The theme for the fifth annual M60 – Montréal 60 Second Film Festival – was “Faux Pas.” 85 films were submitted this year and screened on three consecutive evenings at Cinéma Excentris last weekend. Since its founding in 2008, the festival has been open to both amateur and professional filmmakers. While both the aesthetic and content quality of the films has greatly improved over the years, each year’s collection of films represents a true Montreal time capsule, featuring social, political, cultural, and aesthetic transformations of the city.
The city of Montreal, its landmarks, monuments, its neighbourhoods, its cafes, and its people are the key protagonists of the majority of films. From Canal Lachine to the Mile End, from the Tam Tams to La Ronde, from the top of Mont Royal to Park St. Viateur, from Place des Arts to Square St. Louis the city is often the common denominator in many of the one-minute films.
While not all filmmakers adhere to the suggested theme for the year, many choosing to keep their films abstract, some took it as an opportunity to play on words, puns, and linguistic and situational ironies, while others presented quite literal examples of common socially unacceptable behaviours.
Several of this year’s films reflected on the Montreal student demonstrations and the red square symbol of the protests. Whether exposing multiple ironies or simply trying to document the city’s unrest, the films managed to represent a historically and culturally significant view of what Montreal inhabitants have on their minds in 2012.
Each year’s theme is announced at the M60 launch party in mid-July, after which filmmakers have exactly one month to shoot, edit, and submit their films. The creative team of volunteers who organize the festival includes: Raphaëlle Aubin, Toby Harper, Doug Hollingworth, Lily Lanken, Sylvan Lanken, Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet, and Sean Michaels. French translation is done by Valérie Habra.
I asked the group to tell me more about their festival:
How did you guys come up with the idea for a 60 sec. film festival?
Sean Michaels: A handful of us stayed up late after a lunar eclipse, dreaming up activities we could do together. “A film!” someone said, and before long we were talking about each making a short film, to share with one-another. At that point somehow we skipped forward to the notion that the whole city of Montreal should shoot a short film, and M60 was born. Honestly I think the one-minute idea had more to do with the catchiness of the “M60″ moniker than anything else.
Doug Hollingworth: The idea was to do a film comprised of one-minute films, then from that came the idea of a festival.
What changes have you observed over the years in the films, filmmakers, or the audiences?
Sean Michaels: Our first festival, in 2008, was a modest DIY thing full of friends and friends-of-friends. Now it’s a splendid crowd of strangers, an insane mash-up of Montreal’s dreamers and demographics.
Lily Lanken: The level of filmmaking has seriously evolved. People are no longer using cell phones (though I think lo-tech is cool) and now have films that are quite developed, stylistically, visually and script wise. But the festival is all about allowing both good and crap filmmaking together!
What role do you think Montreal plays in the films?
Sean Michaels: I think of it as the filmmakers’ patron, lending its riches.
What role do you think the M60 Festival plays in Montreal?
Sean Michaels: A stage (or, ok, a screen) for those who didn’t realize they’d ever get the chance to have one; and a catalyst for Montrealers to get creative, finally, holy-shit-I-got-around-to-it.
How do you see the festival develop in the future?
Lily Lanken: It would be amazing if other towns and cities could have spinoff fests. Like if we could franchise the festival while keeping it independent and democratic then our whole idea could live on in other places. We certainly couldn’t start another one ourselves unless we started making money somehow!
Doug Hollingworth: Hopefully bigger and better but always with the same heart. That we become a staple of the Montreal festival scene and that we get more and more diverse and daring films.
How do you pick the topics / themes each year?
Sean Michaels: Hours of argument. We want to choose themes that are intriguing, relatively bilingual, and which will look good on a poster. It’s best if they will inspire a variety of film genres and approaches.
Valérie Habra: If I may add, the themes are bilingual (not just relatively).
How would you describe the film and film-making scene in Montreal?
Doug Hollingworth: In my personal opinion the Montreal filmmaking scene has some of the most talented people in the industry. Let’s be honest, without Quebec filmmakers most of the world wouldn’t be aware of Canadian cinema outside of the films of David Cronenberg. That isn’t a slight against the rest of the country just a fact that Quebecers support their own artists and I think the rest of the Canadian film industry has a hard time competing for attention against Hollywood. And many of these films being made come out of Montreal. I’d like to see more bilingual films being produced in and about this city in the future.
Did you ever have to reject a film entry? If so, why?
Sean Michaels: Not as far as I recall.
What are your objectives and goals with the festival?
Sean Michaes: Give people a reason and a way to make something for themselves & their city.
Doug Hollingworth: Our objective is to give everyone who had ever wanted to make a film a chance to do so.
This article is also published at CULT Montreal.