A Documentary Journey of Art Discovery

FIFA Kicks Off its Festivities Today with a Promising Program

Courtesy of FIFA
Still from Entre ciel et terre, quand le hip-hop devient art (2013) Courtesy of FIFA

The International Festival of Films on Art is returning to Montreal for its 33rd edition and promises to inspire all art lovers, with a fine selection of 270 films from all parts of the globe. Every imaginable art form is represented: opera, photography, architecture, theatre, design, music, literature, fashion and much more. Many films will be coupled into double screenings, so that audiences are sure to make surprising discoveries.

René Rozon founded the International Festival of Films on Art in 1982, with a determination to “promote the work of filmmakers and artists of all disciplines, and to foster the artistic appreciation, knowledge and curiosity of the Montreal public”. The cultivation of this art form offers inexhaustible discoveries into history, cultural identities and traditions, philosophy and spirituality, celebrations and protests, moral challenges and imaginative liberations, all embodied in the various forms of art.

Rozon affirms one can expect many things with such a diverse selection of close encounters with some of the world’s most imaginative minds. Since its inception, the festival has remained perfectly poised between showcasings of contemporary endeavours that push the boundaries of their field and historical inquiries into the creations of the past. Each section features films that delve into the works of renowned masters (Salvador Dali, Matisse, Picasso, Van Gogh, Gustave Courbet, Maria Callas, J.R.R Tolkien, Coco Chanel, Leo Tolstoy, Richard Wagner etc.). Others will acquaint the public with heterogeneous artistic communities, marginal perspectives, cutting edge ideas and upcoming visionary artists from over 30 countries. One might follow the travels of a passionate photojournalist in her search for migrant perspectives, the adventures of a Danish street-artist, or the lives of a troupe transsexual dancers and comedians.

Cinephiles will rejoice in this year’s selection of films in the Focus on the 7th Art category, with some exceptional investigations into the production histories and careers of film legends like the Warner Brothers, the visionary Italian foils Federico Fellini and Luchino Visconti, or the mystique of film actresses like Rita Hayworth, Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo.

Very often, artistic expressions which we are unfamiliar with bypass our attention or understanding when they are presented to us with limited context. Our general ignorance or disregard for, say, Russian ballet, Hong Kong cinema or traditional African art, may discourage us from fully engaging with those art forms, simply because our appreciation is limited to abstract formulations, uninformed by a direct encounter with the history, culture and thoughts that have produced them. Quite obviously, documentaries allow such encounters, fleshing out the works, context and intentions behind them while formulating the filmmaker’s point of view, and thus, prompting our own analysis.

Born to a family of musicians, Rozon was exposed to art as a small child, paying frequent visits to Ottawa’s art museums and discovering the wonders of moviegoing, of which he recalls the distant memory of viewing Michael Powell’s classic Technicolor marvel, The Thief of Bagdad (1940). The films on art that would feature as part of art exhibitions sparked Rozon’s interest for this specific art-form, which he viewed as a valuable way to put art, its history and its making into vivid perspective. Throughout his years as a Graduate student at the Université de Montréal in Art and Film History, the scope of his artistic ventures and interests broadened considerably, as did his exposure to the international art world and its plush art fairs and film festivals, as he became Associate Editor in Chief for the periodical Vie des Arts.

The festival will this year pay tribute to the Checkerboard Film Foundation and its founder Ed Howard, by showing 10 selected films from the supported and promoted American art and culture for 35 years.

“Memory, whether historical or personal, will be a common theme explored through the various sections of the festival, in particular in the Le Temps Retrouvé category,” said Rozon.

Documentary will not be the only film form presented: experimental films will constitute the bulk of the Media Arts selection. Rozon hopes the public “will be inspired by such experimental treasures to appreciate cinema in its most aesthetically radical forms.”

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Musée d’Art Contemporain, one of FIFA’s numerous close partners and will be celebrated with an installation by Mark Lewis. The festival will also highlight the 40-year artistic trajectory of GIV (Groupe Intervention Video), a feminist production company that has dealt with an incredible variety of subjects.

Special events will pay homage to several notable personalities and artistic phenomena. A film, followed by a master-class, will revisit the career of Kenneth Clark (1903-1983), the influential British art historian and aesthetician who achieved international fame as the writer, producer and presenter of the pioneering BBC Television series Civilization, considered a landmark in the broadcasting of the visual arts. The thirteen-part series covers the history of Western art, architecture and philosophy since the Dark Ages, and the last episode of the series will be screened at this event.

A special event will celebrate the work of Jeanne Renaud, pioneer of contemporary dance in Quebec, and Rose-Marie Arbour, art historian, who will be presenting their film Le Temps qui Reste (2014) and have a public discussion. Furthermore, a conference entitled A switched-on TV: the arts in the black and white of the cathode ray tube will bring television-studies specialists and media historians together to shed new light on the earliest years of black and white television.

On March 26, Hip-Hop lovers will enjoy a special night of dance performances at the SAT, following the screening of the fantastic Franco-german doc Entre ciel et terre, quand le hip-hop devient art (2013).

Come quench your thirst for cultural knowledge during ten days, starting Thursday March 19th, throughout the city’s prestigious artistic venues! Bon cinéma!