POV Previews RIDM 2015

By Pat Mullen

The 2015 Recontres Internationales du Documentaire de Montréal (RIDM), aka the Montreal International Documentary Festival, returns to Montreal Nov. 12 for another festival of riches from the non-fiction front. RIDM offers a strong mix of Canadian and international documentaries with notable films from other festivals playing alongside showcase premieres. Here are some of the highlights at this year’s RIDM:

Les Vaillants

Opening Night Film – Les Vaillants
Dir. Pascal Sanchez | 2015 | Canada | 79 min.

Synopsis: A public housing development in Montreal’s Saint-Michel district. Intended as a counterpoint to the many (un)intentionally reductive reports about the infamous neighbourhood, this new film by Pascal Sanchez (La reine malade, RIDM 2010) is a long-term project, a proud example of a patient, humanist documentary tradition capable of revealing the essence of a place and its people. Filmed over the course of a year, Les vaillants is an immersion in a complex community as it copes with the daily challenges encountered by the volunteers and workers in its local associations. Full of funny, touching characters, the film is a lively salute to the people hard at work in the shadows, fighting every day to change lives for the better.

La jetée

A Photographer’s Eye

Adam Nayman previews a handful of documentaries screening at RIDM’s showcase A Photographer’s Eye. The programme, curated by Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky, highlights documentaries that centre on photographic images. “We began by looking at films by photographers we admire and then expanded outward into larger ideas about what constitutes films made by those with a photographer’s eye,” the filmmakers/curators said to POV. “We also felt it was important to include films that address what it means to capture a likeness.” The programme features classic films such as Chris Marker’s canonical ciné-roman La jetée (1962) along with contemporary photo docs like Khalik Allah’s Field Niggas (2015), Jem Cohen’s Counting (2015), and Ulrich Seidl’s Animal Love (1996). (Read the full feature here.)

Welcome to F.L.

Welcome to F.L.
Dir. Geneviève Dulude-De Celles | 2015 | Canada | 79 min.

A documentary film festival in Montréal demands a strong Québécois contingent, and one notable doc worth catching in the Canadian feature competition is Geneviève Dulude-De Celles’ first feature Welcome to F.L. This slice-of-life observational film lovingly captures life in the small town of Sorel-Tracy as the filmmaker revisits her old high-school and interviews students in the graduating class. POV spoke to Dulude-De Celles when the film premiered at TIFF in September. “Everybody’s talking about Québec or Montréal or bigger cities,” Dulude-De Celles said to POV. “When I went to Sorel-Tracy, everyone was asking ‘Why here?’, ‘Why this place?’ as if [the students] aren’t important or that nobody cares about them. I thought that it was a good beginning, just to be interested in a population we don’t usually see.” The filmmaker adds that Sorel-Tracy has particular cinematic qualities one doesn’t find in Montréal, and they lend themselves well to the timeless aesthetics of the observational scenes. (Read the full interview here.)


Dir. Mark Lewis | 2015 | Canada | 87 min.
Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton
Dir. Evan Johnson, Galen Johnson, Guy Maddin | 2015 | Canada | 31 min.

Two other TIFF highlights come to RIDM and these Canadian films are must-sees for anyone eager to see innovative experiments in documentary form. Mark Lewis’s NFB doc Invention demands comparison to Fred Wiseman and Terrence Malick with its sumptuously unconventional observation of life in Paris, Toronto, and Sao Paolo. Invention soars with lyrical cinematography as Lewis reinvents the city symphony film. Guy Maddin, on the other hand, reinvents the conventional “making of” documentary that populates Blu-ray bonus features with his defiantly funny doc Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton. This behind-the-scenes portrait of Paul Gross’s drama Hyena Road riotously interrogates the dynamics of national cinema and film funding that leave an acclaimed prolific auteur like Maddin playing a dead Afghan soldier in the background of the latest film from Canada’s “Prince of Populism.” Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton is strange and wonderful—and much better than the film it watches from behind the scenes.

The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Maddin

The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Maddin
Dir. Yves Montmayeur | 2015 | France | 66 min.

