The 21st edition of the Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM) starts tonight, Thursday, November 8, with the Québec premiere screening of What Walaa Wants (Le rêve de Walaa), with Canadian filmmaker Christy Garland in attendance. This unforgettable portrait of a defiant young Palestinian woman will be screened at Concordia University’s SGWU Alumni Auditorium (H-110) at 7 p.m.

The screening is followed at 9:30 p.m. by the opening night event, presented in partnership with Blue Skies Turn Black, at RIDM headquarters in the Cinémathèque québécoise (335 De Maisonneuve Blvd E). Festivalgoers can celebrate the launch of the documentary event of the year with next-gen electronic artists such as Pelada, Jerico, Anthony Carle, and DJ Nana Zen.

A second public screening of What Walaa Wants followed by a discussion with Christy Garland will take place on Friday, November 9 at 6 p.m. at Cinéma du Parc.

In addition to numerous premiere screenings of highly anticipated Québec and Canadian films such as First Stripes (Jean-François Caissy), Xalko (Sami Mermer and Hind Benchekroun), My War (Julien Fréchette) Impetus (Jennifer Alleyn) and City Dreamers (Joseph Hillel), along with must-see discoveries such as 20-22 Omega (Thierry Loa), Dark Suns (Julien Elie) and My Dearest Sister (Kyoka Tsukamoto), here are several films that should not be missed in the festival’s first days.


Two big names in French cinema

The latest films by Claire Simon (God’s Offices, Le concours) and Nicolas Philibert (Être et avoir, Nénette) both deal with the daily lives, hopes, and apprehensions of young students. In Young Solitude, Claire Simon takes a sensitive look at students attending a high school in a Paris suburb. In De chaque instant, Nicolas Philibert shows us life inside a nursing school.


The United States under the microscope

The first days of the festival will also see the screening of four major U.S. films that examine both social tensions and social progress through wonderful community portraits, and the filmmakers are all attending the festival.

Hale County, This Morning, This Evening, by RaMell Ross is a lyrical and poetic look at an African-American community in Alabama. Robert Greene combines documentary and re-creation in an equally original approach, working with the residents of a small Arizona town to portray one of the darkest pages in U.S. history, in Bisbee’17. In Arkansas, Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher discover a city in which drag shows and passion plays share the stage in hard-won but inspiring harmony in The Gospel of Eureka. And with Yours in Sisterhood, Irene Lusztig reflects on second-wave feminism with a performance and participatory work based on letters sent to the feminist magazine Ms. in the 1970s.


Questioning democracy

Increasingly, the very concept of democracy appears to be weakened and under attack from all sides. Both Maria Augusta Ramos and Kazuhiro Soda, the two filmmakers whom the festival is giving retrospectives this year, have astutely explored the fragile foundations of the Brazilian and Japanese political systems in numerous films. To present their approaches, both filmmakers will be giving free masterclasses on November 10 and 11. Also not to be missed: a screening of Maria Augusta Ramos’s The Trial, which clearly exposes the corruption of the Brazilian judicial and political systems that led to the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff; and of Campaign and Campaign 2, in which Kazuhiro Soda minutely details the tragicomic absurdity of Japanese municipal campaigns.

The (im)possibilities of democracy are also at the heart of Kinshasa Makambo, the latest hard-hitting work by Congolese filmmaker Dieudo Hamadi (Maman Colonelle) about young activists in the RDC. Hamadi will be attending the festival for the first time.

And to round out this vital reflection on the state of our societies, don’t miss Astra Taylor’s expansive film essay What is Democracy? and a roundtable on the concept of democracy on November 17 at 1 p.m.


Assisted navigation

In partnership with UQAM’s Labdoc, all interactive projects presented in the UXdoc Space will have assisted navigation presented by the artists. These tours will take place every evening at 8 p.m. in the UXdoc Space.


Fifty years after 1968, the RIDM, with thanks to the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, will present three workshops exploring the fundamental issues that face documentary filmmakers working in conflict zones. The free workshops are an opportunity for professionals, students and the general public to benefit from the expertise of the RIDM’s exceptional guests.


WORKSHOP #1 – Documenting events: a high-risk activity 

Sunday, November 11, 10 @ 11:30 AM


Speaker: Jonathan Saruk, producer/cinematographer (Sweden)


Documentary filmmaking can mean working in dangerous, unpredictable settings. Filming in conflict zones or violence-prone situations requires filmmakers and their crews to be thoroughly prepared, and equipped with extensive tools and knowledge. Swedish producer, cinematographer and photojournalist Jonathan Saruk covered the war in Afghanistan from 2008 to 2012, the Arab Spring in Yemen and Bahrain in 2011, several insurrections in Gaza and the West Bank, the rebellion in the eastern Congo, and post-conflict events in Sierra Leone, Ukraine and Colombia. In this workshop he will share his experiences and help equip participants who are considering filming in risky places.

Jonathan Saruk will give an overview of questions to be asked and contingencies to plan for, illustrated with examples from his own work.



WORKSHOP #2 – Images and the law

Monday, November 12, 2 @ 3:30 PM

Remy Khouzam, attorney specializing in audio-visual and digital production

Mélissa Beaudet, director (Police Académie – RIDM 2015, 180 JOURS)

The way we capture images of others has changed significantly since the age of direct cinema. Today’s documentary practices are situated in a very different context, in which technological change and the massive growth of social media have made it possible for anyone to capture images and distribute them widely. More than ever, we are attentive to our own image and those of others, and to their sacred aspect when taken in public. As a result, it has become important to establish a legal framework for the use and publication of images.


Attorney Remy Khouzam will help us understand the law around images with an overview of the legislation and jurisprudence. Director Mélissa Beaudet will discuss her experiences with delicate situations, such as filming minors and vulnerable individuals. Illustrating the workshop with real-world examples of filming and editing, they will discuss how to strike the appropriate balance between respect for the subject and public interest, privacy and freedom of expression.



WORKSHOP #3 – Aesthetics and the analysis of revolution

Tuesday, November 13, 2 @ 3:30 PM

Speaker: Narimane Mari, filmmaker (Loubia Hamra – RIDM 2013 and Le fort des fous – RIDM 2017)


As a watershed moment for documentary cinema, May 1968 is often discussed from a purely Eurocentric perspective. And yet it gave rise to a constellation of cinemas spanning the entire globe, from South America to Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Anti-colonial insurrections were part of that creative energy, and it is important to recall that the documentary cinema born in the crucible of ’68 is also a cinema of decolonization. Franco-Algerian filmmaker Narimane Mari is part of that heritage.


In this interactive session, the filmmaker will explore the aesthetics of historic and contemporary events. For Mari, the cinematic image is based on emotions, fantasies and dreams – making them just as important for our understanding of history as politics, ideologies and facts. She will explain her approach to composition through different sources, her way of re-evaluating her composition for each protagonist, and her approach to situating individuals in their environment. What kinds of liberties can we take in opening and combining these sources? What is our responsibility for what is made and said? How can the imagination explode reality while remaining true to the subject? Is it sometimes appropriate to downplay aesthetics?


All three workshops are free and open to all.


Quebec’s only film festival dedicated to documentaries, the Montreal International Documentary Festival presents the best reality‐based films, including the works of established directors and new talents.


The 21st annual RIDM will take place from November 8 to 18, 2018

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