Montreal World Film Festival

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Montreal World Film Festival
LocationMontreal, Quebec, Canada
Founded bySerge Losique
Hosted byMontreal World Film Festival Group

The Montreal World Film Festival (French: Festival des films du monde de Montréal), commonly abbreviated MWFF in English or FFM in French, was an annual film festival in Montreal, Quebec, Canada from 1977 to 2019.[1] Founded and run throughout its lifetime by Serge Losique, it was the only competitive film festival in North America accredited by the FIAPF.[2] (The Toronto International Film Festival is also FIAPF-accredited, but is run as a non-competitive event).

The public festival, which was founded in 1977 as a replacement for the defunct Montreal International Film Festival (1960–68), was held annually in late August in the city of Montreal in Quebec.[3] Unlike the Toronto International Film Festival, which has a greater focus on Canadian and other North American films, the Montreal World Film Festival had a larger diversity of films from all over the world.[4]

Throughout its life, the festival saw various controversies around Losique's leadership, including uneven programming,[5] a marketing strategy that sometimes seemed more concerned with throwing barbs at TIFF than with actually building the MWFF's brand, and increasing financial irregularities.

The festival was abruptly cancelled in 2019, just a few weeks before that year's event had been scheduled to launch.[1]


Losique launched the festival in part as a response to the inaugural 1976 Festival of Festivals, as he reportedly believed that Montreal was a more appropriate location than Toronto to be the host of a prestige film festival.[6] After screening an inaugural program in summer 1977,[7] he pursued the FIAPF accreditation, which was secured in early 1978.[8] The 1978 event, however, saw the first instance of Losique using his position to take a public swipe at TIFF, when he sent four films that had been booked to appear at both festivals back to their distributors instead of forwarding the prints to Toronto as directed.[9]

As early as 1980, the festival was marketing itself as one that was focused more on the films than their stars,[10] with Losique regularly trumpeting that motto through the years as the thing that made his festival better than Toronto's.[11]

By 1985, Losique was already beginning to attract criticism for running the festival in an "authoritarian" and "Napoleonic" manner,[12] with programming driven disproportionately by his own personal taste in film.[13] Through the 1980s, the Montreal and Toronto film festivals were typically seen as different but complementary events,[14] although Losique continued to lash out at any media suggestion that the events were comparable in prestige or quality.[15]

By the 1990s, however, the MWFF was clearly losing prestige as TIFF gained in international clout;[16] even within Montreal, its prominence was being increasingly challenged by the Festival du nouveau cinéma, which although older than the MWFF had previously been much smaller until gaining momentum in the early 1990s.[17]

In 1998, the festival faced heavy criticism when it opted to present a lifetime achievement award to Sandra Bullock, despite her still having been known only for a few hit films over the past couple of years at that point, rather than the sort of sustained career typically required to earn lifetime achievement honours.[18]

By 2000, even filmmakers from Quebec were frequently bypassing MWFF, instead opting to "stampede down the 401" to TIFF due to its much higher international profile before screening in Montreal at the FNC or the Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois instead of the MWFF.[19]

The WFF lost the sponsorship of its previous government cultural funders, SODEC and Telefilm Canada as a result of disagreements with Losique in 2004, after Losique refused to cooperate with a review by those agencies of Canada's major film festivals.[20] Subsequently, these two funding agencies announced that they would support a new international film festival, called the New Montreal FilmFest (FIFM), to be managed by Spectra Entertainment and headed by Daniel Langlois.[21]

Despite the competing festival and the loss of government funding, however, Losique continued to organize the World Film Festival,[22] and filed lawsuits against both Telefilm and Spectra, further suing Moritz de Hadeln personally after he was announced as FIFM's artistic director.[21] The 2005 FIFM was not successful, and the event was discontinued;[23] as of July 2007, Losique's lawsuits were dropped, paving the way for a restoration of government funding.[24]

