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Fest reels in filmmakers by merging pic showcase.

MONTREAL The Just for Laughs Comedy Festival long has been one of the prime events on the continent for showcasing performers. Now, organizers are hoping the fest can play a similar role for filmmakers.

While the Montreal event has been in the movie game for several years, most notably with its Eat My Shorts! short-film program, the motion picture component took a major step forward last year when Just for Laughs merged with Fantasia, a Montreal genre-film fest. At the same time, the comedy festival inaugurated Comedia, a sidebar of comic features.

"We want to develop a marketplace for comedic films," says Bruce Hills, chief operating officer of Just for Laughs. "It's definitely a place where we think we can grow and benefit the event. We're always looking for ways to expand without hitting the same note or cannibalizing ourselves.

"We know feature comedies are not a priority for other ... festivals. It'll be our only priority."

(The U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colo., touts a Film Discovery Program that focuses on comedy features and shorts.)

Big-time buzz

Comedia, which includes 12 features this year, will have its profile upped considerably thanks to a couple of significant premieres. The big one is "Osmosis Jones," the Warner Bros. release that will have its world preem in Montreal. The pic is a mix of live action and animation directed by the Farrelly brothers (the animation was helmed by Piet Kroon and Tom Sito). Pic stars Bill Murray and Molly Shannon, and features the voices of Chris Rock, Laurence Fishburne and David Hyde Pierce.

Comedia also has nabbed the Canadian premiere of Bill Plympton's out-there animation feature "Mutant Aliens" and the North American premiere of the hit French comedy sequel "La Verite si je mens! 2" (Would I Lie to You? 2), which sold 7.8 million tickets in France earlier this year.

Other pics on the Laughs sked include Kid in the Hall Dave Foley's docu "Kids in the Hall: Same Guys, New Dresses"; new Quebec vampire spoof "K2"; the much hyped cross-dressing Thai volleyball pic "Iron Ladies"; and "Dean Quixote," an indie pic from "Swingers" producer Victor Simpkins.

Blending the comedy fest and Fantasia makes for an ideal fit, says Jean Guerin, artistic director of Comedia and Eat My Shorts!

"There's great talent and ideas and cutting-edge hipness to Fantasia, which Just for Laughs needs a bit more of, and what Just for Laughs has is this wonderful machine of promoting and bringing industry here," says Guerin. "The two complete themselves beautifully and there's a wonderful symbiotic relationship that can grow from that."

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Title Annotation:goals of the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Canada
Author:KELLY, BRENDAN
Publication:Variety
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jul 16, 2001
Words:433
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