Montreal is a city that understands the importance of the documentary. Cinema Politica brings social justice issues to the fore every Monday at Concordia. RIDM has a monthly feature. FIFA focuses on films about art every year and includes more than a few documentaries in its line up. There are many small festivals and independent documentary screenings in the city too. The big moment for documentaries, though, is the RIDM (Recontres Internationales du Documentaire de Montréal), a 10 day festival of documentaries that combines truth and storytelling, social justice and art.
My work colleagues were agonizing over what to see. There are over 132 different films, ranging from shorts to five and a half hour epics. Here are my picks for films you should catch.
Guantanamo’s Child: Omar Khadr (dir Patrick Reed, Michelle Shephard)
English, Arab, subtitled in English
November 13 5:30 p.m., Cinema du Parc
November 14 6 p.m., Concordia J.A. de Seve
15 year old Canadian Omar Khadr was sent first to Bagram Air Base and then Guantanamo for murdering an American soldier in Afghanastan and assisting Taliban forces. Khadr endured the “worst of the worst” treatment for a decade starting in 2002. The Canadian government and the American one acted rephrensibly towards this young man. In this film, hear his interrogators talk about the things they did, see archival footage of the boy in Guantanamo, and watch his lawyer Dennis Edney fight for his release
After Circus (Viveka Melki)
English, subtitled French
November 14 4:30 p.m.., Cinema du Parc
November 18 5:30 p.m., Pavillion Judith Jasmin Annexe, Salle Jean Claude Lauzon
Everyone wants to join the circus, but what happens when clowns and acrobats no longer have the physical abilities to keep up their work? Many circus artists retire to Sarasota, Florida and this film talk sto a number of them in retirement. Given that Montreal is home to so many circuses between Cirque du Soleil and Tohu and the Ecole du Cirque, this film should be of interest. It’s a world premiere, so yay!
Jesus Town, USA (Billie Mintz, Julian T. Pinder)
November 14, 6:45, Cinema du Parc
November 15, 7:15, Cinema du Parc
November 17, 4:15 Cinema du Parc
I know this one is going to be a halo of light in what otherwise could be a gloomy stream of issue-films. The new actor who has shown up in Oklahoma to play Jesus in the annual Good Friday Passion Play pageant has scored the part even though he’s not exactly experienced as an actor (he’s a paperboy), is not exactly a waif and… wait for it… a Buddhist convert. This film is a look at the backstage chaos and faith that makes Middle America so interesting.
No Kids For Me, Thanks! (Magenta Baribeau)
French, subtitled English
November 15, 9 p.m, Cinema Excentris
November 17, 5:30 p.m., Cinema Excentris
Women without babies, whether by choice or circumstance, share their stories about challenging society itself. Everywhere they square off against a model of happiness imposed by society in which being a mother is an important aspect of femininity and a requirement of a happy, fulfilling life. Women talk about how they are viewed as career-focused, selfish, shallow, self-absorbed for their choice. Can one be truly happy without kids? This documentary will give a nuanced yes.
Snakeskin (Daniel Hui)
English, s.t. English
November 16, 5:30 p.m., Pavillion Judith Jasmin Annexe Salle Jean-Claude Lazon
November 18, 8:30 p.m., Cinema Quebcoise
Singapore as you’ve not seen it. The film attempts to look at what is reality by presenting itself as a documentary set in the year 2066 looking back at now. Alleged facts and accepted knowledge take the place of actual facts. The film is ambitious and bold, and breaks from the traditional documentary format to make its point.
Of the North (Dominic Gagnon)
Inuktitut and English
November 17, 8:45, Cinema du Parc
November 20, 8 p.m., Pavillion Judith Jasmin Annexe Salle Jean-Claude Lazon
Acrtic inhabitants shoot amateur videos of their lives. Oil drilling bases look like cities of the future. It’s a rough, hallucinatory video that shows us Inuit self-perceptions. It’s a chance to see the North from the eyes of those who live in it.
Coma (Sara Fattahi)
Arabic, subtitled English
November 18, 6 p.m. Cinema du Parc
November 20, 8:30 p.m., Cinema Excentris
Three generations of women in Damascus (Syria) apartment live reclusively without men. Their lives are forgotten by others, and so their life has become much like a coma. The effect of war on a city and especially its women may not be the most uplifting thing you’ve ever seen, but it speaks to those who are never heard about in war except in statistics. See Syria in an entirely different way.
Homeland (Iraq Year Zero) (Abbas Fahdel)
Arabic, English s.t., French s.t.
November 17 parts 1 and 2 English subtitles, Cinema du Parc
November 19 and 20, parts 1 and 2 French subtitles, Cinema du Parc
November 21, parts 1 and 2 English subtitles, Concordia JA de Seve
This award winning film documents the daily lives of people in Iraq before and after the US invasion of 2003. It is a two-part work that looks at the chaos of war. Although five and a half hours in totality, this film is regarded as one of the most important ever made in showing what war is really like by looking at the friends and family of Fahdel. The story of the film itself is documentary worthy. Fahdel stopped videotaping when his nephew died, and spent a decade mourning. He only finished the documentary 12 years after it was shot.
Bring me the Head of Tim Horton (Guy Maddin, Galen Johnson, and Evan Johnson)
November 20, 5:30 p.m., Concordia U, J.A. de Seve
November 22, 2 p.m., Cinema Excentris
This short film (32 minutes) is a making of film about Hyena Road, a war film by Paul Gross. However, Maddin can’t hack it and ends up creating a cinematic essay on war film instead. The film is wickedly funny. Maddin is hated by his crew and plays a dead Taliban extra in the background. I’m more excited by this one than I am about any other. If you can’t get enough of Guy Maddin, stick around for Yves Montmayeur’s the 1000 Eyes of Dr. Maddin .
Olmo and the Seagull
French, Italian, and Spanish with English subtitles
November 21, 7 p.m., Concordia H110
November 22, 4:30 p.m., Excentris
When an actress gets pregnant, putting a halt to her 10 year bohemian career, she and her boyfriend must change their relationship. This documentary follows the couple in the last six months of Olivia’s pregnancy, when she must give up performing Arkadina in Chekov’s The Seagull.
The RIDM takes place at numerous cinemas in Montreal. For schedule, click HERE. Ticket prices start at $11.50/$9.50 and can be purchased in five ticket booklets or a full festival pass.