The Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM) is proud to unveil the full program for its 26th edition, which will take place from November 15 to 26, 2023. With a selection of 138 films from 47 countries as well as several free discussions and activities, the festival continues to serve as a major event for auteur documentary cinema.
RIDM is staying true to its mission: to bring together films from established directors and new talents who are yet to be discovered. Approximately 40 emerging filmmakers will thus present their first or second works. The festival is also thrilled to welcome 26 international filmmakers and to showcase the achievements of documentary filmmakers from near and far.
The nine films in the International Feature Competition showcase emerging works that tap into the many possibilities of documentary. In exploring virtual universes, Knit’s Island by Ekiem Barbier, Guilhem Causse and Quentin L'helgoualc'h captures the daily lives of survivalists and draws us into a larger-than-life video game, and Notes from Eremocene by Viera Čákanyová prompts an important reflection about digital technologies.
The reality of women is explored in Mambar Pierrette by Rosine Mbakam, which follows the daily life of a Cameroonian woman as she tries to provide for her son. Also, in Motherland by Hanna Badziaka and Alexander Mihalkovich, which presents the perspective of grieving mothers living under a regime of military terror in Belarus; in Malqueridas by Tana Gilbert, which used videos secretly shot by incarcerated mothers, to give a voice to women separated from their children and condemned to oblivion; as well as in This Woman by Alan Zhang, which considers the many challenges women face in present-day China.
The theme of resilience is at the heart of Boubacar Sangaré‘s documentary A Golden Life, which paints an edifying portrait of youths in Burkina Faso working in the gold mining industry, and Crowrā (The Buriti Flower) by João Salaviza and Renée Nader Messora, which bears witness to stories of resistance of the Krahô people, while A House for Wandering Souls by Pablo Lago Dantas explores dueling desires: the visceral need to discover another world and that of preserving traditions.
National Feature Competition
The six films in the National Feature Competition highlight bold approaches by Canadian filmmakers and the issues of concern to them. Exploring the theme of relationships, Mà Sài Gòn (Mother Saigon) by Khoa Lê celebrates the ties that bind members of the Vietnamese queer community in their quest for love and belonging; while Journal d’un père by Claude Demers offers a heartfelt meditation on fatherhood; and While the Green Grass Grows, an excerpt from Peter Mettler’s seven-chapter film diary, underscores the fragility of relationships and the depth of human bonds. Peter Mettler will also deliver a master class (November 19) to discuss his singular methodology.
Against a backdrop of political turmoil, Silent House by Farnaz Jurabchian and Mohammadreza Jurabchian offers an intimate foray into a Tehran home, where the story of a three-generation Iranian family is interwoven with the country’s political upheavals; in the same vein as his previous film Dark Suns, Julien Elie’s La garde blanche reveals a regime of terror and violence that reigns with impunity in Mexico; while Justine Harbonnier’s Caiti Blues introduces us to a young singer striving to succeed and fulfill her dreams in a Trump-era America where society seems to be failing miserably.
New Visions Competition
The three films selected in the New Visions Competition are debut features. From the perspective of manual workers in Khuzestan in Iran, Meezan by Shahab Mihandoust explores the relationship to place in a post-war and post-industrialized world. Experimental documentary Feet in Water, Head on Fire by Terra Long takes us on a hypnotic, sensory and evocative journey to California’s Coachella Valley, where date palms have forged its identity. Silvicola by Jean-Philippe Marquis profiles the women and men working closely with thousand-year-old trees, as they speak with urgency and clear-sightedness about their connection with these endangered giants.
International Short and Medium-Length Competition
This year’s International Short and Medium-Length Competition features 15 films. Five of these tackle identity-related themes: Matthew Thorne’s Marungka tjalatjunu (Dipped in Black), co-directed with Derik Lynch, about a queer Yankunytjatjara artist who returns to his community to recharge his batteries and seek spiritual renewal, and Loving in Between by Jyoti Mistry, a striking experimental work that celebrates queer love and eroticism by drawing on a wealth of film archives. Also in Quiet as it’s Kept by Ja'Tovia Gary, inspired by Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye, an exploration of the daily lives of Black women in the US; Four Holes by Daniela Muñoz Barroso, a sensitive portrait tinged with humour that acts as an ode to encounters, to imagination and to the small joys of doing things your own way; and Self-Portrait Along the Borderline by Anna Dziapshipa, which digs into archives in an attempt to make sense of an identity that straddles the border separating Abkhazia and Georgia.