In 2005, Losique first announced and later withdrew the film Karla from the festival after the principal sponsor of the festival, Air Canada, threatened to withdraw its sponsorship of the festival if that film were included. The film — about Karla Homolka, a young woman who was convicted of manslaughter and who served twelve years in prison for her part in the kidnapping, sex enslavement, rapes and murders of teenage girls, including her own sister, in a case said to involve ephebophilia — was controversial in Canada, with many calling for its boycott throughout the country.[25]

In 2015 a group of employees claimed they were not paid.[26] In 2016 many of the employees resigned, citing poor leadership and financial uncertainty amongst other issues.[27] In an interview with CTV News, Gazette entertainment columnist Bill Brownstein referred to Losique as having a "Napoleonic complex" and not "playing well with the other children" resulting in government and sponsors withdrawing their funding support. [28]

In the same year Cineplex Entertainment withdrew its support from the festival, causing it to lose the Forum Theatre as a venue.[29] Left with only the Imperial Cinema for a venue, the festival had to cancel some of its planned screenings and proceed with a reduced lineup, although several of the city's independent theatres stepped in to help screen films at the last minute.[30]

In 2017, power was cut at the Imperial Theatre in July, just a few weeks before the festival, due to unpaid electricity bills,[31] with that year's festival being saved by a last-minute intervention by Pierre-Karl Péladeau and Québecor.[32]

In 2018 the festival was accused by Revenu Québec of owing almost $500,000 in unpaid taxes,[33] but the festival was allowed to proceed that year after Losique made an initial payment of $33,000.[34]

By this time, Brendan Kelly of the Montreal Gazette was explicitly calling for the festival to be shut down, writing that "Way back in the early days of the festival in the late '70s and early '80s, the FFM was a happening event that could be said to be seriously rival the Toronto fest, then called the Festival of Festivals. But that hasn't been true for 30 years, and it's almost entirely Losique's fault. As long as the FFM exists, it drags down the city's film scene. Agencies and producers in other countries who don't realize Losique's fest is irrelevant send films and filmmakers, and the poor auteurs turn up to discover they're screening films in front of near-empty rooms. It also causes enormous problems for the other much more relevant film festivals in our city, notably the Festival du nouveau cinéma and Fantasia. These festivals have not been given the chance to step up and become the city's première festival with Losique's event staggering from edition to edition."[35]

In 2019, the WFF announced that it was cancelling the 43rd edition of the event.[1] The stated reason was that Losique was suffering from extreme fatigue, with the festival intended at that time to return in 2020;[36] however, with the COVID-19 pandemic emerging over the winter, the festival's return in 2020 was not possible. Robert Everett-Green of The Globe and Mail noted that while an event like TIFF, with its strong programming team, could easily work around the health difficulties of a single programmer, the stated reason for the MWFF's cancellation effectively confirmed the longstanding charges that Losique ran the festival as a personal fiefdom rather than cultivating a team.[37]

In 2022, Losique announced plans to revive the festival as the Global Montreal Film Festival, with a 2022 edition featuring free screenings of a selection of films that had previously screened at FFM, leading to a full revival of the festival in 2023.[38] However, the 2023 revival did not materialize, and there has been no subsequent news about the festival's return.


The festival was organised in various sections, including the comeptitive World Competition (features and shorts) and First Films World Competition (features), and non-competitive streams for Canadian and world cinema, documentaries, student films and repertory programming of classic films.

Prior to the beginning of each event, the festival's board of directors appointed the juries who held sole responsibility for choosing award winners. Juried awards were presented for the Grand Prix des Amériques, a Special Grand Prix of the jury, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Screenplay, Best Artistic Contribution, Best Short Film, an Innovation Award and gold, silver and bronze Zenith Awards for first films. Audience-voted awards were also presented for the most popular film, the most popular Canadian film, most popular Latin American film, most popular documentary film, and most popular Canadian short film.

