Raymond Zhou: Montreal Journal, Sept 1
Updated: 2013-09-02 14:38
The Montreal World Film Festival attracts both the old and the young. Photo by Raymond Zhou for China Daily
The first time I visited Montreal was in the summer of 1986. I took a group of Chinese acrobats to participate in a local festival. I don't even remember the exact name of the festival or the venue we performed. But I stayed in the same Hyatt Regency, the hub of the film festival. It is located in the entertainment district, called "Quartier des Spectacles" in French.
Perhaps because winter in Montreal is so cold, summer is for outdoor celebrations. Apart from the film festival, there are ten more festivals in a little more than one month, ranging from all kinds of music and dance to a circus festival (It's home to the world-renowned Cirque du Soleil) and a "Just for Laughs" festival. Within a one-square-kilometer area are 30 performance halls and 130 cultural organizations. But you don't have to get indoors to enjoy them; there are plenty happening out in the open.
According to my observation, there are two groups of people who truly enjoy these festivals and make up the bulk of the audience, or at least for the film festival as I attended many screenings at all the venues. One is skewed towards the retired. They come in pairs and it's obvious they have been lifelong lovers of film as an art form. The other is predominantly youths, people in their 20s, many looking like college students. They are just beginning to explore the mysterious and wonderful world of global cinema and here is an opportunity to take in so much from such a great variety of geographic and cultural sources.
The question-and-answer session after each screening, if the director or other members of the creative team are present, is the most fruitful interaction between the filmmaker and the film lover. People here tend to be generous in their praise, but they ask very intelligent questions and are insightful when offering their interpretations on the movies they just saw. When there is not enough time to answer all the questions, a session may continue in the hallway outside the screening hall. This has never happened in China unless it involves a name director or a big star.