Five short films reflect on the living universe. The Secret Garden by Nour Ouayda documents the sudden appearance of various plant species, raising many questions about their origins and, above all, their intentions. Last Things by Deborah Stratman proposes a singular exploration of evolution, extinction and the future from the perspective of minerals. Aqueronte by Manuel Muñoz Rivas observes passengers on a ferry ride. Elefsina Notre Amour by Mahdi Fleifel explores the unusual landscape of a mysterious ship graveyard in the heart of the Mediterranean, also inviting us to reflect on the human condition. Vision of Paradise by Leonardo Pirondi compares the exploratory voyages of the fifteenth century with the ambitions of virtual reality, suggesting that both aim to expand reality.
Human catastrophes are laid bare in the films Smoke of the Fire by Daryna Mamaisur, which juxtaposes fragments of her war-torn Ukraine with childlike images from the books she uses to learn Portuguese; Nocturne for a Forest by Catarina Vasconcelos, which reclaims a forest once off-limits to women, reimagining it from the perspective of those who were burned at the stake; and Locus Cordis by Alhasan Yousef, who conveys in a non-linear, sensory approach, his anguish and powerlessness in light of the fate of his native Syria. The reality of the Middle East is also tackled more intimately in Mast-del by Maryam Tafakory, in which two women meet and one recounts the memory of a rendezvous with a man in Tehran; and Ever Since, I Have Been Flying by Aylin Gökmen, which delves into the personal stories of a 60-year-old Kurdish man, shifting from fond memories of loved ones to the recollection of violent events.
National Short and Medium-Length Competition
Of the 14 films presented in the National Short and Medium-Length Competition, some prominently feature a variety of art forms. The Dismantling of Baveuse City by Chloé Pilon Vaillancourt proposes a musical deep-dive into the introspective creative process of Montreal rapper Marie-Gold. Jill, Uncredited by Anthony Ing pays tribute to those who have always remained in the background via a collage of excerpts from over 50 years of film and television. Shot on 16mm, Somehow Continue by Karl Lemieux takes a creative look at the lead-up to an outdoor performance by choreographer Dana Gingras. Let the Red Moon Burn by Ralitsa Doncheva immerses us in an ancestral tradition of fire dancing celebrated every summer in Bulgaria. Nature also takes center stage in Peter Hošták’s Cold and Dark, which focuses on a small group of Slovakian loggers and Kubo, their workhorse. Immortelles by Mark Durand combines poetic narration by artist Bettina Szabo with haunting images of nature. Procès verbal by Matthew Wolkow sets his camera on the lively nest of a family of blue jays as it springs to life in this singular work of animal experimentation, boasting humour and procedural poetry of astounding beauty.
Certain films in this section revisit the past to better make sense of the present. Based on commissioned films produced between 1920 and 1970, Holiday Native Land by Nicolas Renaud and Brian Virostek offers an interpretation of the colonial imagination in which the archival footage’s violence resonates with the present. Four Mile Creek by Ryan McKenna uses re-enactments, archives and interviews to spark discussion among the family members of a woman who died of smallpox in the early twentieth century. In Ella Morton’s The Great Kind Mystery, Inuk and Mi’kmaq artist Amy Hull evokes the complexity of her relationship to nostalgia and to her native land through childhood stories accompanied by Super 8 and 16mm images. In L’artifice by Isabelle Grignon-Francke, which is set against the backdrop of the carnival and its tribulations, the whirl of rides mirrors Kim’s state of mind as the young Québécois carnival worker mulls over his future.
The family is the focal point of Nine Easy Dances by Nora Rosenthal, a series of short vignettes of family life suffused with laughter and tenderness, punctuated by the chaos of filming and the unknowns of an aging household; as well as Orpheus by Malaika Shostakovich and Mustafa Uzuner, a film imbued with the patient gaze of a brother and sister who invite us to rethink everyday life at the pace of Jonny, their brother living with cerebral palsy and autism spectrum disorder; and Outside Center by Eli Jean Tahchi, which reveals the challenges that team sports can represent for marginalized communities.
The five films that make up the Essentials section consist of the latest works by veteran directors as well as the festival circuit’s most talked-about films. Wang Bing returns to the festival with Youth (Spring), screened in Official Selection at Cannes, which takes an unfiltered look into the lives of young workers in the textile factories of Zhili, China. Moving across the globe, The Echo by Tatiana Huezo, winner of the Berlinale’s Best Director and Best Documentary prizes in the Encounters category, offers a sensitive immersion from a child’s point of view into a daily life shaped by nature and tradition in the village of El Eco, Mexico. Another portrait of youth, Lea Glob’s Apolonia, Apolonia, which has already won many prizes including the Best Documentary Feature Award at IDFA, is the culmination of more than ten years of work, capturing the singular world of Apolonia Sokol and the emergence of a resilient and unshakeable artistic identity.
