Maidy Teitelbaum, the founding president of the Cinemania Film Festival, will be recognized by France for her contribution to the promotion of French cinema, with its Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres award.
The Nov. 7 ceremony in Montreal will be presided over by French Consul General Laurence Haguenauer.
The announcement was made during the unveiling of the program for the 23rd annual Cinemania film festival, which runs from Nov. 2-12. The festival screens recent French-language films, mostly from France, with English subtitles.
“I’m personally very touched by the award,” said Teitelbaum, who founded the festival in 1995 and remains its president. “This distinction is a wonderful confirmation and recognition to Cinemania and its cultural vision, to our devoted public, to those who support and sponsor our festival and to our dedicated team.
“I regard the award as a most encouraging sign for the ongoing success of Cinemania.”
A lifelong cinephile, Teitelbaum was inspired to create Cinemania after attending the weeklong Sarasota French Film Festival in Florida.
In its inaugural year, Cinemania was a modest affair, consisting of five days of screenings at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. By 2006, it had grown so much that the venue had to be changed to the larger Imperial Cinema. Last year, the festival had a record 28,000 attendees.
This year, Cinemania presents 79 screenings of 54 films – of which 45 are either Quebec, Canadian, North American or world premieres – primarily at the Imperial, but also at the Cinémathèque Québécoise and Cinéma du Parc.
Over its history, Cinemania has screened over 700 films and welcomed 450 filmmakers and artists as guests.
In 2006, Teitelbaum was decorated with France’s Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres “for her exceptional and dynamic contribution in illuminating French culture, both in France and throughout the world.”
It was heady stuff for an anglophone Montrealer, whose grasp of French was not as good when she started the festival, as it is today.
Almost every edition of Cinemania has included at least one film on a Jewish theme. Of particular interest in this year’s lineup is the Canadian premier of Malik Chibane’s The Children of Chance.
The dramatic comedy is based on the true wartime story of Maurice Grosman. As a 13-year-old in July 1942, he was hospitalized in Paris with a broken leg. The injury turned out to be a stroke of luck, because it allowed him to escape the fate of thousands of Jews who were deported to Auschwitz after the infamous Vélodrome d’Hiver roundup.
A friendly doctor extended his stay by diagnosing him with tuberculosis of the bone. The story centres on the friendships that formed between the boy and other children on the ward.
Grosman, who would go on to be a well-known fashion retailer, published his autobiography under the title, N’habite plus à l’adresse indiquée.
Elsewhere, Israeli-born Natalie Portman co-stars in Planetarium, a French-Belgian production directed by Rebecca Zlotowski, as one of two spiritualist American sisters in 1930s Paris. The adventurous pair’s dreams of making it big as mediums are dashed as Europe descends into war.
Cinemania will pay tribute to French director and producer Michel Hazanavicius, who’s best known for his 2011 movie, The Artist, which won five Academy Awards, including best picture and best director.
Hazanavius, who will be at the festival, was born into a Jewish family of Lithuanian origin in Paris, in 1967.
Hazanavicius’s new film, Redoubtable, which depicts legendary director Jean-Luc Godard’s heyday in the turbulent 1960s and was in official competition at the Cannes Film Festival in May, will be shown for the first time in Quebec. He will introduce the film at the Nov. 3 screening at the Imperial and participate in a number of other events during Cinemania.
Four of his films, including The Artist, will be shown in a retrospective at the Cinémathèque. A new documentary about him is also scheduled.