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FFM 2017: The Montreal World Film Festival is not dead yet, thanks to volunteers!

MONTREAL- Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017 – Film fans stretch to catch a glimpse of director Xu Haofeng and his actors before a screening of Chinese film, The Hidden Sword, at the Imperial Cinema. The Hidden Sword is in competition at the 2017 Montreal World Film Festival / Festival des films du monde. Photo by Liz Ferguson.

This year, like last year, the Montreal World Film Festival/Festival des films du monde is a shadow of its former self. The festival doesn’t seem to be getting any money from any level of government. All the same, it IS still alive, thanks to some wonderful volunteers! I doff my metaphorical hat to them!

You’ll see them selling tickets, working as ushers etc., but there are more unseen workers behind the scenes, as well. Without their work, the cinemas would be dark.

Many of the volunteers don’t even know festival founder Serge Losique, but they do follow his maxim: “It’s all about the films!”

While I didn’t formally interview any of them, I can see that the volunteers range in age from their early 20s to 60s, maybe even 70s. While some of the older volunteers are retirees, others are giving up precious vacation days. They are film fans have enjoyed the festival for decades and they don’t want to see it die. Several people now working for free were on the festival payroll for many years.

The volunteers and the people who are still buying tickets truly appreciate the festival’s dedication to films from the far corners of the globe that are not made in the familiar Hollywood mold. (If I had a nickel for every time I heard that over the years. . .seriously, I really would be rich.)

(Do you care about those film fans, government people? While most of them are tax-paying citizens, some of them are tourists, from other parts of Canada, and the U.S., who have been coming to Montreal for the festival for years.)

Check out the festival this long holiday weekend. Many directors are here with their films, and some brought their actors, too. Sometimes there are Q&As in the cinema right after the screening, but even if there isn’t one, you can usually ask questions in the lobby. At the very least, if you liked the film, you can thank and congratulate the director. They seem quite willing to have their pictures taken with fans, too. A nice souvenir of the festival! Fans are quite friendly, too. If you ask nicely, most will be happy to tell you what they have seen and what they thought of it.

MONTREAL- Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017 – Chinese director Xu Haofeng, second from right, with actors and others associated with his film, The Hidden Sword. The Hidden Sword is in competition at the 2017 Montreal World Film Festival / Festival des films du monde. Photo by Liz Ferguson.

Films are being shown at the Imperial Cinema, Cinéma du Parc and the Dollar Cinema. From my own experience I can say that some of them are very good! And people I trust have said the same about other films. So far, I haven’t seen anything that I regret. I particularly liked The Hidden Sword, from China, directed by Xu Haofeng, and Y de Pronto el Amanecer, from Chile. It was directed by Silvio Caiozzi. Both films are playing in competition.

Links to schedules are below. Unfortunately, there isn’t a fancy printed program this year, nor is there the “big book” of yesteryear, but at Cinéma du Parc, you can pick up a schedule, with synopses, of the films that are being shown there.

The Montreal World Film Festival / Festival des films du monde continues until Monday, Sept. 4, 2017. Tickets are $11 each, or you can buy a booklet of 10 coupons, which must be exchanged for tickets, for $85.

The Imperial schedule is here.
Cinéma du Parc schedule is here.
The Dollar Cinema schedule is here.
To read a film’s synopsis, click on its category, which will be in blue on your screen.

For example, REG is Regards sur les cinémas du monde / Focus on World Cinema, and DOC is Documentaires du monde / Documentaries of the world. (I won’t list all the categories here.)

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Festival des film du monde review: Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima)

Naoto Matsumura has a chat with one of the ostriches under his care in a scene from the Japanese documentary film Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima), which is being shown at the Festival des films du monde in Montreal. Naoto Matsumura looks after many of the animals that were abandoned after the 2011 meltdown of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan.

Naoto Matsumura has a chat with one of the ostriches under his care in a scene from the Japanese documentary film Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima), which is being shown at the Festival des films du monde in Montreal. Naoto Matsumura looks after many of the animals that were abandoned after the 2011 meltdown of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan.

Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima) is a documentary portrait of Naoto Matsumura, a man who voluntarily looks after the (mostly) four-legged victims of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March of 2011. These include dogs, cats, cows, and a pony. There are some wild boars prowling around, too, though they look like scroungers, not officially under his care. And then there are the two otherwordly ostriches, with their quizzical expression and powerful legs that can break ribs.

The nuclear plant went into meltdown after an earthquake and the resulting tsunami. Humans were quickly evacuated because the radiation leak made the area too dangerous for them to remain. Many people had no idea that they would be gone so long. They tied their dogs up and planned to come back for them within a day or so. But they were not allowed to come back, and shelters did not accept dogs and cats, in any case.

