The great mourning of cinema lovers

For two decades, thousands of Quebecers have fallen in love with cinema thanks to the World Film Festival.

Only one man pulled all the strings: Serge Losique, the most eclectic of all the moviegoers I know, but perhaps the most intractable. In August, month of the festival, its founder must still haunt the nights of the Ministers of Culture. Whether they were from Ottawa or Quebec, they all tried to save the FFM, which Quebecers still cherish.

And Publish by Lyne Robert on Facebook recalled last month how much the festival had been “a founding event in her life”. Dozens of other correspondents agreed.

From the first season of the FFM, which took place at the Maison du Québec of Terre des hommes in 1977, Serge Losique decided that the festival would be his baby. Did he need someone to attract stars like Ingrid Bergman, Gloria Swanson or Jean-Luc Godard to the first edition? This premiere was such a success that moviegoers quickly forgot the old film festival which Expo 67 had put an end to. This Montreal International Film Festival was founded to counter the censorship of cinema imposed by the government of Maurice Duplessis.


After this masterstroke, Losique had no trouble convincing the International Federation of Film Producers Associations that its festival should be competitive. Like that of Cannes, Berlin or Venice. He created the Grand Prix of the Americas and half a million moviegoers flooded downtown movie theaters each end of August during the 12 days leading up to Labor Day. Montreal became the Mecca of cinema in America.

Worried about seeing its subsidies spent by a man over whom it had no control, the Quebec government decided to impose a board of directors on it. As I was then president of the Institute of Cinema, I was asked to announce the news to Serge. Sensitive and guessing that he would take the matter badly, I decided to meet him at the office of the Institut along with Pierre Goyette, Deputy Minister of Finance. The tone rose so quickly between the two men that they came to blows almost immediately. I almost couldn’t separate them. The deputy minister left sheepishly and Losique continued to reign alone over the festival, which the state continued to fund.


Years later (in 2005), it was the turn of Liza Frulla, Minister of Heritage, and Line Beauchamp, Minister of Culture in Quebec, to want to stick Losique’s shoulders to the carpet. In agreement with almost the entire community, the two ministers offered on a silver platter (it is the case to say it) a new film festival to Alain Simard. He did not know the cinema, but he was one of the founders of the prosperous Jazz Festival. This “new” film festival “lived what roses live, for the space of a summer! As for the FFM, bloodless and penniless, it managed to survive.

The FFM passed away in 2018, abandoned by governments, beset by creditors and sued by Revenu Québec and SODEC, which had funded it for so long. Hundreds of moviegoers, including myself, have not yet mourned those days in August during which they were so happy to discover films from all over the world.

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