusion/inclusion from a child’s perspective, circa 2067, looking back to that ominous and dark year of 2009.
Thankfully, this year’s FNC has its share of porn. Among the titles, Mutantes: Punk Porn Feminism by Virginie Despentes stands out as a tribute to the usually ignored, forgotten or dismissed female pornographers, sexworkers, activists and theorists. Liner notes: “This extremely enlightening and well-crafted documentary goes beyond the sex-positive feminism and lesbianism to ask broader questions about the decriminalization of prostitution, obscenity, censorship, the relationship between art and sexuality, gender and human dignity.” And all packed into 90 minutes.
Dishing out the dirt is also Dirty Diaries, (trailer below) by 12 directors exploring women’s sexual fantasies via phone cameras. The result is a feminist porn manifesta – celebrating images of women that break out of the dominant narrative of submission to the male fantasy and male gaze.
Rosa Von Praunheim’s New York Memories is a moving documentary that adds a chapter to the director’s bursting CV of documenting gay rights and the liberation movement in Germany to include 80s and 90s New York and the regressive tactics of clean freak mayor Giuliani, during his “cleansing period” of the 1990s.
Another ugly chapter to the global story of mining exploitation, Daniel Schweizer’s Dirty Paradise looks at genocide of the Wayana Indians by fortune-seeking Brazilians looking to strike gold. The documentary showcases the voices of aboriginal villagers whose populations are threatened by development and bares witness to a story in much need of attention and action. In a related vein Aluka Liba, by Nicolas Jolliet, documents aboriginal culture under threat of an illegal gold mine in the Amazonian jungle of French Guiana.
As usual, the FNC offers up some fabulous focused sections of programming, including retrospectives, spotlights on filmmakers, collections of shorts and more. Among them is a fantastic section for the wee cinephiles – the Short Film Lineup for the Whole Family (ages 6 and up). Here you’ll find The Tannery by Iain Gardner, making connections between humans and the animals we share space with, Imparfaite by Andrea Dorfman, a gorgeously-rendered peek at worries about imperfections, and Papier de Soi, a collaborative film about kids at risk, made by kids from the Dr. Julien program for children at risk.
Lastly, and most mouth-watering for this festival-goer, is the special homage to humanist Chinese filmmaker Wang Bing. The FNC plays Bing’s newest offering, The Ditch (Jiabiangou), a narrative film about China’s citizens forced into labour in the 1950s – tales of survival and endurance in Western China. As if that wasn’t enough, the FNC has programmed a retrospective of Bing’s works and will host a workshop on October 22 with Bing, a filmmaker who has deftly captured the slow lure of landscape, the humanity of labour, the dignity of struggle, and the stories of survival in a fabulous and still going career.
And of course there’s much more. Check it all out at the FNC’s site.
Image at top: From L’Usage du Monde: L’Argent du Charbon by Wang Bing, playing at FNC on Thursday, October 14th, 9pm at the Cinematheque Quebecoise.