The Montreal World Film Festival opened with a bang on Thursday with the festival's second-in-command calling for the government of Canada to intervene on behalf of the beleagured event.

In her welcoming address, festival vice-president Danielle Cauchard called on Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper to give Telefilm Canada executive director Wayne Clarkson a 'kick in the ass.' The audience applauded enthusiastically.

In September 2004, the MWFF was stripped of its funding by both Telefilm and its Quebec counterpart SODEC over concerns about MWFF's administration and a perceived lack of transparency in its finances. MWFF president Serge Losique responded by suing Telefilm. Telefilm and SODEC directed their financing to a short-lived rival, the New Montreal FilmFest, which crashed on take-off in September 2005.

Despite the odds the MWFF survived intact through 2006 and, this year, SODEC agreed to resume financing for the MWFF - albeit at a much reduced level, from $425,000 (C$450,000) in 2004 to $255,000. Telefilm also resumed contributing but at a sharper reduction: from $425,000 to $94,000.

In her speech, Cauchard accused Clarkson of bias toward the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), where Clarkson was director from 1978 to 1985 - the period when the rivalry of the two events was at its peak. Montreal has long-since been eclipsed. TIFF will receive about $440,000 from Telefilm this year.

Responding through the media, Clarkson said he was disappointed with Cauchard's comments, saying they were better suited to a private discussion than to a public airing at a celebration of film.