Unique and unforgettable profiles, political activism and compelling visions of reality
Montreal, Monday, November 13, 2017 - The 20th annual Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM) is entering its second week with an impressive line-up of special guests, screenings and discussions that help audiences explore the year’s most interesting documentaries.
For more than a century, motion pictures have served as the world’s visual memory. Their ability to capture history’s decisive moments and to serve as a tool of resistance is the subject of Spell Reel and In the Intense Now. These powerful films look back on the decolonization of Guinea-Bissau and the great upheavals of 1968, respectively. A third essential historical reflection is Montreal-based filmmaker Carlos Ferrand’s wildly original essay 13, un ludodrame sur Walter Benjamin.
Political cinema is close to the RIDM’s heart, and the 2017 line-up has a number of films that brilliantly reinvent the form, from Also Known As Jihadi, an enigmatic thriller about jihadist indoctrination to Rat Film, a searing analysis of inequality in Baltimore that recasts the activist film as a historical-futuristic broadside, to Brexitannia, a fascinating take on the interview-based documentary that unpacks the intricacies of the epochal British referendum.
The activist side of documentary cinema is also seen in the form’s ability to spark deep empathy for unforgettable protagonists. In some cases the subjects are autobiographical, as in Room for a Man, an original and poignant self-portrait of a young gay Lebanese man from a wealthy conservative family, while Edit&moi is based on the experiences of a Slovak filmmaker who immigrated to Quebec and became a home-care worker. Portraits can also reflect sincere curiosity about others, from a narcissistic top model and violinist in the unsettling A Modern Man to railway workers stuck in the middle of nowhere in All That Passes By Through a Window That Doesn’t Open. Portraits can also come out of collective interactive work, as seen in the online piece Zeki Müren Hotline, a lively tribute to a Turkish singing star and LGBTQ+ icon.
At the other end of the spectrum, documentaries can be uncommon audio-visual experiences, from the lives of a small group of men and women living on a remote, almost post-apocalyptic island in Carcasse to Brimstone & Glory’s immersion in a Mexican fireworks festival, at once mesmerizing and dangerous.
Presented with the support of Service de coopération et d’action culturelle du Consulat de France à Québec, the festival will close with the North American premiere of Nothingwood on Saturday, November 18 at 7 p.m. in the Alumni Auditorium at Concordia University (H-110), with director Sonia Kronlund in attendance. This truculent yet subtly critical film uses a profile of Afghanistan’s Z-movie king to reflect on the thin line between fiction and reality in a country where terrible tragedies are daily occurrences.
The special screening will be followed by the closing-night party, presented in collaboration with CISM. Festivalgoers are invited to RIDM Headquarters at the Cinémathèque québécoise (335 de Maisonneuve Blvd. East) from 10 p.m. to dance the night away with the irresistible electro-pop of Doldrums, Beige-à-coeur, Syzzors and DJ Voila.