Some cattle were destroyed on orders of the government, others starved to death, but some were entrusted to Naoto Matsumura, and he continues to look after them to this day. In the beginning, he bought food for them with money from his small pension, now he also gets donations from supporters. He says he wishes the government would look after the animals, that would be the moral thing to do, and it would also increase knowledge about the effects of radiation. The animals are mammals, just like us, whatever happens to them might happen to humans, too.

On a technical level, Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima) is not perfect. Especially in the opening footage, some bright areas are bleached out, and throughout the film, the microphone picks up many distracting sounds – truck engines, and fierce winds among them. But heart is more important than technique – watch the film to see Naoto feeding and interacting with the animals and describing his feelings of obligation toward them. He tells us how the nuclear plant changed his town of Tomioka – at first it brought prosperity, and conspicuous consumption – a car for every family member! Then came the disaster. It could take 30 years to decontaminate the town; maybe it will never be safe again. He wonders if the decontamination work is really just for show.
Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima)
Director : Mayu Nakamura
Cinematographer : Mayu Nakamura
Editor : Mayu Nakamura
Music : Saho Terao
Film production and Sales : Prod.: Mayu Nakamura, Omphalos Pictures,Tokyo 180-0002 (Japon), tél.: +80 (80) 3408 85 30 missyn510@aol.com.

Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima)
Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015 – 4 p.m. – Cinéma Quartier Latin 2, 350 Emery St., in Montreal. (Metro Berri-UQAM)

Festival des films du monde: It’s Really Kind of You Review

This mysterious woman is one of the two main charcaters in the South Korean film It's Really Kind of You.

This mysterious woman is one of the two main charcaters in the South Korean film It’s Really Kind of You.

It’s Really Kind of You is a Korean drama-thriller-mystery, which I saw at the Festival des films du monde / Montreal World Film Festival.

It’s hard for me to review it because I didn’t like it. On the other hand, I don’t like to be negative, I do enjoy Korean films in general, and I’m well aware that different people have different tastes. So, here goes!

First of all, I was confused because the film did not begin as I expected it to; a murder described in the film’s synopsis only took place once the film was well underway. Presumably, that was a flashback, though it COULD have been a dream, or a figment of one character’s imagination.

The plot is ingenious, but most of the characters range from unpleasant to despicable.

In the opening moments, the main character (played by Ok Ja-yeon, I think) is hitchhiking, in the dark, beside a country road. When a driver does stop for him, he seems so creepy and his manner is so odd, it’s hard to believe that anyone would want to give him a ride. He just stares for what seems like a very long time, then makes his request in a flat, robotic tone. He says that he was fishing and that he missed the last train; could the driver take him downtown? Well, I certainly wouldn’t! The actor conveys creepiness extremely well, but the story would be more believable if he could pretend to be charming, or at the very least relatively normal, now and then.

Nonetheless, Creepy Hitchhiking Man gets a ride from a guy who turns out to be a dog-breeder. They chat awkwardly for a while, then they fight and there’s an accident. A dishevelled woman who’s wearing just a slip shows up; she has a bruised face and haunted eyes; she does not speak. She seems traumatized and more than a little strange herself. She might, or might not, be mentally handicapped.

This woman will later be involved in some graphic sex scenes that are disturbing, go on for a long time, often take place at inappropriate times in inappropriate places, and are definitely not “artistic” in any way.

It’s difficult to say more without going into spoiler territory. The film could have ended much earlier than it did and still have been quite creepily effective. I’m sorry not to be more specific about the actors the credits went by very quickly and I incorrectly assumed that I could find out later who played which role. The Montreal screening is a world premiere, so there isn’t much info about the film out there.

When the film was over, an audience member asked me: “Did that make any sense to you?” I told him that it did (more or less) make sense to me, but I did not like it.

BTW: An Internet search tells me that hitchhiking is not too common in South Korea. This film won’t do anything to make it more popular, that’s for sure!

It’s Really Kind of You, from South Korea, in Korean with English subtitles, 90 minutes

Director : So Jae-ick
Screenwriter : Pak Me-hyun
Cinematographer : Cho Choul-ho
Editor : Chol Hyun-sook
Cast : Ok Ja-yeon, Bae Tae-won, Choi Dae-hoon, Do Young-cha, Kim Young- hwan, Baeg Ae-gyeong, Kang In-chul
Music : Lee Jae-sin
Film production and Sales : Prod.: So Jae-ick, So-Film, #310-402, Shindo braenew 11, Yonghyun-dong, Uijeongby-si, Kyungki-do (Corée du Sud). tél.: +82 (10) 6221 07 53, jaeick10,hanmail.net.

It’s Really Kind of You will be shown on Wednesday, Sept, 2, 2015, at 6:30, in Theatre 12 of the Cinéma Quartier Latin, 350 Emery St., in Montreal. (Metro Berri-UQAM)