FIFA 2021

Erwin Olaf — The Legacy. Photo by Pim Hawinkels

What to watch at the 2021 edition of FIFA, the festival of films about art

FIFA runs from March 16 to 28.

Like pretty much every film festival, the FIFA (Festival International des Films sur l’Art) has had to move its operations online during the pandemic. The 2021 edition will nevertheless run from March 16 to 28 and offer full programming available at all times during those 13 days. The best way to enjoy FIFA, therefore, is to purchase a $39 passport, which gives you access to the entire platform for the duration of the festival. FIFA is available across Canada, though a few select titles are geo-locked.

The festival opens with Beijing Spring, a documentary from Andy Cohen and Gaylen Ross that examines the history of the Democracy Wall, a wall covered with artwork, poems and posters that sprang up in Beijing in 1978. The film features 16mm footage that was only recently discovered, as well as many interviews with those who were present at the time.

Homecoming – Marina Abramovic and Her Children at FIFA (Festival International des Films sur l’Art) 2021

FIFA is split up into many different sections and includes a competitive section. That’s where you’ll find docs about video art pioneers Woody and Steina Vasulka (Hrafnhildur Gunnarsdottir’s The Vasulka Effect), Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf (Michiel van Erp’s Erwin Olaf — The Legacy, one of the few films to be geo-locked to Quebec), conceptual artist Marina Abramovic (Boris Miljkovic’s Homecoming – Marina Abramovic and Her Children), French electro-pop musician Sébastien Tellier (Mathieu Cesarsky’s Sébastien Tellier: Many Lives), flamenco musician Jorge Pardo (Emilio Belmonte’s Trance), painters Vladimir Dvorkin (Billie Mintz’s Portrayal) and Christian Boltanski (Alain Fleischer’s J’ai retrouvé Christian B.), contemporary pianist Eve Egoyan (Su Rynard’s Duet for Solo Piano) and filmmaker Hector Babenco (Babenco: Tell Me When I Die by Barbara Paz, Babenco’s widow), among many others.

FIFA 2021
Jazz Club Owner at FIFA (Festival International des Films sur l’Art) 2021

Outside of competition, you’ll find films about Charlie Chaplin (Charlie Chaplin, le génie de la liberté, narrated by Mathieu Amalric), musician Edgar Bori (Dialogues pour un homme seul, directed by Jean-Pierre Gariépy), Federico Fellini (who is in fact the subject of two films this year, a feature-length documentary and a short from Montreal filmmaker Paul Tana), folklorist and academic Henry Glassie (Pat Collins’s Henry Glassie: Field Work), architects Frank Lloyd Wright (Frank Lloyd Wright — The Phoenix From the Ashes by Sigrid Faltin) and Paulo Mendes da Rocha (It’s All a Plan, co-directed by his daughter Joana), Upstairs jazz club owner Joel Giberovitch (Jazz Club Owner by Guylaine Dionne), French comedy legend Louis de Funès (Lucie Cariès’s La folle aventure de Louis de Funès), multidisciplinary artist Mary Bauermeister (Mary Bauermeister — One and One Is Three) and many more.

Obviously, the programming for a festival of films on art will skew heavily on creators of art and other people who exist in the general vicinity of its creation, but that’s not all that’s on display at FIFA. There are several films about the world of classical music (Beethoven Reloaded, Conductivity, Quinte et Sens, Allegro Colorato), about the performing arts (Rivale, May B, Kes Reimagined), about urban design (Art in the Twenty-First Century: Beijing), about Paris (Paris Calligrammes) and more.

The FIFA also offers a Carte Blanche section in which people and organizations in the art world create their own programs of shorts. This year, carte blanche has been given to multidisciplinary artist Caroline Monnet, First Nations broadcast platform imagineNATIVE, British platform NOWNESS, writer and academic Ronald Rose-Antoinette, the Beirut Art Film Festival, the EPOS Festival (the Israeli equivalent of FIFA), the Mexican festival Fotogenia and three separate programs from curators at MOMA in New York City.

It’s also interesting to note that FIFA will be launching their year-round platform on the last day of the festival. A yearly subscription will be available for $60 or $89 with the festival passport. ■

This article originally appeared in the March 2021 issue of Cult MTL. See the complete Festival International du Film sur l’Art program and more details here.

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