Speaking of Guy Maddin, Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton screens with the North American premiere of The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Maddin, a doc about the crazy Canuck filmmaker. Yves Montmayeur takes us inside Maddin’s head during production of The Forbidden Room and gains insight from the filmmaker and the cast and crew on the filmmaker’s creative process. The film reveals Maddin’s personal confessions, influences, and other arcana that makes his work unique. The film comes to RIDM after winning the Classici Award for Best Documentary on Cinema at the Venice Film Festival. (See film through the eyes of Mr. Maddin in his POV article on his doc My Winnipeg.)

The Cult of JT Leroy

The Cult of JT Leroy
Dir. Marjorie Sturm | 2015 | USA | 90 min.

A talking point at Hot Docs this year, The Cult of JT Leroy tackles fact and fiction with its revealing look at one of the literary scene’s greatest hoaxes. The film chronicles the mania and mystique of JT Leroy, a bogus author whose book Sarah chronciles the life of a teenage truckstop hustler that bleeds allegations into the author’s persona. Noelle Ella reviewed the film at Hot Docs and praised the film’s confrontation of deceit, manipulation, and betrayal: “The compelling dichotomy of “offended and fascinated” drives the deconstruction of who is JT Leroy? One confidant admits that it ‘destroys (the) faith you build over time.’ … It’s an analyst’s field day: brimming with projection and transference, Shadow and persona, relative truth and infinite lies. The power of emotional manipulation is staggering, and disturbing to observe.” (Read the full review here.)


Dir. Mia Donovan | 2015 | Canada | 86 min.

It’s worth making a double bill of The Cult of JT and Deprogrammed. Mia Donovan’s eye-opening film follows Ted “Black Lightning” Patrick, a “deprogrammer” of minds brainwashed by cults. Donovan boldly uses her own family as a case study, for her half-brother, Matthew, was deprogrammed by Patrick in the 1990s. Adam Nyman interviewed Donovan for POV and the directors memories of Patrick capture the tenuous legal and ethical balance his deprogrammed methods hold: “My memories of meeting Ted Patrick back then are bitter,” [Donovan] says, “because he convinced both my mom and Matthew’s dad to go through my room to take away any items that could trigger Matthew to return to the alleged Satanic cult. They took some of my books and records and even art work. I remember being very frustrated by that. And I remember thinking Ted and Matthew’s father were very misguided in terms of what they considered ‘Satanic’.” (Read the full article here.)

Of the North

Of the North
Dir. Dominic Gagnon | 2015 | Canada | 74 min.

Described as “a collage of amateur web videos that together provide a hallucinatory vision of the Arctic,” Dominic Gagnon’s latest film Of the North tackles the idea of self-representation. It’s one of a dozen films in the Canadian Feature Competition. The film, complete with snippets of throat singing and images of the Inuit and the north, examines self-perceptions of the Inuit in the digital age. Gagnon previously found inspiration in the web in his 2013 doc_ Hoax_Canular_, which riotously mines the Internet archives for footage of webcam confessional as the alleged doomsday of the 2012 Mayan prophecy came and went like Y2K. (Read more on Hoax_Canular in POV’s 2013 RIDM report.)

Olmo and the Seagull

Closing Night Film – Olmo and the Seagull
Dir. Petra Costa, Lea Glob | 2014 | Brazil/Denmark/France/Sweden | 87 min.

Synopsis: For more than ten years, OIivia has led an actress’s bohemian life at the Théâtre du Soleil in Paris, where she met her boyfriend, Serge. Their relationship is now transformed by Olivia’s pregnancy, which prevents her from performing in Chekhov’s The Seagull and forces her to confront her deepest fears. As complex and intense emotions dominate the last six months of her pregnancy, and the couple’s love is put to the test, the two artists turn to a game combining fiction and documentary, sharing their daily lives filled with doubt, worry, and joy. The filmmakers, Brazilian director Petra Costa and Danish director Lea Glob, create an inspired hybrid work in which life and imagination are one and the same, fragile and luminous in equal measure.

RIDM runs Nov. 12 – 22.
Please visit http://www.ridm.qc.ca/en for more information.