FIFA – rejuvenated and better than ever

March 8, 2018

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North America's only festival of its kind, the International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA), March 8 to 18, has always been about bringing people together.

The 36th annual festival marks the beginning of a new technology-driven era and the arrival of a new executive director, Philippe U. Del Drago, who spoke to us about his ambition of taking the event's community focus to a new level, making the festival a natural home for all artistic professionals and anyone who loves art.

You have a filmmaking background, having worked as a producer and documentary director before taking the helm at the FIFA. How does your experience inform your approach to your new role?

Human stories have always been at the core of my work. I've documented the everyday life of a trans woman in Havana, of Tibetan refugees in India, and of people who defend sacred natural sites in Europe. I've also made portraits of artists, so I've experienced the creative process that the FIFA explores. The festival's mission is to reveal what's inside the minds of artists - the men and women who make culture. In other words, it's a very enriching human mission.

Where do you plan to lead the FIFA in the next few years?

Artists often work in silos, with each discipline off doing its own thing. The FIFA wants to bring artists together by demystifying the common denominator shared by all art forms: how does the human mind create new things?

I want to bring together all these artists, as well as professionals from Montreal's cultural and creative economy, to make the FIFA a gathering for everyone who loves the arts, including the public. I want everyone to get together during the event and spark new creative projects with each other. Despite all the technology we have at our fingertips, it always takes in-person connections to make new projects happen.

Today, people are asking a lot of questions about how technology affects creativity. The Quartier des Spectacles has some expertise in that area, because technology and creativity are involved in all your projects. In painting, an artist might find a new pigment that can enhance the work of other artists. Examining the process that led to the discovery helps reveal the recipe, so that others can use the pigment in their work. What's interesting in digital art is that those kinds of "recipes" don't exist yet. And that's why we need festivals like FIFA - to demystify the creative process, and draw inspiration from it.

Music is a major theme for the FIFA this year. How are you showcasing it?

Our programming director, Anita Hugi, had the brilliant idea of focusing on a different art form each year. Everyone knows Montreal is a very musical city, so there will be a considerable number of films about music this year, including a tribute to Idéale Audience, a highly regarded production company from France. One noteworthy guest is Mathieu Amalric, who will present his two most recent films, one about a Canadian orchestra conductor and the other about jazz musician John Zorn. There'll also be a conversation with Kent Nagano, music director of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, who's profiled in a documentary by Nadja Frenz.

Megalodemocrat: The Public Art of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer opens the festival. How did you choose that film for opening night?

When the director, Benjamin Duffield, submitted his film we all just loved it! We want Montrealers to know all about Rafael, who's a Mexican-Canadian artist who lives here. Megalodemocrat: The Public Art of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is also representative of the FIFA's renewal, because Rafael uses technology to create bonds between people. The film was shot over the course of ten years in 25 cities around the world, so it is an in-depth look at a multimedia artist's process, which is still a rare subject for a film about art. It's a compelling film for up-and-coming artists, as proven by our sales numbers.

Do you think that technology is going to become a central topic for films about art over the next few years?

Definitely! The FIFA needs to give a clear indication of what kind of project we're interested in, which will ensure that films counting on us for a platform will get seen. Montreal is truly a goldmine of digital project.

A good example of the kind of film that interests us is Liminality, an immersive dance work that will have its world premiere under the dome at the SAT (Society for Art and Technology). It brings together contemporary dance, live music and 360-degree cinematography.

International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA)
March 8 to 18, 2018