Montreal’s International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA) launched in 1981 under the guidance of founder Rene Rozon and the support of UNESCO’s International Council for Film, Television, and Audiovisual Communication and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. Today the festival stands alone as an independent entity and the only festival in North America devoted specifically to showcasing documentaries on the arts to a mass audience.
‘The festival [was] created to heighten the public’s understanding of art,’ says Rozon. In addition to his mission to bring these types of docs to a film-going audience, rather than allowing them to be relegated to television arts slots, Rozon also sees his festival as an extension of art galleries, in place to heighten the audience’s appreciation for the arts and give them an insight into the lives and works of various well-known and unknown artists.
Rozon says the majority of the films shown at FIFA are theatrical debuts, as the festival is so specialized that these films don’t typically have any other home in theaters, particularly in North America.
This year’s highlights include a tribute to Andre S. Labarthe, a filmmaker and critic who intellectually explores the arts through his work, including the Filmmakers of Our Time project which examined the work of 52 filmmakers. The festival will screen 10 of his films including portraits of Samuel Fuller, Alfred Hitchcock, John Cassavetes, John Ford and Martin Scorsese.
The opening night film, Vivre avec l’art… un art de vivre by Anne-Marie Tougas looks at the life of an art collector through his relationship with the pieces in his collection. Other key titles include a portrait of Juliette Binoche by her sister, Marion Stalens; a profile of a dance troupe made up of dancers aged 61 to 85 entitled Save the Last Dance for Me: Company of Elders and Super 8 – The Art of Making It! which follows eight talented artists as they explain how they carved out a successful niche in the Canadian art world.
‘Our contact with artists is not only something visual but also something intellectual at the same time,’ says Rozon. ‘Your intellect is enlightened by their work. So we hope that [the festival] will give some sparks in someone’s life and enrich it. That’s what a lot of people tell me it does, and it does that to me, even in this 28th edition.’
FIFA starts tonight (March 18) in Montreal and runs until the 28th.