Grand Prix des Amériques[edit]

Year Film Original Title Director Country
1978 Ligabue Salvatore Nocita France / Italy
1979 1+1=3 [de] Heidi Genée West Germany
1980 The Stunt Man Richard Rush United States
Fontamara Carlo Lizzani Italy
1981 The Chosen Jeremy Kagan United States
1982 Time for Revenge Tiempo de revancha Adolfo Aristarain Argentina
Brimstone and Treacle Richard Loncraine United Kingdom
1983 The Go Masters Mikan no taikyoku Ji-shun Duan & Jun'ya Satô & Shu'an Liu Japan / China
1984 The North El Norte Gregory Nava United States / United Kingdom
1985 Our Father Padre nuestro Francisco Regueiro Spain
1986 Betty Blue 37°2 le matin Jean-Jacques Beineix France
1987 The Kid Brother Kenny Claude Gagnon Japan / United States / Canada
1988 The Reader La lectrice Michel Deville France
1989 Freedom Is Paradise S.E.R. - Svoboda eto rai Sergey Bodrov Soviet Union
1990 Fallen from Heaven Caídos del cielo Francisco J. Lombardi Peru / Spain
1991 Salmonberries Percy Adlon Germany
1992 The Dark Side of the Heart El lado oscuro del corazón Eliseo Subiela Argentina / Canada
1993 Betrayal Trahir Radu Mihaileanu France / Switzerland / Spain / Romania
1994 Once Were Warriors Lee Tamahori New Zealand
1995 Georgia Ulu Grosbard United States / France
1996 Different for Girls Richard Spence United Kingdom / France
1997 Children of Heaven Bacheha-Ye aseman Majid Majidi Iran
1998 The Quarry Marion Hänsel Belgium / France / Netherlands / Spain
Full Moon Vollmond Fredi M. Murer Switzerland / Germany / France
1999 Color of Paradise Rang-e khoda Majid Majidi Iran
2000 The Taste of Others Le goût des autres Agnès Jaoui France
Innocence Paul Cox Australia / Belgium
2001 Rain Baran Majid Majidi Iran
Abandoned Torzók Árpád Sopsits Hungary
2002 The Best Day of My Life Il più bel giorno della mia vita Cristina Comencini Italy / United Kingdom
2003 The Cordon Kordon Goran Markovic Yugoslavia
2004 The Syrian Bride Ha-Kala Ha-Surit Eran Riklis France / Germany / Israel
2005 Off Screen Kleisterlee Pieter Kuijpers Netherlands / Belgium
2006 A Long Walk Nagai sanpo Eiji Okuda Japan
The Greatest Love of All O Maior Amor do Mundo Carlos Diegues Brazil
2007 Ben X Nic Balthazar Belgium / Netherlands
A Secret Un secret Claude Miller France
2008 Departures Okuribito Yōjirō Takita Japan
2009 Freedom Korkoro Tony Gatlif France
2010 Oxygen Adem Hans van Nuffel Belgium / Netherlands
2011 Come as You Are Hasta la Vista Geoffrey Enthoven Belgium
2012 Where the Fire Burns Ateşin Düştüğü Yer İsmail Güneş Turkey
2013 Life Feels Good Chce sie zyc Maciej Pieprzyca Poland
2014 Perfect Obedience Obediencia perfecta Luis Urquiza Mexico
2015 Mad Love Fou d'amour Philippe Ramos France
2016 The Constitution Ustav Republike Hrvatske Rajko Grlić Croatia
2017 And Suddenly the Dawn Y de pronto el amancer Silvio Caiozzi Chile
2018 Curtiz Tamás Yvan Topolánszky Hungary

Golden Zenith Award[edit]

