Chamberlan: Nouveau's strategy pays off

Festival sets itself apart from other Montreal event

MONTREAL -- Claude Chamberlan is ready for his close-up.

Co-founder and programming director for Montreal's Festival du Nouveau Cinema, now in its 37th year, Chamberlan has long labored in the shadow of rival Serge Losique's Montreal World Film Festival when it comes to showcasing local Quebec features and new media.

But as the MWFF struggles against Toronto and Venice in its August slot, Chamberlan says that his festival is reaping the rewards of standing apart from the crowded summer festival calendar and steering clear of star-driven corporate largesse.

"Look at Wall Street ... psst!," he says of the current market meltdown that threatens philanthropic support and corporate sponsorship for film festivals.

Of the festival's absence of red carpets and velvet ropes, he argues that you "can't create any intimacy" between filmmakers and audiences that way.

This year, Chamberlan assembled an international competition lineup from directors making their first and second features including Steve McQueen's "Hunger" and Ari Folman's "Waltz With Bashir."

But there also are projects from Thailand, Bulgaria and Greece, two from Brazil and discovery titles including Henry Bernadet and Myriam Verreault's "A L'Ouest de Pluton" from Quebec and U.S. director Antonio Campos' "Afterschool."

Montreal-based director Patrice Henriquez, whose documentary "A Voyage About Torture" is screening at the Festival du Nouveau Cinema, said the event is less a testing ground for upcoming theatrical releases than a beacon for film lovers.

"He (Chamberlan) calls the public to go to cinema. And that puts the festival in another dimension," Henriquez said.

The Montreal festival also prizes innovation. Montreal filmmaker Brett Gaylor's documentary "RIP: A Remix Manifesto," which bows Friday night, is really a mash-up. Six years in the making, Gaylor threw raw footage about Hollywood's fight for more restrictive copyright laws up on the Internet and invited anyone to remix and shape the finished product.

"We're about the spread of ideas and art and culture. Copyright was created to encourage that," Gaylor said of his online collaboration.

The Festival du Nouveau Cinema wraps Sunday.