Through the sincere plea of one forensic doctor, Pure Unknown by Valentina Cicogna and Mattia Colombo, which took home a prize at Visions du Réel, is an investigation into the deaths of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, revealing the negligence of an entire system. Exposing the contradictions between two neighbouring worlds, Fauna by Pau Faus juxtaposes an animal testing lab with the meditative daily life of a shepherd.
Against the Grain
The 10 films selected for the Against the Grain section represent daring works that challenge our perceptions of the world and cinema. Four of these films focus on an artistic theme, underlining its importance in our daily lives. In Still Film by James N. Kienitz Wilkins; New World! (The World Anew) by Nicolas Klotz and Elisabeth Perceval; and In Praise of Shadows by Catherine Martin, the art of cinema is a central feature, while Olivier Godin makes dance the main focus of La suite canadienne.
Inspired by more political and social themes, La Bonga by Sebastián Pinzón Silva and Canela Reyes as well as Sofia Foi by Pedro Geraldo portray stories of forced exile, effectively conveying the emotions associated with grief. Tommaso Santambrogio also taps into this territory with The Oceans Are the Real Continents, a film that captures the heartache of departures.
Dealing with harsh realities are Daniel Kötter’s Landshaft, which examines the threat of imminent war between Armenia and Azerbaijan; while Mladen Kovacevic’s Another Spring revisits the smallpox epidemic in Yugoslavia; and Whispers of Fire & Water by Lubdhak Chatterjee illustrates the daily existence of people who live with and collect coal amid flames and smoke.
The 16 films in the Horizon section delve into the heart of human concerns, placing the individual at the centre of everything. The powerlessness addressed in Background by Khaled Abdulwahed takes the form of a painful long-distance correspondence between a father and son; while Hummingbirds by Silvia Del Carmen Castaños and Estefanía "Beba" Contreras immerses us in the anxieties and uncertainties of two young American immigrants in a lighthearted and poetic tone. Perséides by Laurence Lévesque chronicles a story of resilience in the face of an inescapable fate: its protagonist’s gradual loss of vision.
Inequalities are also on full display in Celles qui luttent by Sarah Baril Gaudet, a film that features Quebec female wrestlers in the ring and combines passion with everyday injustices; and in Ignacia Merino Bustos and Isabel Reyes Bustos’ In the Shadow of the Light, in which an entire village is trapped and its inhabitants are left to fend for themselves. Coconut Head Generation by Alain Kassanda tackles this theme by honing in on a film club transformed into a space for debate for young Nigerian students. Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project by Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson paints an intimate portrait of a woman who became one of the most influential voices in the movements for social justice and equality in the United States.
Through his own story, Miko Revereza offers an intimate and introspective depiction of migrant identity in Nowhere Near; while Carl Olsson‘s Vintersaga scrutinizes Swedish society as it grapples with the gentle melancholy of winter; as does Caches by Nicolas Paquet, which unlocks a truly rejuvenating and introspective connection with nature. The confessions can also involve more painful subjects, as in Romane Garant Chartrand’s Après-coups, where women confide in each other about the domestic violence they have suffered; or Courtney Stephens’ Lesser Choices, which draws us into the memory of an illegal abortion in Mexico City in the 1960s.
The theme of societal transformation is at the heart of Onlookers by Kimi Takesue, which examines the behaviour of tourists during their stays in Laos; Nafura by Paul Heintz, an emancipatory manifesto in every sense of the word; and K-Family Affairs by Arum Nam, which attempts to find its own way of contributing to South Korea’s social change. For its part, Human Bot Human by Natan Castay immerses us in the world of turkers.
The State of the World
The six titles that make up The State of the World section explore the repercussions associated with a traumatic event. WaaPake (Demain) by Jules Arita Koostachin reflects on the trauma caused by Indigenous residential schools; while Koromousso – Big Sister by Jim Donovan and Habibata Ouarme deals with the phenomenon of female circumcision. In the Rearview by Maciek Hamela and Far from Michigan by Silva Khnkanosian deal more closely with the trauma of war, whether in Ukraine or Nagorno-Karabakh. Stolen Time by Helene Klodawsky touches on the theme of capitalism and its consequences, recounting a lawyer’s crusade against the for-profit nursing home industry; while mathilde capone’s Eviction bears witness to the eviction of queer tenants.
This year, five works will be screened in this section. Mademoiselle Kenopsia by Denis Côté, a film at the crossroads of fiction, documentary essay and cinematic experiment that tells the story of a woman who becomes obsessed with watching over anonymous interior spaces and occupying them, will have its Quebec premiere at RIDM, alongside a master class hosted by Nadine Gomez.