Year Film Original Title Director Country
1989 Queen of Hearts Queen of Hearts Jon Amiel Great Britain
1990 Lost Springtime Printemps perdu Alain Mazars France
Time of the Servants Cas sluhu Irena Pavlaskova Czechoslovakia
1991 Benjamin's Woman La Mujer de Benjamin Carlos Carrera Mexico
North Nord Xavier Beauvois France
1992 Little Sharks Kleine Haie Sonke Wortmann Germany
1993 Betrayal Trahir Radu Mihaileanu Romania / France
1994 Everynight ... Everynight Everynight... Everynight Alkinos Tsilimidos Australia
1995 Cross My Heart and Hope to Die Ti kniver i hjertet Marius Holst Norway
Manneken Pis Manneken Pis Frank Van Passel Belgium
1996 Welcome Home Okaeri Makoto Shinozaki Japan
1997 Gypsy Lore Romani kris - Cigánytörvény Bence Gyöngyössy Germany / Hungary
1998 2 Seconds 2 secondes Manon Briand Canada
1999 Juan, I Forgot, I Don't Remember Del Olvido al no me acuerdo Juan Carlos Rulfo Mexico
2000 Daughters of the Sun Dakhtaran-e khorshid Mariam Shahriar Iran
2002 Various Positions Various Positions Ori Kowarsky Canada
2003 I Always Wanted to Be a Saint J'ai toujours voulu être une sainte Geneviève Mersch Luxembourg / Belgium
2004 The Magician El mago Jaime Aparicio Mexico
2005 The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros Ang pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros Auraeus Solito Philippines
2006 More Than Anything in the World Más que a nada en el mundo Andrés León Becker, Javier Solar Mexico
2007 The Wooden Box La caja Juan Carlos Falcón Spain / Portugal
2008 For a Moment, Freedom Ein augenblick, freiheit Arash T. Riahi Austria / France
2009 You Will Be Mine Je te mangerai Sophie Laloy France
2010 Liquid Love Amore liquido Mario Luca Cattaneo Italy
2011 In Our Name In Our Name Brian Welsh United Kingdom
2012 Casadentro Casadentro Joanna Lombardi Peru
2013 The Long Way Home Eve Dönüs: Sarikamis 1915 Alphan Eseli Turkey
2014 González González: falsos profetas] Christian Díaz Pardo Mexico
2015 The Funeral Chuyi Qi Wang China
2016 A Father's Will Atanyn kereezi Bakyt Mukul, Dastan Zhapar Uulu Kyrgyzstan
2017 The Return Dolaonda Chul Heo South Korea
2018 The Gazelle's Dance El Baile de la Gacela Iván Porras Méndelez Costa Rica / Mexico


