Documentary festival features 157 films
Documentary cinema is alive and well in Quebec, as evidenced by the 157 films in the 21st Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal (RIDM), which opened Thursday and continues through Nov. 18.
Of those, 50 — nearly a third — are by Quebec directors; and 81 — more than half — are directed by women, making RIDM one of our city’s most gender-equitable film festivals.
Far from the stuffy, talkinghead stereotype of documentaries of old, today’s documentary cinema is a chance to experience the world in new ways. With that in mind, here are 10 essential events at this year’s RIDM.
(Saturday, Nov. 10, 2 p.m., French subtitles; Monday, Nov. 12, 6:45 p.m., English subtitles; both at Cinéma du Parc, 3575 Parc Ave.)
Montrealers Shahab Mihandoust and Ariane Lorrain travel to western Iran to document the disappearing practice of natural yarn dyeing and carpet weaving. An observational film revealing the plight and artistry of traditional craftspeople confronting their own extinction in the face of industrialization.
(Saturday, Nov. 10, 5 p.m., Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Cinéma du musée, 1379A Sherbrooke St. W., English subtitles; Thursday, Nov. 15, 8:30 p.m., Cinémathèque québécoise, 335 de Maisonneuve Blvd. E., French subtitles)
Quebec director Joseph Hillel profiles four distinguished female architects: Phyllis Lambert (Montreal), Blanche Lemco van Ginkel (Montreal/Toronto), Cornelia Hahn Oberlander (Vancouver) and Denise Scott Brown (Philadelphia/L.A./Las Vegas). The binding element between these women is a desire to rethink urban design.
(Saturday, Nov. 10, 8:30 p.m., Cinéma du Parc, French subtitles; Friday, Nov. 16, 8:30 p.m., Cinémathèque québécoise, English subtitles)
The news cycle abounds with stories of young people recruited by extremists, going off to fight for the Islamic State. Quebec director Julien Fréchette finds and follows four westerners who head to Syria for the opposite reason: to fight against ISIS. Among them are Wali, who is Québécois, and Hannah, from B.C. Though their motivations are varied, his subjects have one thing in common: they get more than they bargained for.
(Thursday, Nov. 15, 8:45 p.m., Cinémathèque québécoise, English subtitles)
Montreal filmmaking couple Hind Benchekroun and Sami Mermer continue to explore their roots with their latest documentary. She is Moroccan, he is Turkish; in Xalko, they travel to Mermer’s birthplace, a Kurdish village in the heart of Turkish Anatolia, inhabited mostly by women (the men have all left). A portrait of female resilience on the flip side of migration, among those who remain behind.
(Sunday, Nov. 11, 5:30 p.m., Cinéma du Parc; Wednesday, Nov. 14, 8:30 p.m., Cinémathèque québécoise; both with English subtitles)
Montrealer Mika Goodfriend documents migration of a different sort: the annual pilgrimage of more than 1,800 Quebec retirees to the Breezy Hill RV Resort, in the Sunshine State, where they lounge about, soak up some rays and generally entertain themselves. Goodfriend blended in with residents for two six-month stints, resulting in this affectionate 45-minute film. (The screenings are combined with two other short/medium-length docs.)
A SISTER’S SONG
(Monday, Nov. 12, 8:30 p.m., Cinémathèque québécoise, French subtitles; Thursday, Nov. 15, 9 p.m., Cinéma du Parc, English subtitles)
Israeli-American expat Danae Elon, now based in Montreal, foregoes her penchant for politics in this intimate portrait of two Israeli sisters, one of whom joined a convent in Greece after high school. Years later, her younger sibling goes to visit, hoping to bring her big sister home.
(Friday, Nov. 16, 8:30 p.m., Quartier Latin, 350 Émery St., French subtitles)
Jean-Nicolas Orhon hung around conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Montreal’s Orchestre Métropolitain for a year as they prepared to embark on their first European tour. A behind-the-scenes look at rehearsals, motivations and communication between the members of this acclaimed collective.
(Saturday, Nov. 17, 3:30 p.m., Grande Bibliothèque, 475 de Maisonneuve Blvd. E.)
Mark Achbar and the late Montreal documentarian Peter Wintonick’s classic 1992 portrait of American thinker Noam Chomsky is revisited as part of a collaboration between RIDM and the Documentary Organization of Canada, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary. Chomsky’s thoughtful critiques of mainstream media’s role in world politics are as resonant as ever.
JOHN MCENROE: IN THE REALM OF PERFECTION
(Saturday, Nov. 17, 7 p.m., Concordia’s Alumni Auditorium, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W., Room H-110, English subtitles; Sunday, Nov. 18, 2 p.m., Cinéma Moderne, 5150 St-Laurent Blvd., French subtitles)
The worlds of tennis and auteur cinema intertwine in RIDM’s closing film, a highly inventive work narrated by actor Mathieu Amalric. French director Julien Faraut finds a gold mine in the 16 mm footage of the 1984 French Open between McEnroe and Ivan Lendl, shot by Gil de Kermadec, former national technical director of French tennis.
MARIA AUGUSTA RAMOS: EXPOSING THE SYSTEM
RIDM pays tribute to the Brazilian director with a retrospective. Ramos has spent her career exploring the political power of cinema, most recently in 2018’s O Processo (The Trial, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2:30 p.m., Quartier Latin), examining the legal proceedings that led to the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first democratically elected woman president, in 2016. In addition to the retrospective, Ramos gives a free master class Saturday, Nov. 10 at 12:30 p.m. at the Cinémathèque québécoise.
Zagros reveals the plight and artistry of Iranian craftspeople whose trade is disappearing.