The Festival International de Film de Montreal (FIFM) hasthrown in the towel.

Ending months of speculation, the FIFM's administration, Regroupement pour un festival decinema a Montreal, issued a press release at 5pm Montreal time on FridayFebruary 10 confirming that it will not present a second edition.

Soon after, FIFM programming director Moritz de Hadeln issued his own pressrelease announcing that his association with the FIFM was finished.

For the better part of three years, Montreal's filmcommunity has watched as Serge Losique's Montreal World Film Festival (MWFF)has fended off actions from the federal funding agency Telefilm Canada and itsQuebec counterpart SODEC that lead ultimately to the launch of the competingFIFM, known in English as the New Montreal FilmFest.

Backed by the Regroupement and coordinated by Montrealevents management company L'Equipe Spectra, the new festival was introduced atBerlin last year with the news that de Hadeln would programme the inauguraledition to be held in October.

The dates were later switched to September 18-25, less thanthree weeks after the conclusion of the MWFF and only one day after theconclusion of the Toronto festival. Despite much marketing hoopla and a largebudget -- a significant portion of Losique's public sector financing wasre-directed to the FIFM -- the rival event failed to attract the attention ofthe city's film-goers and was savaged by the local media. A deficit of C$850,000was part of the hangover.

De Hadeln's communique questioned the "regrettable" silenceof the Regroupement over the past three months in coming to its decision,reiterated an earlier observation that L'Equipe Spectra's lack of film festivalexperience was a contributing factor and claimed the FIFM had yet to fully payor reimburse his own company, de Hadeln & Partners, Film Consulting.

Representatives of the Regroupement were not available toconfirm or deny the claim.

For its part, the Regroupement release blamed the Festivaldu Nouveau Cinema (FNC), Montreal's third and smaller festival for declining"to rally behind" a proposed merger of the two events into a single major filmfestival.

However, FNCdirector Bruno Jobin made it clear in the last months of 2005 that he wantednothing to do with an event that had drawn so much bad publicity.

"In light ofthe current situation and given our experience last year, we wanted at allcosts to avoid having Montreal again project an incoherent imageinternationally with the holding of various competing festivals," explainedRegroupement president Alain Simard, who also heads L'Equipe Spectra.

The Regroupement had set itself a deadline of January 15,2006 to establish a liaison with the FNC; nearly one month after that deadline,the parties concerned have pulled the plug.

Meanwhile, Losique's MWFF is set celebrate its 30thedition in August 2006.