  1. ^ a b c "Montreal World Film Festival abruptly cancelled weeks before opening". CBC News Montreal, July 22, 2019.
  2. ^ "Stars come out for Montreal Film Festival". Canadian Press, August 21, 1966.
  3. ^ Matthew Hays and Martin Siberok, "Cinema has been 'abused horrifically'". Archived 2017-01-13 at the Wayback Machine The Globe and Mail, September 04, 2000.
  4. ^ "TIFF-MWFF Filmfest fisticuffs, Montreal against Toronto". Archived from the original on 18 August 2010. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
  5. ^ Brendan Kelly, "Too many films, too few enticements for the under-40s; World film fest badly needs a sharper focus and a way to attract the Fantasia crowd". Montreal Gazette, August 18, 2008.
  6. ^ Bill Marshall, "How the fest was won: TIFF founders lied and bluffed to outduel Montreal in 1976". National Post, September 7, 2001.
  7. ^ Louis Marcorelles, "Deux semaines de films à Montréal". Le Monde, August 30, 1977.
  8. ^ "World film festival planned". The Globe and Mail, February 15, 1978.
  9. ^ Jay Scott, "Festival claims Losique refused to forward films". The Globe and Mail, February 14, 1978.
  10. ^ Dane Lanken, "Montreal's no-star festival lets the films speak for themselves". The Globe and Mail, August 25, 1980.
  11. ^ Alastair Sutherland, "World-beat screenings". Maclean's, September 2, 1996.
  12. ^ "Montreal, Toronto fests: Vive la difference". Montreal Gazette, September 10, 1985.
  13. ^ Jay Scott, "Award-winning filmmakers are unknown no longer". The Globe and Mail, September 18, 1989.
  14. ^ "Montreal, Toronto fests: Vive la difference". Montreal Gazette, September 10, 1985.
  15. ^ Bruce Bailey, "A tale of two movie festivals". Montreal Gazette, September 14, 1985.
  16. ^ Alex Patterson, "Festival fails to excite". Calgary Herald, August 31, 1991.
  17. ^ John Griffin, "Is this Montreal's real film festival? 20-year-old New Cinema event now rivals Losique's big show". Montreal Gazette, October 12, 1991.
  18. ^ Martin Knelman, "Festivals get starstruck: cineastes traditionally shun Hollywood stars. But the almighty dollar is changing all that". Financial Post, September 5, 1998.
  19. ^ Matthew Hays, "'The World Film Fest has managed to alienate far too much of the local film community'". The Globe and Mail, August 15, 2000.
  20. ^ Matthew Hays, "He's got the whole World in his hands". The Globe and Mail, August 26, 2004.
  21. ^ a b Brendan Kelly, "Battle royale". Variety, August 29, 2005.
  22. ^ Nelson Wyatt, "Montreal film festival marks 29th year with less money, more competition". Canadian Press, August 30, 2005.
  23. ^ Guy Dixon, "New Montreal Film Festival fizzles into oblivion". The Globe and Mail, February 14, 2006.
  24. ^ Brendan Kelly, "Losique is still hoping, and asking, for more, but coffers are fuller than in past". Montreal Gazette, August 23, 2007.
  25. ^ "Canadian distributors to release Homolka film". CBC News. 10 January 2006.
  26. ^ "Employees at Serge Losique's World Film Festival complain of non-payment - CBC News". Archived from the original on 27 August 2016.
  27. ^ "Montreal film festival employees resign en masse - CBC News". Archived from the original on 28 August 2016.
  28. ^ "End of the World Film Fest?". Montreal. Archived from the original on 30 August 2016.
  29. ^ T'Cha Dunlevy, "Forum out of picture for FFM; Screenings at Imperial Cinema going ahead as scheduled". Montreal Gazette, August 25, 2016.
  30. ^ T'Cha Dunlevy, "Ending On A Cliffhanger; The Festival des films du monde's chaotic 40th edition is over. Now what? T'Cha Dunlevy writes". Montreal Gazette, September 6, 2016.
  31. ^ T'Cha Dunlevy, "Serge Losique won't pull plug on Festival des films du monde; Director unfazed by money issues". Montreal Gazette, July 26, 2017.
  32. ^ T'Cha Dunlevy, "Festival des films du monde is back for more". Montreal Gazette, August 24, 2017.
  33. ^ "Quebec Revenue Department targets Montreal World Film Festival for unpaid taxes". Canadian Press, July 12, 2018.
  34. ^ "Montreal World Film Festival to go on as planned after founder pays back taxes". Canadian Press, August 1, 2018.
  35. ^ Brendan Kelly, "Bring down the curtain on Serge Losique's film festival". Montreal Gazette, July 17, 2018.
  36. ^ "Montreal World Film Festival to take break for 2019, promises return in 2020". Canadian Press, July 22, 2019.
  37. ^ Robert Everett-Green, "Is Montreal's World Film Festival finished or just in remission?: The cancellation of the 43rd edition of the embattled event reveals that it truly is Serge Losique's one-man show". The Globe and Mail, February 14, 2006.
  38. ^ T'Cha Dunlevy, "Montreal's beleaguered Festival des films du monde is back, kind of". Montreal Gazette, August 24, 2022.

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