Diversity in Concordia’s 45th Film Festival

Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema Encourages Inclusion

They screen premieres, made up of short films and animations, created by Concordia students and international filmmakers alike. Courtesy Concordia Film Festival

If you’ve strolled around the Concordia campuses and came across the numerous boards hung around, you’ve probably noticed an interesting shade of stand-out pastel green. A poster, reading CFF, Concordia’s forty-fifth film festival, ran from May 3rd, until May 6th.

The Concordia Film Festival is a yearly non-profit event organized by Concordia University’s students, in collaboration with Concordia’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. It is a four day long festival at Concordia’s Sir Georges William Campus, normally during the first week of May.

They screen premieres, made up of short films and animations, created by Concordia students and international filmmakers alike. MHSoC proudly stands as the largest university-based centre for film studies in Canada, with a collection of works screened to great acclaim at festivals around the world.

This year, the CFF was directed by undergraduate students Elizabeth Prati and Alexandre G. Vermeil, both bidding farewell to the organization of their year-long project. Prati has just completed her BFA in Film Studies, and will be graduating this spring. Vermeil graduated in Fall 2017 with a Specialization in Film Studies, and will be proceeding with a Masters degree in Fall 2018.

“It’s kind of like a final undergrad project, so I was like ‘let’s do it!’” Prati says.

Both Prati and Vermeil have been aiding in the planning of this festival for three and two years respectively, and became directors this year.

“This was like a transitional year for us, in terms of solidifying a proper team, and getting more into an organized system,” Prati said. “We’re really establishing our mandate this year, and it is really to inspire and promote young filmmakers, Concordia filmmakers and international filmmakers.”

“They don’t give themselves enough credit, but these guys were at the top of their game this year,” Max Holzberg, CFF communications and marketing coordinator said about both Vermeil, and Prati. “They’re the most organized group I have ever seen, and they always made sure everyone was doing their jobs, and everything was ready.”

Holzberg has just completed his first year as Film Studies student (BFA), and is going into his second.

As I sat down in the Film Students’ Office, I admired the numerous vintage posters hung all over the walls, and the smell of the rustic paper.

“Film is like a language,” Holzberg said, “like a universal language, especially for our generation, because we are so media oriented. And I love how easily accessible film is. There’s a lot of flaws with the way the film industries work, but overall I love the idea of everyone coming around, watching a movie, and we can have a discussion about it. People kind of connect with it the same way as with music.”

There was no specific theme for the festival⎯ they historically do not impose one, but diversity proved to be an important aspect to the organizers this year. They encouraged everyone to share their stories, in a free, open manner, on the platform they created.

In addition to their “Open Competition” segment, in which they showcased movies produced by an array of international students, the CFF screened a collection of animation films produced by MHSoC’s second year students.

The film students believe that the core value of diversity is not to fill a quota of differences, but rather allow voices to be heard, be it people of colour, or the LGBTQ+ community.

“The Montreal population is already diverse, and we’re just trying to emphasize that,” said Prati. “You already see that in the selected films.”

She explained that many different cultural identities, both within Quebec and overseas, are represented in the festival. “There’s a bunch of variety of languages in the films. A lot of students are focused on making films about their cultures, and I think it’s amazing.”

“We just give them a platform to explore what they’re living” added Vermeil.

The CFF’s interest in diversity also extends to genres of movies screened.

“We do have both animation and production here, and I think it’s really awesome to show both sides,” said Prati. “People tend to believe that animation and production are two very separate things, and I think it’s great to do a mixture of amazing production films and amazing animation films all of them with very different themes, subjects, and stories to tell.”

Although only four days long, the festival took a lot of time to prepare, and it was not an easy task.

Their passion for success, and their need to spread the joy and comfort they feel when being taken by a movie was palpable in every word they spoke. As well, the collection of movies, be it from their Open Competition assortments, ranging from Brazil, to China, to Iceland, or even their student-produced compilation, expressed apparent devotion by their creators.

“The festival is incredibly personal,” Holzberg stated. “They’re not just presenting their work, they’re presenting themselves.”

The ongoing goal for the Concordia Film Festival is always to encourage filmmakers to share their ideas, and express their voices.

“We know not a lot of people make it in the industry, but we want you to keep trying!” Prati encouraged. “We don’t want you to give up, keep making your films!”

Correction: The Link originally incorrectly stated how long the organizers have been working as directors. The Link regrets the error.