Founded in 1981 by René Rozon, under the aegis of UNESCO’s International Council for Film, Television and Audiovisual Communication, and sponsored by the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, the International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA) became an autonomous organization in 1983, when it formed its own board of directors. The first edition of FIFA lasted five days and screened 50 films from 12 countries at the Cinémathèque québécoise. By 1992, there were 150 films from 24 countries, and in 2003, 254 films were presented in eight theatres over an 11-day period. For its 25th anniversary, FIFA organized an international colloquium on films on art, bringing together experts from all over the world, and premièred Découvertes du Film sur l’Art, with support from the Conseil des arts de Montréal en tournée program. In 2011, the first edition of its International Market of Films on Art was held in conjunction with the festival. Firmly established at presentation sites in Québec and abroad, FIFA presents programming year-round in Québec and across Canada, including at the McCord Museum, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, and the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, as well as in France (Paris and Tourcoing), the United Kingdom (London), and the United States (Washington, DC).
The festival was directed by its founder from 1981 to 2015, and by Natalie McNeil in 2016 and 2017. In 2018, there was a changing of the guard at the head of the organization, with the appointment of Philippe U. del Drago as executive and artistic director. After 35 years, this change of direction marked the beginning of a new era for the International Festival of Films on Art, which is carrying on a tradition and a cultural heritage but opening up to new artistic horizons.
Every year, the festival’s selection reflects the quality and diversity of worldwide production. Its main activity consists of organizing a competition festival, recognized as the largest in the world in its field. FIFA is a non-profit organization that has presented almost 5,000 films from 77 countries and awarded more than 400 prizes since its first edition.
1981: Founded by René Rozon, founder and former artistic director. The organization is supported by UNESCO and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal.
1984: FIFA leaves government guardianship and achieves total autonomy.
1984: 75 films presented at two screening sites.
1985: 100 films presented at three screening sites.
1990: For the first time, the festival attracts productions from more than 20 countries. For its 8th edition, more than 140 films from 23 countries are presented at four screening sites.
1992: 10th anniversary – More than 150 films from 24 countries are presented at five screening sites. First tour of award winners to the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (Québec City).
1994: The 12th edition of the festival presents 123 films from 26 countries at six screening sites.
1995: First tour of award winners to the Finnish National Gallery in Helsinki.
1995: First tour of award winners to the Musée du Louvre in Paris.
1996: First tour of award winners to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.
1998: First tour of award winners to New York (various sites over the years: Anthology Film Archives, Donnell Media Center, Dahesh Museum of Art, Paley Center for Media, Morgan Library, New York Public Library, AIA Center for Architecture, Lincoln Center).
2000: FIFA is awarded the Grand Prix du Conseil des arts de Montréal. Première of the Matinées du Film sur l’Art: presentation, in the fall, of award winners at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
2002: 20th anniversary – Presentation of 205 films from 29 countries at eight screening sites. First tour of award winners to the Studio national des arts contemporains – Le Fresnoy, in Tourcoing, France.
2003: A total of 254 films were presented over 11 days in eight theatres in FIFA's annual programming.
2004: The festival officially expands from 6 to 11 days.
2005: Creation of the Vidéothèque (video library) for film industry professionals. Première of Découvertes du Film sur l’Art, as part of the Conseil des Arts de Montréal en tournée program.
2006: First tour of award winners to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
2007: 25th anniversary and Colloque international du film sur l’art, bringing together experts from all over the world.
2009: The festival adds a ninth screening site. First tour of films on architecture and design to the Center for Architecture of the American Institute of Architecture in New York.
2011: First edition of the International Market of Films on Art (MIFA).
2016: Appointment of Natalie McNeil as executive director.
2018: Appointment of Philippe U. del Drago as executive and artistic director.
2018: FIFA expands its footprint to the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec in Québec City.
2020: For its 38th edition, FIFA was the first film festival in the Americas (and the second in the world) to successfully migrate online during the COVID-19 pandemic.
2020: FIFA celebrates the 30th anniversary of its presence at the National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C., USA).