In an effort to boost its profile on the international festival circuit, the Montreal World Film Festival is transforming several of its programmes into competitive sections, complete with cash prizes. As a result the festival will be selecting far fewer feature films, from more than 200 at the 2002 event to less than 150 next year.

Set to begin with the 27th festival, August 27 to September 7, 2003, all sections will be adjudicated by a jury with the exceptions of the mostly retrospective programmes, World Greats and Tributes.

Montreal festival spokesperson Henry Welsh told the jury process will necessitate reducing the number of features. "As we have more competitions we have to be choosier in the titles we select because it's impossible for a jury to see more than 25 films over ten days." Welsh said the 2002 festival had experimented with having one three-person jury adjudicate two sections and found it unworkable.

The new prizes will be called the Zeniths, with some awarded on the basis of geography - respectively, Canada, the US, Latin America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania - and other Zeniths - gold, silver and bronze - to be presented to first films from around the world.

Said Welsh, "We decided that rather than divide the films into abstract programmes we thought we would use a geographical division. We will still have the official competition but now we have five new contests each of them dedicated to one continent to reflect our title as a world film festival."

As usual, priority will be given to films receiving their world or international premieres. Participation rules and submission forms for 2003 will be available in November on the festival website ( Welsh said he expects to announce the value of the prizes in the spring.