Documentaries, you’ve come a long way baby.
The 2023 RIDM brings in its usual high calibre selection for two weeks of the year’s best documentary film. Documentaries make the personal political and the political personal, and given that the entire planet seems to be on fire (literally and metaphorically), many pieces seem especially poignant this year. Here are a list of seven films to catch at this year’s festival.
Bye Bye Tiberias
Lina Soulamen’s uses archival footage of her family to trace four generations of a Palestinian family through its women. The focus is on Soulamen’s mother, Hiam Abbass, who left her village of Deir Hanna to pursue a career and some relationships first in Israel and then abroad. The importance of family and their love for one another is the resilient thread that allows them to remain connected in the face of tragedy and change. The film gives voice and visibility to those rarely seen, and reminds everyone that refugees and stateless people are still people. Nov 15, Nov 17.
Má sài Gòn (Mère Saigon)
Through a series of portraits, Khoa Le examines the emotional bonds of Vietnam’s 2SLGBTQIA+ community in Saigon. Though social norms are against them, the individuals featured seek love, acceptance, and belonging as they encouner their families and relationships. In particular the film looks at what it means to be the mummy or auntie at the head of a chosen family. Nov 16, Nov 19.
En Attendant Les Robots
The original Mechanical Turk was a fake chess machine powered by a human hidden underneath. Today, thousands of gig workers provide the human power behind redundant tasks on Amazon’s version, Mecahnical Turk. A fictitious character leads the viewer into the world of the micro-tasker whose job it is to erase the faces of people on Google Street view. While it might sound like a Black Mirror episode in the making, it’s a documentary. Nov 17, 19.
Rosine Mbakam follows a Camberooian local semastress who juggles resources to provide for her school-aged son and her mother. The challenges she faces are incessant: a night-time robbery, the flooding of her shop. With creativity, she finds solutions and instead of defeat, seeks moments of reprieve. In particular, her brightly colored dresses bring joy and her calm presence makes her a natural confidant for her neighbors. Nov 19, Nov 21.
Two stories shed light on the Belarusian army’s horrific practice of dedovshchina, the violent hazing that marks the Belarusian army’s new recruits’ transition from boys to men. In the first, young Nikita reports for his compulsory military duty and encounters the tradition of violent bullying and turture. In the other, Svetlana investigates how the practice led to the hanging of her son on a military base. The violent military practice is connected to the autocratic government’s that utilized it for generations. Nov 20, 22.
Picking up the Best Canadian Feature Docuemntary at the Hot Docs festival, Justine’s Harbonnier’s Caiti Blues follows the career of a singer on the cusp of her 30s. As a child, Caiti Lord studied at the best musical schools and even performed on Broadway. Her dreams of being a Broadway singer are sitll with her, but instead, she is working as a waitress in a New Mexico tourist resort. Wanting to do more with her life, she begins to pursue her dreams singing the blues. Nov 22, Nov 24.
In 20 minute segments, Wang Bing brings viewers into the lives of Chinese garment workers over a period of five years. The 20-year-old youth leave their hometowns to work in the swaetshops of China near Shanghai. They share everything, eating and staying together in common dormitories, and spending 15 hours a day at work. However, despite the hard labor, they still demonstrate love, tenderness, and friendship. Nov 25.
The RIDM continues until November 26. Tickets and schedules can be found HERE.