Moritz De Hadeln, the veteran festivaldirector of Berlin and Venice, has accepted the top job at the new filmfestival in Montreal, Festival Internationale du Films de Montreal (FIFM).

The new event was announced last Decemberfollowing a long simmering dispute between the Montreal World Film Festival(MWFF) and its principal public sector financiers Telefilm Canada and Quebec'sSODEC.

The latter withdrew their support of MWFFand issued a call for proposals for a new film event in the city, with a promiseof funding for an undisclosed period; the contract was won by a consortiumfronted by Equipe Spectra, a large event company in the city, and DanielLanglois, the backer of the city's smaller film event, the Montreal Festival ofNew Cinema.

The appointment is a strategic masterstrokefor the fledgling event on many levels. First, De Hadeln's internationalreputation establishes instant gravitas. Second, the appointment of an outsiderdeflects issues of parochialism and any accusations of favouritism in what is aclose-knit cultural community. Third, it's a thumb-at-the-nose to rival MWFFdirector Serge Losique, with whom De Hadeln has exchanged unpleasantries overthe years.

In 2003, when De Hadeln was Venicedirector, Losique switched the dates of the MWFF to overlap with Venice andToronto creating an uproar culminating in the MWFF losing FIAPF accreditation.

Under the three-year agreement with FIFM,De Hadeln's company De Hadeln Partners, which includes De Hadeln's wife andbusiness associate Erica De Hadeln, will administer the festival's programmingand programming team. According to Equipe Spectra spokesperson Myriam Achard,De Hadeln will report to Alain Simard, Equipe Spectra CEO and founder, who willbe president of FIFM for "at least the first year." Further programmingappointments will be announced at a press conference in Montreal on Thursday.

For its part, the MWFF issued a statementon Tuesday reminding the world that the 2005 event will proceed as scheduledAugust 25 to September 5, 2005.

The festival's two principal private sectorsponsors Air Canada and Visa Canada have confirmed their commitments and Greekfilmmaker Theo Angelopolous has agreed to head the World Competition jury.