A hybrid edition celebrating reality on film at its best
The 2021 program revealed
The Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM) has unveiled the full program for its 24th edition. With a selection of 120 films from 44 countries, including 54 films from Quebec and Canada, and more than half by women filmmakers, the RIDM presents the best of reality film from big names and new talent alike.
To celebrate the event-based nature of the festival, each documentary in the program will be screened once in theatres from November 10 to 21. For film lovers unable to attend in person, films will be available via the festival’s online edition from November 14 to 25. This will include almost all the program’s films, which will be available everywhere in Canada.
The RIDM is delighted to reconnect with audiences and to make this event a meaningful gathering at which to celebrate creative documentary cinema. This edition has been put together by an enthusiastic team led by Marc Gauthier, the new director of the RIDM, with support from a brand-new programming collective: Ana Alice de Morais, Marlene Edoyan, Nadine Gomez, and Hubert Sabino-Brunette.
The RIDM launches its new program with Futura, a feature-length documentary by Alice Rohrwacher, Pietro Marcello, and Francesco Munzi. From three of Italy’s most exciting filmmakers comes a profile of a generation for whom hope is always served with a dose of uncertainty. Presented in partnership with the Italian Institute of Culture in Montreal and The Match Factory, the screening of Futura will be held on Wednesday, November 10 at 7 p.m. at the Cineplex Odeon Quartier Latin (by invitation only). The film will be preceded by Des voisins dans ma cour, a Quebec-made short by Eli Jean Tahchi, made as part of the Regard sur Montréal residency program.
The festival will close with Gabor. The first feature-length film from Joannie Lafrenière is a funny and warm-hearted depiction of her friend, the talented photographer Gabor Szilasi. Gabor will make its world premiere on Saturday, November 20 at 8 p.m. at the Cinéma du Musée, attended by Gabor Szilasi, Joannie Lafrenière, and her team.
EIGHT THEMATIC SECTIONS
Following the success of the 2020 edition, this year’s program is organized around eight thematic sections, each including short, medium, and feature-length films, as well as films from different national and international competitions. The thematic sections – THE HUMAN SPACE, IN SEARCH OF ONESELF, FAMILY TOPOGRAPHIES, STRENGTH OF THE LIVING, DIALOGUE BETWEEN THE ARTS, HAUNTED TERRITORIES, GESTURES OF RESISTANCE, and ECHOES OF THE PAST – are designed to help audiences better navigate the festival programming, whether in theatres or online.
All the films in the program will be shown in theatres during the festival. They will then be divided into three program blocks available online according to the date of screening in theatres: from November 14 to 17 (Block 1), from November 18 to 21 (Block 2), and from November 22 to 25 (Block 3).
THE HUMAN SPACE – 11 films that explore the relationship between human beings and their environment, with a focus on connection and resilience
Twice the winner of the RIDM’s Grand Prize for International Feature Competition (Another Year, 2016, and Present. Perfect, 2019), Chinese filmmaker Shengze Zhu returns this year with A River Runs, Turns, Erases, Replaces, an urban symphony that follows the long and winding route of the Yangtze River in Wuhan. Meanwhile, Jessica Kingdon’s film Ascension, which won Best Documentary Feature at the Tribeca Film Festival, is an ironic and critical portrayal of contemporary Chinese society by way of a number of unusual happenings, shedding light on the absurdity of the capitalist rat race.
Strict Regime takes us to a high-security Russian detention centre, where Nikita Yefimov turns his camera on one of the prison guards. With a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes inside the prison, the film reveals the power dynamics that exist there. In Le kiosque, filmmaker Alexandra Pianelli uses her cell phone camera to shoot the newspaper kiosk that encapsulates the life of a Parisian neighbourhood.
The experience of a group of migrants is the focus of The Last Shelter, in which filmmaker Ousmane Zoromé Samassékou records the dangerous journeys of three women staying at a shelter on the Sahel border. In Alone by Paul Tom (Bagages), the stories of three refugee children bring to light complex issues around exile and reception.
The many faces of Park Ex shine in Je me souviens d’un temps où personne ne joggait dans ce quartier by Jenny Cartwright,a film that hints at the relentless onset of gentrification threatening the social fabric of a neighbourhood. On a different note, Resources by Serge-Olivier Rondeau and Hubert Caron-Guay gives a voice tothose who are at the heart of the food system that sustains this country.
In Ostrov – Lost Island by Svetlana Rodina and Laurent Stoop,we meet the last inhabitants of the Russian island of Ostrov in the Caspian Sea. Sunny by Keti Machavariani is a forceful and eloquent evocation of the spirit of a post-Soviet society turned upside-down; finally, Futura by Pietro Marcello, Francesco Munzi,and Alice Rohrwacher, the festival’s opening film, completes this section.
