With over 135 films from more than 40 countries, the 16th annual Montreal International Documentary Festival, November 13–24, tackles a diversity of timely and contentious topics – from war and revolution to media and art – while also leaving space for seemingly small stories with big hearts. Along with film screenings, the festival hosts discussions with directors to get deeper into the issues many of the films raise, and parties and other events to keep everyone talking…
(world-class film) The Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM) opens on a revolutionary note: Egyptian filmmaker Jehane Noujaim’s The Square, a front-line account of the first anti-Mubarak protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in 2011 to the fall of Morsi this past summer. On the other end of the documentary spectrum, and the other end of the festival, Quebec filmmaker Annie St-Pierre closes RIDM with Fermières, an affectionate look into the lives of women farmers group Cercles de Fermières du Québec. The festival’s competition for Best International Feature pits 12 films against each other, including: Joaquim Pinto’s E agora? Lembra-me, a year in the filmmaker’s daily life enduring clinical trials to treat the effects of HIV and hepatitis C; Algerian filmmaker Narimane Mari’s poetically activist Haricots rouges; Mia Engberg’s semi-fictional autobiographical love story Belleville Baby; and Sylvain George’s Vers Madrid (The Burning Bright) chronicling the indignados movement in Spain.
The Canadian feature competition highlights Abenaki filmmaker and activist Alanis Obomsawin’s Hi-Ho Mistahey, John Walker’s environmentalist film Arctic Defenders, Helene Klodawsky’s focus on two Montreal artists searching for security in Come Worry With Us!, Alexandra Sicotte-Lévesque’s The Longest Kiss (À jamais, pour toujours), a portrait of Sudanese life after civil war, and many more.
(special presentations) Some of the world’s best-known documentary filmmakers appear at the festival as well. Retrospectives respect influential forces in documentary film such as Franco-German filmmaker Marcel Ophuls, Quebec’s Michel Brault and Arthur Lamothe. Among new films, Frederick Wiseman’s At Berkeley reveals the effects of budget cuts on education at the American public university, while Avi Mograbi travels the Middle East in search of his estranged grandfather in Dans un jardin je suis entré, and Cannes winner L’image manquante by Rithy Panh revisits tragedies of Cambodian history through his own life story. Overlooked street photography gets its due in Finding Vivian Maier, and Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction presents a portrait of the much-loved character actor.
Environmental issues come to the fore in major new Quebec films Sans terre, c’est la faim (No Land No Food No Life) by Amy Miller and Jean-Nicolas Orhon’s Bidonville, an exploration of the world’s shantytowns, as well as in Big Men, about the petroleum reserves in Ghana, and in Cloudy Mountains, portraying asbestos miners in China. And a new section at RIDM this year, Beat Dox, features music-related films such as Bloody Daughter, about classical pianist Martha Argerich, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble doc Brothers Hypnotic, a biography of electro-folk songwriter Rae Spoon, My Prairie Home.
(free and interactive) While film screenings dominate the focus of RIDM, the festival also features social activities and public events that bring film fans together in different ways. Beginning November 8, the festival teams up with Quartier des Spectacles on outdoor screenings at Saint-Laurent metro station (corner of St-Laurent and De Maisonneuve). The Kino-Pedals audio-visual installation, equipped with a giant screen and six sets of pedals that activate film projectors, asks viewers to choose from a selection of 15 short films, from new productions to National Film Board classics, selected by Daïchi Saïto, a filmmaker and programmer from Montreal’s Double Negative Collective.
(party time) Head indoors for free parties and live music almost every night of the festival at RIDM headquarters (3450 St-Urbain). Filmmakers, film fans and music lovers unite on opening night for a live show by Passwords, How Sad and DJs Commando and Tinsoldierman. Among the many other parties: on November 14, Montreal’s roller derby community rallies around the premier of local film Derby Crazy Love; on November 20, POP Montreal presents local bands UN, Petty Sweat and Jef Barbara along with the premier of film The Punk Singer (about feminist icon Kathleen Hanna); on November 21, local media outlet Cult MTL welcomes CTZNSHP and Blue Diamond; and on November 22, the M for Montreal festival gets us dancing with DELUXE, Technical Kidman and Seoul. And true to Montreal style, a dance party brings festival crowds together one last time to close out the festival on November 23.
Montreal International Documentary Festival, November 13-24, 2013
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