FIFA: Art comes alive on the big screen

Robyn Fadden

Robyn Fadden is a Montréal-based writer and editor who searches out city secrets, new bands, life-changing art and things to do with her perpetually active kid. Robyn has covered major events for HOUR, MUTEK, ARTINFO, CKUT 90.3FM and more.

This article was updated on March 6, 2023.

Experience the wide world of art on Montréal’s big screens this March at the International Festival of Films on Art. From artists in their studios to dancers on the stage, from architecture to orchestras and pretty much every art form in between, the biggest art film festival in the world illustrates the power of creativity from March 14 to 26 in person and from March 24 to April 2 online.

The 41st edition of the International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA) offers a rare chance to see Canadian, North American and world premieres of new features, shorts and documentaries – all dedicated to a diversity of artistic practices. Back in Montréal and Quebec City cinemas and cultural venues, as well as online, this year’s festival screens over 220 productions from 49 countries, including 67 world premieres and 41 Canadian premieres, with celebrations to match!

Cinematic discoveries

One of the goals of the International Festival of Films on Art is to make art accessible to as many people as possible, bringing together the world’s art institutions and major players with experimental and outsider artists and art forms, from painting and photography to music, architecture and dance  – there’s always something new to discover!

The world premiere of Saskia Boddeke’s film Inside My Heart opens the festival, pushing back the boundaries between rehearsal and performance within a troupe of professional actors with intellectual disabilities. Among the many films dedicated to music, Sarah El Younsi and Mandakini Gahlot​’s Keeping the Music Alive is an inspiring journey of Afghanistan’s first women’s orchestra, and Mathieu Amalric​’s Zorn III (2018−2022) follows Canadian soprano and conductor Barbara Hannigan.

Annie Berman​’s The Faithful: The King, the Pope, the Princess dives into the world of fandom, specifically fans of Pope John Paul II, Elvis Presley, and Lady Diana. The feature-length film competition also includes choreographer Benjamin Millepied​’s feature film Carmen. Christian Berger’s Maestro and the Cellist of Auschwitz tells the story of Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, who survived Auschwitz because she was a cellist. And Austrian artists Gelatin and Liam Gillick​’s offer an acerbic and provocative critique of the contemporary art world in Stinking Dawn.

In the festival’s experimental section, see a focus on artist Michael Snow and his majestic body of work, with Peggy Gale, the artist’s companion and curator, in attendance. Cinematic portraits of influential artists and other artistic change makers include: Jean Paul Riopelle, Jane Campion, Annie Lennox, Charlotte Salomon, Pina Bausch, Zab Maboungou, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Romy Schneider, Thai architect Boonserm Premthada, American architect Charles Benninger, Steve McCurry, Steve McCurry, Sabine Weiss, Thomas Hoepker, Eadweard Muybridge, Gian Paolo Barbieri and many more.

Performance and parties meet film

Montréal is a city where dance remains a reigning art form, so it’s no surprise that the FIFA honours that with La Nuit de la danse, a film marathon at Théâtre Outremont, featuring over two dozen short films focused on celebrated dance artists such as Jérémie Battaglia, Mélanie Demers, David Albert-Toth, Polish Dance Theatre, Marie Mougeolle and many more choreographers and dancers. Le Vivier, in tribute to composer Claude Vivier, presents vocal collective Phth’s queer interpretation of Love Songs and screens mono-opera Light by Jimmie Leblanc.

Festival parties celebrate the films and the festival itself: the Exposé Noir collective co-presents a 15-hour rave with music by Takaaki Itoh, Aurora Halal and DJ Cashu; on March 16, Honeydrip, Nana Zen and Pascale Project mix RnB, house and techno; Tumbao presents an evening of African, Latin American and Caribbean music on vinyl from DJ Asma, Dr. Bahar and Rhythm & Hues; and digital arts festival MUTEK co-presents the festival’s closing party with Afrobeat electronic music by AKAntu and Zi!


Pop-up entertainment

FIFA always features free programming too! This year, catch pop-up programming at several spaces in the city. Explore the underground corridors of Place Ville Marie to see Open Memory Box, an exhibition in partnership with Art Souterrain, featuring excerpts from a 415-hour collection of home movies shot in East Germany during the Cold War. On the facade of the Wilder Building in Place des Festivals, watch Gravel @ Wilder, 2000 animated images unfold, capturing the visual dialogue between choreographer Fred Gravel and photographer yako. Marley Hansen, programmer for the British platform Nowness, presents a pop-up program of enchanting short films in the Tudor Hall at Holt Renfrew Ogilvy.


Carte blanche creativity

Along with competition films, the FIFA presents a carte blanche section of programming by major arts organizations and artists, including Cirque du Soleil (see iconic Las Vegas show O on the big screen and more), TOHU circus centre and Naël Jammal, the Institut du monde arabe de Paris, an evening focused on Jean Paul Riopelle (part of the festival’s Riopelle program), Oana Suteu Khintirian​’s Au-delà du papier, and much more. On top of all of this, FIFA Connexions professional days and the International Symposium of Art Film Festivals connect the arts and culture community at the festival.

This year’s films can be seen at theatres that often double as gallery and performance spaces: Monument-National, Théâtre Outremont, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Cinéma du Musée, Concordia University and the McCord Stewart Museum, as well as in Quebec City at the Musée national des beaux-arts de Québec. Adding to the accessibility, most films can be watched on ARTS.FILM, FIFA’s online screening platform, throughout the festival.


Robyn Fadden

Robyn Fadden is a Montréal-based writer and editor who searches out city secrets, new bands, life-changing art and things to do with her perpetually active kid. Robyn has covered major events for HOUR, MUTEK, ARTINFO, CKUT 90.3FM and more.

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