Saturday, September 13, 2014

Matthew Macfadyen's Lost in Karastan: Montreal Festival features culturally diverse cinema

Will this be the last year for the Montreal World Film Festival? God forbid. There are those in Quebec who have been announcing its demise for awhile, but the hue and cry was especially loud this year. The MWFF has lost most of its public funding, in a city that prides itself on its public festivals, for reasons I won’t attempt to go into here. (Let’s just say that the pugnaciousness so many Québécois display toward the rest of Canada can just as often be directed at each other.)

Unlike the Hollywood launching pad for the next crop of Oscar hopefuls that the Toronto Film Festival has largely (if not entirely) become, Montreal remains what a film festival ought to be, a showcase for films from around the world that North Americans probably wouldn't otherwise get to see. It concentrates less on movies made for international distribution than on those made for viewers in their home countries. As such they provide a much better reflection of different cultures as they see themselves, which more than makes up for the occasional reference that goes over your head.

I still have a few more days to spend here, and hope to be returning next year. Some of the best of what I’ve seen so far:

LOST IN KARASTAN—This bone-dry British comedy about Emil Forester, in which a blocked filmmaker (Matthew Macfadyen) accepts an invitation to a film festival in a small central Asian republic, was inspired by actual events in the careers of director Ben Hopkins and his friend Pawel Pawlikowski (whose Ida recently enjoyed an extended run in Buffalo theaters). That presumably does not extend to the part where our hero is hired by Karastan’s dictator to film his country’s national epic, a project that only Emil takes at face value. And I doubt that either Hopkins or Pawlikowski has ever made a film whose tag line (per one of Emil’s posters) calls it “electroshock therapy for the cinematically brain-dead empire.” You have to love filmmakers making fun of their own inability to recognize reality when a camera gets in the way.


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