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Montreal World Film Festival under way

First competition title to screen Friday night

MONTREAL -- The Montreal World Film Festival looks to have its mojo back, as it enters its first weekend.

"Everyone is back and everyone is behind us," Montreal festival director Serge Losique said Friday as he counted the local politicians and sponsors once again underwriting his festival after years of fractious infighting between the city's summer film festivals.

Losique made good on his promise to glam up his 33rd edition by including an acrobatic performance by Cirque Eloise just before the opening ceremony Thursday night, which was followed by the upbeat Quebecois comedy "1981" from local filmmaker Ricardo Trogi.

And the paparazzi had a field day at the afterparty at the Intercontinental Hotel in old Montreal, where the attendees were decidedly younger and hipper than in past years when the Canadian industry shunned Losique and his event.

Summed up one local distributor as he considered the return of celebrity-studded premieres and parties to Montreal: "He's (Losique) the last man standing. We have to give him our films again."

The festival continues Friday night with the first official competition title to screen at the Cinema Imperial, U.S. director Asiel Norton's "Redland," a portrait of a young woman trying to hide her extramarital affair while her family struggles through the Great Depression.

There's less financial struggle for Losique, by contrast as the Canadian government once again gives his event cold cash, including $445,000 ($411,500) in new money for this year's Aug. 27-Sept. 7 run.

That's in contrast to 2005, when the Montreal festival began to be starved of public subsidies by Telefilm Canada, the federal government film financier, as taxpayer money that year was diverted to the ill-fated New Montreal Film Festival.

Montreal suffered as a result of its summer film festival fracas, not least as local distributors opted for the Toronto International Film Festival as a preferred launch pad.

Losique is even talking about possibly handing over the reins to loyal lieutenant Danielle Cauchard. "The festival is run by my people. And the real boss is Cauchard," he said. The Montreal World Film Festival runs to Sept. 7.