Yes, the World Film Festival is back – for its 35th year.
Despite repeated declarations of its demise – a death knell that grew so loud a few years ago, locals began calling it the "zombie festival" – the WFF returns with an eclectic roster of about 380 films from more than 70 countries.
Among the goodies at the festival this year are its guest of honour, Catherine Deneuve, who will be on hand to accept the World Festival's Grand Prize of the Americas. The fest will also fete Ginette Reno, Quebec's famous chanteuse, who has also provided memorable performances in hits such as Mambo Italiano.
On screen, French master Bertrand Tavernier will present a journey through his favourite films. Other highlights to watch for:
His Mother's Eyes Catherine Deneuve delivers a striking performance as a hugely successful TV journalist who befriends a young man not realizing he is researching his latest project – a biography on her. "I was aiming for a dramatic narrative film structured a bit like a thriller, with some suspense," Thierry Klifa recently said of his film. "I've always liked melodrama… there's something in melodrama about the intense feelings and heightened aspect of certain situations which particularly moves me."
Coteau Rouge This year's opening film is by veteran Quebec auteur André Forcier ( Le vent du Wyoming, La comtesse de Baton Rouge), once dubbed the enfant terrible of Quebecois cinema. In this network narrative, the lives of several disparate characters – a corrupt property developer, a mobster, a boxer and an overbearing grandmother – collide with unnerving consequences. Coteau Rouge stars the ubiquitous Quebec heartthrob Roy Dupuis.
Come As You Are Belgian filmmaker Geoffrey Enthoven has concocted a lusty comedy with a twist: Three men in their 20s take a vacation to Spain where they hope to finally lose their virginity. The catch is, all three are disabled: one is wheelchair-bound, one is blind and the other is paralyzed. Enthoven's last film, The Over the Hill Band, was a hit at the World Film Fest two years ago, and he has proven adept at entirely off-kilter comedies.
Here Without Me The WFF has always featured a strong selection of films from Iran, one of the Middle East's most vibrant national cinemas. With Here Without Me, director Bahram Tavakoli adapts Tennessee Williams' Glass Menagerie, envisioning a struggling single mother desperately trying to find a match for her introverted daughter. Stars popular Iranian actor Saber Abbar.
Life Back Then Japanese director Takahisa Zeze returns to the festival for the third time with a romance with eerie overtones. An emotionally-damaged young man and woman are drawn to each other as they embark on their new jobs, which entail cleaning out the homes of people who have died alone. As the two grapple with employment that involves the constant reminder of death, they find a new way of embracing life, and each other.
David The first feature of American director Joel Fendelman has generated a great deal of buzz. Set in Brooklyn, it depicts a young Muslim boy who befriends a group of Jewish children by chance. When they assume he is also Jewish, the Muslim boy plays along, despite the fact that he is training to be an imam at a local mosque. Fendelman has crafted a film that's as much about youthful camaraderie as it is about cultural divisions and boundaries.
The Montreal World Film Festival runs from Aug. 18 to Aug. 28.