Montrealers will be stargazing this week, but more likely at acclaimed actors than up at the sky. The 23rd Montrea Film Festival runs from Aug. 27 to Sept. 6, bringing nearly 400 films, dozens of international movie stars, including French actors Gérard Depardieu and Carole Bouquet, and more than 300,000 moviegoers to the city. While the Cannes and the Toronto Film Festivals (which The New York Times has declared the "North American Cannes") are heavy or Hollywood stars and power brokers, the Montreal event casts
itself as a defender of the non-Hollywood film. It is proud of its cinematic diversity—it features short films, made-for-television movies and films that have been selected from 68 countries—and tries to make them widely accessible by such means as outdoor screenings.
But this year, the festival is also courting the large movie companies, with Warner Bros., Universal and Walt Disney playing a part in the festivities. And blockbuster actor Richard Dreyfuss is scheduled to appear this week at a tribute honouring his career. The late Walt Disney will also receive a tribute, with his daughter, Diane, and former Disney star Hayley Mills in attendance. The festival also boasts more than 50 world premières, including the police thriller The
Bone Collector, which was filmed in Montreal and stars Denzel Washington, who is attending the screening.
The opening gala last week featured Mansfield Park, Canadian director Patricia Rozema’s film adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1814 book. Rozema, 41, says she is thrilled her film, produced by New York City-based Miramax, was selected for the honour: “My films have always done well in Quebec.” The movie, starring Alessandro Nivola, Jonny Lee Miller, Frances O’Connor, Embeth Davidtz and Harold Pinter, is the first time Austen’s prized novel has been filmed for the big screen. “It is much bigger than my other films,” says Rozema, who is known for her smaller-budget quirky movies such as I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing (1987) and When Night Is Falling (1995). “But I break all the rules anyway. Compared to other film adaptations of Austen novels, it is edgier. I was completely free in my adaptation, so I could write what I thought would be thrilling to direct.”
After Montreal, Rozema will return to her home in Toronto and prepare for the Toronto Film Festival, which starts on Sept. 9, and which also features Mansfield Park. “It isn’t the opening-night gala,” says Rozema. “But what a fabulous situation that Canada has two great film festivals.”
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