The Festival of Films on Art begins today

Our guide to the 33rd annual edition of ArtFIFA, happening from March 19–29.

Tintin Quebec

Avec Tintin au Québec


Montreal’s FIFA (Festival international du film sur l’art) veers off the beaten path more than many festivals. Its relatively narrow purview (these are films about art, rather than the catch-all of art films, though experimental approaches have their place at FIFA) means that a lot of the films presented don’t come prepackaged with festival buzz. It can be a little daunting to parse, so we’ve assembled a guide to what’s on this year, the festival’s 33rd iteration.

FIFA is split into six sections. Arts Médiatiques collects experimental films, art installations and other exploratory works; these generally aren’t feature length, and are grouped together in shorts programs or paired with longer films. Competition is, as its name suggests, a line-up of feature(ish)-length films eligible to win some of the fest’s dozen prizes. The festival is also presenting a retrospective of the Checkerboard Film Foundation, a NYC-based non-profit dedicated to showcasing and documenting works by important visual artists. FIFA’s Checkerboard line-up includes films by and/or about Brice Marden, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Jan Groover, Philip Johnson and more. The Horizons program showcases films from around the world, and is dedicated mainly to documentaries about the process of creation, while Le temps retrouvé is a retrospective of movies from the archives. Finally, Regard sur le 7e art is a collection of films about film and its artisans.

The fest kicks off tonight with Herlé Jouon’s La Machine: La véritable histoire du Radeau de la Méduse, a doc that explores the true-life inspirations behind Théodore Jéricault’s famous catastrophic painting. The opening night screening is already sold out, but you can catch it several more times during the festival. Controversial Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has already been the topic of one documentary (Alison Klayman’s Never Sorry), but Grit Lederer’s Ai Weiwei — Evidence catches up with the artist on the eve of his show Evidence opening in Berlin. Theatre buffs might be interested in catching Ubu roi ou les polonais, a rare filmed version of Alfred Jarry’s seminal play made for French TV in the 1960s, while crime fiction aficionados might dig Ian Rankin — My Edinburgh, about the prolific Scottish crime writer.

Among this year’s more interesting and accessible films is Avec Tintin au Québec (directed by Jean-Philippe Duval, helmer of the hit women’s-prison drama Unité 9), a documentary that features a bevy of Quebec celebrities discussing the impact that Hergé’s Tintin has had on Québécois youth over the past half-century or so. Along the same lines is Donald Duck — Le vilain petit canard en nous, a German doc that explores the impact of Donald Duck in pop culture. Canadian experimental video artist Mike Hoolboom is also being honoured with a small retrospective of his work, including the award-winning AIDS short Frank’s Cock, narrated by a young Callum Keith Rennie.

Biographies make up a significant chunk of FIFA’s programming, with Alice Walker, Katharine Hepburn, Bing Crosby, Dorothea Lange, Tove Jansson (creator of the Moomins), Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, JRR Tolkien, Marc Quinn, Dali, Wagner, Rita Hayworth, Piero Manzoni and many more subjects being featured in docs this year.

FIFA begins tonight, Thursday, March 19, and runs through March 29. For the complete programming, schedule, venue and ticket info, see the festival’s website.