To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the documentary The Ballad of Hard Times by Richard Boutet and Pascal Gélinas, the festival offers the opportunity to watch or rewatch this work, which enjoyed great success upon its commercial release. The film, which with astute and political vigor gives a central place to the popular songs of the Great Depression, will be screened in a restored version by the Cinémathèque québécoise, in collaboration with the NFB, as part of the Plan culturel numérique du Québec.
Also in this section, From the East by Chantal Akerman will be presented in a version restored by the Chantal Akerman Foundation and CINEMATEK, the Royal Film Archive of Belgium. This resolutely political work paints a remarkable portrait of a world in flux, inviting us to contemplate, without dialogue, Eastern Europe in the aftermath of the fall of the USSR.
To cap off this section, RIDM and NFB join forces to celebrate the launch of the DVD box set Alanis Obomsawin: A Legacy. At this special event, the filmmaker will present two of her early films, Christmas at Moose Factory (1971) and Amisk (1977), as well as discuss the process that went into putting together the 12 DVDs for this personally curated collection. This free event (by reservation) will take place on November 22 at the National Film Board’s (NFB) - Salle Alanis-Obomsawin.
This year, three Canadian filmmakers whose films will premiere at the 26th edition of RIDM have been invited to program a documentary that inspired their creative process. Accordingly, Julien Elie (La garde blanche), Khoa Lê (Má Sài Gòn) and Nour Ouayada (The Secret Garden) will take part in the Doc-to-Doc program, presented by Télé-Québec. Each in turn, they will present the films Resurrection by Eugenio Polgovsky, Nuits by Diane Poitras as well as Lunar Almanac, Altiplano and Merapi by Malena Szlam. The screenings are free of charge, open to all, and will be followed by a conversation among the guests.
As a way to highlight the creativity of Indigenous artists, as well as the importance of the issues they bring to light, RIDM and Wapikoni mobile join forces for a sixth consecutive year to present three remarkably relevant short films. Set to screen prior to films selected in the national feature competition, audiences will discover inspiring stories in 6 minutes/Km by Catherine Boivin; Nin Kamashitshet : Celui qui se bat by André-Charles Ishpatao; and W8linaktegw ta niona by Myriam Landry.
Soirée de la relève Radio-Canada
Hosted by Nicolas Pham, the Soirée de la relève Radio-Canada makes it possible for the public to discover short documentaries by Quebec’s latest crop of emerging filmmakers. This is a unique opportunity for audiences to take in the talents of a new generation set to shine brightly on our screens. This year, the films Casa Bonjardim by Camille Salvetti; Clémence by Myriam Ben Saïd; Where Motion Has Not Yet Ceased by Juliette Balthazard; ZEITGEIST by Louise Blancheteau; It Is What It Is by Nicole Doummar; and La ravissante by Diego Gros-Louis will screen at this special evening that is open to all (reservation required) on November 19 at Cineplex Odeon Quartier Latin. Most of the films will then be available to stream free of charge on ICI TOU.TV starting November 20.
Held at the Cinémathèque québécoise for the ninth time, RIDM is pleased to invite the young and young at heart to Sunday morning screenings for the whole family, with the aim of introducing budding filmmakers to documentary-inspired cinema. This year, two programs will be offered to young audiences.
First Sight is a series of experimental film screenings geared toward young people aged 5 to 17, organized by la lumière collective, a Montreal-based artists’ studio that aims to make the experimental genre more accessible and introduce young audiences to a broad range of images and cinematic content. The program “Une approximative légèreté” will be organized and hosted by filmmaker Guillaume Vallée, who will run a painting-on-celluloid workshop with the audience following the screening (November 19).
Once again this year, the Carrousel international du film de Rimouski will present a selection of short films for those aged six and up under the banner Family Stories. Expect a generous serving of humour, tenderness and astonishment in this program of animated shorts that will delight filmgoers of all ages, and will include the films Entre deux soeurs; Archie; Parapluies; Je suis un Caillou; L’effet de mes rides; 100 Miles; and Harvey (November 26).
A festive edition
Every night of the festival, RIDM headquarters will come alive thanks to free concerts and DJ performances that will be open to all. Here's the program: Opening Night with AjiByrd, Saigon Night with Transpacific Express for the premiere of Má Sài Gòn, the Women’s Wrestling Event for the premiere of Celles qui luttent, the Haram Party X RIDM, the Relève Afterparty, a Potochkine Concert for the premiere of Mademoiselle Kenopsia, the traditional Karaoké Night!, Parthenais Open Mic for the premiere of Eviction, a Hip hop Party with the Or Cadre Collective and Closing Night with DJ Pastis and Dj PØPTRT.
More info about the already announced programs: