RIDM: Really Interesting Documentaries en Montréal!

Freelancers on the Front Lines

By Pat Mullen

Some really interesting documentaries are coming to Montreal! This week marks the return of Recontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal, alternatively named the Montreal International Documentary Festival, but everyone in the loop knows it best as RIDM. RIDM features a healthy line-up of docs this year, as it always does, including some notable premieres and hot titles from around the circuit.

The festival runs in Montreal November 10-20 and POV plans to have a number of writers on the ground covering the beat. Follow the POV RIDM Hub for complete coverage of docs screening at the festival, including reviews, profiles, and interviews for nearly 20 films that are already POV approved.

Here’s a preview of some of the RIDM highlights for the week to come:

Opening Night FilmFire at Sea
Dir. Gianfranco Rosi | Italy/France | 109 min.

One of the hottest docs on the festival circuit this year is Gianfranco Rosi’s Fire at Sea. The film is the Opening Night selection of RIDM after wowing festivalgoers since its premiere at Berlin where it won the Golden Bear for Best Film. The doc is a strikingly composed observation of life for the villagers on the Italian island of Lampedusa and the dangers that circle them in the surrounding sea. These troubled waters mean a new life for the thousands of migrants coming to Italy from Africa and Rosi’s stunning cinematography captures the harrowing journey for those who are fortunate to survive and for those who, tragically, do not. The film is Italy’s submission in the Best Foreign Language Film race at the Oscars and it’s a strong contender in the feature documentary category. (Read the POV review of Fire at Sea here.)

We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice
Dir. Alanis Obomsawin | Canada | 164 min.

When Marc Glassman notes in his introduction to the current cover story of POV that Alanis Obomsawin’s NFB doc We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice will play every major Canadian festival this fall, he isn’t kidding. The documentary master keeps on trucking across the Canadian film circuit and brings her essential new doc home to Montreal to screen as part of the Special Presentations programme. This film about activist/lawyer Cindy Blackstock, her fight for the rights of Indigenous children, and Canada’s legacy of Residential Schools belongs in the national archives. (Read Marc Glassman’s new interview with Alanis Obomsawin here.)

Hybrid Films

Any film festival worth its salt makes room for new and exciting docs that challenges audiences’ definitions of the medium. The RIDM selections Aim for the Roses and Nuts! do exactly that with their ingeniously wild, wacky, and playful hybridity. John Bolton’s Roses tells the bizarre but true story of a daredevil who jumped the St. Lawrence River in a rocket car and inspired a Vancouver-based double bass player to devise a conceptual album about the leap. The film is equally eccentric with its quasi-archival performance piece of music, dancing, interviews and madness. Lane’s Nuts!, on the other hand, drolly unpacks the lore of quack doctor John Romulus Brinkley, who claimed he could cure impotence by inserting goat testicles into the scrotums of flaccid men. (Sorry, boys, but it doesn’t work.) Using a mix of animation, archival footage, and a refreshingly liberal approach to factuality, Lane’s doc is nuts in the best possible ways. Lastly, Robert Greene’s acclaimed Kate Plays Christine in which actress Kate Lyn Sheil interprets the death of newscaster Christine Chubbuck, who committed suicide on air. The film finally gets its Canadian Premiere as part of RIDM’s International Feature Competition, which should be fascinating for doc fans who recently saw Rebecca Hall tackle the role in the drama Christine. (Read more about Aim for the Roses and Nuts! in the feature ‘Performing Documentary’.)

Canadian Feature Competition

As previously reported, this year’s competitive category for Canadian feature docs is very strong. The Canadian Feature Competition includes ten films and of the seven docs that have hit the pages of POVAngry Inuk, Gulîstan, Land of Roses, Living with Giants, Michael Shannon Michael Shannon John, The Prison in Twelve Landscapes, Quebec My Country Mon Pays, and The Stairs — all are worthy. The other three docs — Combat au bout de la nuit, Tales of Those Who Dreamt, and The Resurrection of Hassan — are challenging works that we look forward to catching and RIDM and future festivals. Any bets for the winner?


Film on Film

Movie geeks, rejoice! There are good docs to satisfy all one’s cinematic cravings at RIDM this year. The Special Presentations programme highlights include this year’s L’Œil d’or winner at Cannes, Cinema Novo. Eryka Rocha, son of acclaimed Cinema Novo pioneer Glauber Rocha directs this doc about the pivotal movement in Brazilian film. From landmark films like Entranced Earth, Macunaíma and Black God, White Devil, this doc charts the rise of the unique phase in filmmaking that took ownerships of impoverished aesthetics and a diverse landscape to create a distinct vision. Similarly, one sees an auteur’s audacity of vision in David Lynch: The Art Life, a portrait of the director of Mulholland Dr. and Blue Velvet from Rick Barnes, Jon Nguyen, and Olivia Neergaard-Holm, while Le Concours chronicles the competitive entry into one of France’s top film schools.

Cinema Novo – TRAILER from Meeting DocMontevideo on Vimeo.

Closing Night FilmFreelancer on the Front Lines
Dir. Santiago Bertolino | Canada | 97 min.

RIDM ends by fêting a new film from the NFB. Freelancer on the Front Lines follows Toronto-based freelance writer Jesse Rosenfeld as he travels to the Middle East capturing stories of revolution, violence, and change. Director Santiago Bertolino (Carré rouge sur fond noir) tracks Rosenfeld from pitch to publication and shows the dogged perseverance, devoted energy, and passionate courage one requires when entering politically volatile climates to tell a story. The film also gives a snapshot of the state of journalism in an age of click-bait, listicles, and memes that pass as “news”.

Freelancer on the Front Lines Trailer from NFB/marketing on Vimeo.

Please visit the POV RIDM Hub for complete coverage of this year’s festival.

RIDM runs Nov. 10-20. Visit RIDM.ca for more information.