My journey to the Montreal World Film Festival has become an annual spiritual retreat. Here citizens stand in long lines to pick up tickets to a sold-out Chinese film at 10:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning. Critics, flashing their media passes, know to arrive early and head for the balcony at the Cinema Imperial because ticket-holders quickly fill up the main floor. There is no popcorn here; and this year not even coffee in the lobby between showings, only bottled water.
A spiritual retreat? When one of the films deals with a drug-addicted mother who loves her daily hit more than her children? Yes, because films at their best probe the depths of life in ways that conventional religious activities too often avoid. This is the case with Protection, a Canadian film by Bruce Spangler which evokes compassion while depicting a world that doesn’t offer unambiguous answers.