Brownstein: 29th Cinemania film fest launches with explosive courtroom drama

The Goldman Case deals with events from 1976, but its issues of racism resonate today with the alarming rise of the far right.

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Cinemania managing director Guilhem Callard was determined to open the fest’s 29th edition with a film that related to its core values, one that would address issues of racism and tolerance. And he has done just that with the explosive courtroom drama The Goldman Case (Le Procès Goldman), director Cédrik Kahn’s take on the landmark trial that shook France nearly 50 years ago.

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The Goldman Case kicks off Cinemania on Wednesday night at the Imperial cinema. Running until Nov. 12, the festival will showcase over 100 films from around the French-speaking world at six downtown venues.

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And true to its mandate as set out by now-retired founder Maidy Teitelbaum, all Cinemania offerings are presented with English subtitles.

“This is a festival that is open to all the communities of Montreal, which is especially important these days,” Callard says. “Let’s also remember that the first community that supported Cinemania was the anglophone community of Montreal. Thanks to this community, the festival is where it is today.

“The (English subtitles aspect to the festival) is in our DNA.”

While Teitelbaum’s mission had originally been to build bridges in trying to make anglos aware of the francophone film world, Cinemania has also increased awareness among franco and allophone communities of strides being made abroad.

This year’s festival will also shine a light on the local film scene in, among other presentations, the Nov. 7 screening of Xavier Legrand’s thriller Le successeur, a French/Canadian/Belgian co-production that was predominantly shot in Montreal and features such Québécois stalwarts as Marc-André Grondin, Anne-Élisabeth Bossé, Yves Jacques and Vincent Leclerc.

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The Films of Quebec competition pays tribute to movies partially or entirely made in the province. Of the eight features being presented are Delphine Girard’s Venice-fest winner Quitter la nuit; Henri Pardo’s Toronto-fest winner Kanaval; and the world première of Nathalie Saint-Pierre’s Sur la terre comme au ciel.

This edition of Cinemania will give Switzerland its due with an array of features and shorts accompanied by guests and events. Tribute will also be paid to veteran Canadian/Swiss filmmaker Léa Pool.

This year’s Cinemania Pro seminar series will focus on franco artistic communities in the Yukon, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. The Office québécois de la langue française will also partake in the series, providing its overview of the use of French in the province’s workplaces.

Cinemania’s film highlights include Léa Domenach’s Bernadette, the first biopic of France’s former first lady, Bernadette Chirac, starring the incomparable Catherine Deneuve; Michel Gondry’s dramedy The Book of Solutions (Le Livre des solutions), featuring — yes — Sting, and first presented at the Directors’ Fortnight of the 2023 Cannes Film Festival; and the comedy Making Of, another offering from director Kahn.

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Cinemania’s closing film Nov. 12 marks the North American première of the highly touted political satire Second Tour. The film’s director, Albert Dupontel, has cast himself in the lead role as the frontrunner in France’s presidential campaign, while Cécile de France leaps into the fray as a — shocking — disreputable journalist.

The Goldman Case, also presented at Cannes’s 2023 Directors’ Fortnight, may deal with events of 1976, but its issues of racism resonate today with the alarming rise of far-right political movements throughout the world.

“Sadly, there really hasn’t been much change on that front in France as well as in many other countries,” says Kahn, holding court at the Cinemania base in the Sofitel Hotel. “It’s the same bad actors still running things in many countries.”

The film — which, following its festival debut, opens Friday at Montreal theatres — focuses on the second trial of French left-wing activist Pierre Goldman. Goldman had been sentenced to life imprisonment the year before for four armed robberies of French drugstores, one of which resulted in the deaths of two pharmacists.

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Goldman (mesmerizingly played by Arieh Worthalter) doesn’t deny his complicity in the robberies but pleads his innocence in the case of the two murders. In so doing, he accuses police of corruption and antisemitism, with the broad support of French intellectuals who feel he has been railroaded. Making matters more dicey is the tangled relationship Goldman has with his lead lawyer, fearing his client’s provocative courtroom demeanour could result in a death sentence.

Credit director Kahn (Une vie meilleure and Fête de famille) for creating such intensity, all within what could have been a most static setting, a single courtroom.

“This is definitely not a typical setting for most French films,” Kahn notes. “My background is more literary. It also helps to have such an outspoken character like Goldman. He put himself out there.”

Although the film has garnered glowing reviews since Cannes and its October theatrical opening in France, Kahn wasn’t exactly met with open arms by producers when he first got involved with the project, nearly 20 years ago.

“It was quite the opposite. I’m not a commercial filmmaker, but I had the same conviction in making this film as Goldman had in making his case. I was totally committed to getting it done, yet I never thought that something which took place so long ago would work like it has. It’s been unbelievable.”

The 29th Cinemania film festival runs till Nov. 12 at six downtown venues. For tickets and information, visit 

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