Borderalnds FIFA film festival Montreal

Art in the Twenty-first Century: Borderlands

Montreal’s FIFA is at the forefront of the virtual film festival

We spoke to artistic director Philippe U. del Drago about program highlights and the realities of running a film festival during a pandemic for the second time.

Le Festival international des films sur l’art kicks off its 39th edition today, with an online edition that will also usher in a year-round streaming platform at the end of the festival.

We caught up with artistic director Philippe U. del Drago to discuss this year’s programming and the realities of running a film festival during a pandemic for the second time.

Alex Rose: Can you tell us a bit about how the festival has adapted to being held online this year?

Philippe U. del Drago: As the first festival in the Americas to migrate online in March 2020, we were able to capitalize on the experience of holding the 38th edition in virtual mode. We also listened to our audience, who encouraged us to maintain an online offering, which has several advantages: seeing films without constraints related to theatres, the number of screenings or their duration. It gives a lot of freedom. There is no schedule either, because all the programming is accessible at any time, anywhere, so, there are no issues of films being “favoured” by certain times. In addition, all Virtual Passport holders can see all the films — there are no gauges or limits. This offers a great deal of programming freedom.

Being online also allows us to reach an even wider audience than usual. We decided, for example, to program family films. Indeed, young families don’t usually have the opportunity to come to film festivals. With an online festival, this is possible!

FIFA Montreal film festival
Betty Boop Forever (FIFA 2021)

AR: FIFA is also launching a new streaming platform at the end of the festival. How long has this platform been in the works? Were there particular challenges to launching a platform in an increasingly saturated marketplace?

PUD: We had been thinking about this for a long time. The pandemic accelerated everything. We had already given it a lot of thought going into the festival. That is why we offer a virtual passport that gives access to all the content, unlike other festivals.

As far as the market is concerned, it is not saturated — it is growing. Certainly, there are noticeably major players like Netflix and Disney Plus. And there are several platforms that are on the verge of coming out. But let’s think about it: should we stop ourselves from opening a restaurant because there are big chain restaurants or because we are not a star chef? People are going to want diversity, and to taste different flavours. And that is exactly what we bring: a different and absolutely unique flavour.

FIFA Montreal film festival
Chagall Between Two Worlds (FIFA 2021)

AR: As with previous editions of the festival, the programming is very eclectic, and challenges preconceived notions of what “a film about art” could be. Could you tell us a little bit about the way the festival defines the kind of films it plays?

PUD: This is a fabulous question that I will force myself not to answer. To define what a film is is difficult. To define Art is impossible. And we enjoy it. We are connected to incredible creative and artistic communities. We work with them. We want to champion a wide range of artistic, creative and cultural expression. To define too much would be to restrict us and I want to open the festival to artists and audiences who want to participate.

FIFA Montreal film festival
Playback (FIFA 2021)

AR: Are there any films you’re particularly excited about playing this year? Any recommendations or left-field picks that you think people should check out?

PUD: That’s always a tough question. But let’s just say that the programming of video clips is really extraordinary this year. Also, the carte blanche by Galerie Galerie, which will present a selection of web art by local artists. And the whole selection is free and accessible without a passport. Secondly, you may have noticed that we like featuring Cartes blanches. Among those of this year, I will highlight Caroline Monnet’s which centres around the concept of territory and NOWNESS’s around the notion of experimentation. Finally, an Argentinian short film, Playback, which tells the story of a trans group in Cordoba in the ’80s. ■

See the complete Festival International du Film sur l’Art program and more details here.

For more film coverage, please visit our Film & TV section.