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Raymond Zhou: Montreal Journal, August 25

Updated: 2013-08-26 11:59
By Raymond Zhou (

Raymond Zhou: Montreal Journal, August 25

Montreal World Film Festival president Serge Losique on his farm.[Photo by Raymond Zhou/China Daily]

August 25, 2013

When Serge Losique mentions Zhang Yimou, he uses the term “my brother,” which is eerily reminiscent of the Beijing street language for buddies. He saw “Yellow Earth” as early as 1984, and in Xi’an. “The story is nothing new,” he recalls, “but the camerawork is amazingly inventive. Who is the cinematographer for this? I asked. They told me it’s by someone named Zhang Yimou. So, I asked for a meeting with him. Right there in Xi’an.”

Losique is among the earliest international film festival programmers who “discovered” China’s Fifth Generation. The president of the Montreal World Film Festival later invited Chen Kaige, director of “Yellow Earth,” to be a juror. He also held a retrospective for Zhang Yimou.

He even predicted, accurately, the rise of actor Wang Xueqi, who was on the jury panel in Montreal last year. “When I first saw him in ‘Yellow Earth,’ I noticed him instantly. He has such a strong presence on screen.” I told him that Wang did not become a star until more than 20 years later, in another of Chen’s movies “Forever Enthralled.”

Losique founded the Montreal World Film Festival in 1977, in his words, “to take advantage of the time vacated by the Venice Film Festival,” which was put in suspension during 1977-78. His relationship with China goes back almost as long. He can rattle off a list of veteran or emerging Chinese filmmakers as if they were all his cousins. In 2005, he produced a documentary called “East Meets West on the Silk Road,” which was also shown on Chinese TV.

Losique jokingly calls himself “the last Maoist standing.” He loves to joke around. On the opening ceremony of this year’s festival, he came on stage and joked about US President Barack Obama’s name and his gradually whitening hair. “Barack in French means a hut, and with the changing of his hair color he’ll turn the black house into a true white house.” I did not quite get the humor because it was told in French, but the house erupted into laughter.

Losique watches hundreds of new movies submitted from all over the world. Even though new technologies have enabled the submission via the Internet, he still prefers to travel overseas. As he puts it, it makes a difference watching a Chinese movie in an authentic Chinese setting.

He also has strong opinions about many Chinese directors. Last year he designated “Million Dollar Crocodile” as the opening film and was met with some audience displeasure. “They thought it’s a commercial film, but it is a parody of ‘Jurassic Park,’ a point they missed,” he said. Unlike most European curators, he believes Feng Xiaogang, wildly popular in China, is greatly underrated. For example, he loves “A World Without Thieves.” “Europeans don’t know anything,” he laughs.


Raymond Zhou: Montreal Journal, August 25

Raymond Zhou: Montreal Journal, August 25

Raymond Zhou: Montreal Journal, August 25

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