Serge Losique, the mercurialand controversial director of the Montreal World Film Festival (MWFF), hasreceived an ultimatum. He and the organization he has lead for 28 years mustsubmit to the scrutiny and standards of Telefilm Canada and its Quebec counterpart,SODEC, or lose the C$1m of the agencies' joint subsidy to a competing festivalproposal in Canada's second largest city.
In an exhaustive and, on theMWFF's part, damning report, "Analysis of Canada's Major Film Festivals",conducted by Montreal-based consultancy SECOR and published yesterday by the twoagencies, the Montreal event is characterized as disorganized, loose with itsfigures and administratively opaque. Further, its market is dismissed asoffering "few opportunities".
The fact that Losiquerefused to cooperate with the report only adds fuel to its fire; indeed, thereport notes: "This may be a turning point for thefestival's future, as some industry members admit that dialogue now appears tobe out of the question. These criticisms are echoed by some of the foreignprofessionals consulted, who cite flaws in the quality of the hospitality andoverall organization."
Charles Belanger, the chairof Telefilm Canada, told ScreenDaily, "The report gives us a factual picture ofwhat a successful festival looks like and thus a number of principles that wecan develop into specific guidelines."
The report looked atCanada's four major film festivals, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and theAtlantic festival held in Halifax. Ironically, according to Belanger, the studyhad been conducted at Losique's insistence. Notified in July 2003 that theagencies wanted to examine the MWFF's books, Losique demanded Telefilm look atother festivals as well. In the end, the MWFF did not fare well in comparison. Theworst thing said about the Toronto event is that it is becoming the victim ofits own success.
MWFF spokesperson DavidNovek declined to comment on the report or its findings. "We're moving aheadwith this edition," he said, referring to the 2004 event set to roll August 26to September 6. Asked if the 28th festival could go forward withoutthe C$1m, Novek said, "I'm told that everything is full steam ahead."
Losique has a long historyof keeping bureaucrats on their toes, not to mention acting unilaterally. Lastyear, he raised the ire of FIAPF and festivals in Venice and Montreal when hechanged the dates of the MWFF to overlap with the other two events; FIAPFresponded by stripping the festival of its A-category status. Losique's actionsare understood to have precipitated the Telefilm and SODEC decision to placeMWFF under direct scrutiny.
"This is the last festivalunder the present regime," said Telefilm's Belanger. "If Mr. Losique isprepared to apply under the new system and he wins the day, he will hold thenext edition but this time we're opening up the field. He's not alone anylonger."