IN SEARCH OF ONESELF – 10 introspective films on the human condition and our understanding of the world
Three films are united under the theme of a search for freedom. The winner of the Golden Leopard – Filmmakers of the Present Award at the Locarno Film Festival, Brotherhood by Francesco Montagner transports us to Bosnia to explore a challenging path to adulthood, in which three brothers’ search for identity causes them to defy their authoritarian father. In Zuhur’s Daughters by Laurentia Genske and Robin Humboldt, we travel to Germany where two Syrian sisters’ identities as trans women generate moral conflicts with the Muslim faith practiced in their home. From up-and-coming filmmaker Vadim Kostrov comes Orpheus, a minimalist docudrama reflecting on today’s Russia, from the point of view of an artistic and free-spirited younger generation.
Human connection takes centre stage in Kevin by Joana Oliveira, a hybrid piece sensitively depicting the friendship between two women separated by an ocean and different ethnic and cultural backgrounds; as well as in They Sleep Standing by Bogdan Stoica, which follows three friends at different crossroads in life, in a poetic film set in Romania’s dreamlike landscapes.
This section features two highly personal works: In Fiasco, filmmaker Nicolas Khoury points the camera at himself to challenge the social constraints imposed by his family and by Lebanese society; meanwhile, in Francis Leplay and Isidore Bethel’s film Acts of Love, Bethel, struggling to recover from a toxic relationship, decides to use his next romantic encounters as material for the film.
A Story of One’s Own by Amandine Gay (Speak Up, RIDM People’s Choice 2017) is an eloquent meditation on the various political, economic, cultural, and racial issues surrounding international adoption. Focusing on the personal agency of Black women, Wash Day by Kourtney Jackson highlights three young women’s journeys toward self-acceptance, self-care, and the courage to confront daily microaggressions.
Love Me by Romane Garant Chartrand is an intimate portrait of Laetitia, a charismatic high-school student in whose everyday life seduction and carefully controlled self-image play a crucial role.
FAMILY TOPOGRAPHIES – 10 films illuminating the complex ties that bind us to our families, those who brought us into the world and whose lives run parallel to our own, for better or for worse
In Babushka, filmmaker Kristina Wagenbauer returns to her native Russia to visit her resilient grandmother with whom she spent part of her childhood, in this film rich in tenderness and humour. Dropstones by Caitlin Durlak follows a woman taking back control of her life after an abusive marriage as she returns with her two children to the picturesque Fogo Island, off the coast of Newfoundland.
Jeremiah Hayes’ moving work Dear Audrey is a candid reflection on the incredible life of Martin Duckworth, who is supporting his wife through the final stages of Alzheimer’s. In a similar vein, Dida by Corina Schwingruber Ilić and Nikola Ilić sees the filmmaker returning to Belgrade to care for his aging mother.
Human bonds are central to these works rooted in personal experience. In Upstairs, Pier-Luc Latulippe and Martin Fournier turn the spotlight on one of Quebec’s best-loved actors, Serge Thériault, who has lived for over a decade with extreme depression. Together, his wife Anna and their neighbours try to bring him back to the land of the living. Under the Sleeping Mountain sees filmmaker Charles Duquet (Prix de la relève, RIDM 2019) coming to terms with the gradual erosion of his parents’ relationship. Yasmine Mathurin brings another tough subject to the table in One of Ours: a young man of Haitian origin, adopted by an Indigenous family in Calgary, finds his identity called into question by the authorities of the All Native basketball tournament.
Some Kind of Intimacy by Toby Bull delivers a touching message from the living to the dead, in which a flock of sheep become the benevolent guardians of our cemeteries. Becoming by Isabel Vaca explores the inner workings of a tough and controversial world through the eyes of an 11-year-old Mexican cowboy. In Les enfants terribles, filmmaker Ahmet Necdet Çupur films his younger brother and sister, who live in a small Turkish village, offering an inside look at their search for fulfilment and the possibility of a new start.
STRENGTH OF THE LIVING – 10 films that celebrate the vitality of nature, its cycles, and the roots that connect us all
Surveillance footage forms the backbone of a captivating visual journey from Sebastian Mulder on the trail of Naya, the first she-wolf seen in Belgium for over a century. Based on a huge archaeological investigation into the archives of world cinema, Animal macula by Sylvain L’Espérance teases out a troubled and often violent relationship between humans and animals. Following the life of a cow and her calves on an industrial dairy farm, Andrea Arnold’s feature Cow documents the life cycle of animals condemned to servitude. Taming the Garden by Salomé Jashi is both poetic and political, shedding light on the environmental and social issues at work when a wealthy Georgian man decides to ship over colossal, centuries-old trees to plant in his private garden.
Northern countries are at the heart of explorations into unsettling environmental changes. Luke Gleeson’s film DƏNE YI’INJETL takes up the perspectives of those affected by the environmental and social repercussions of BC Hydro, which have transformed the territory of the Tsay Keh Dene Nation. At once lyrical and dystopian, Holgut by Liesbeth De Ceulaer foregrounds a nascent environmental catastrophe in Siberia, where the thawing permafrost is causing remains of long-extinct species to rise to the surface. At a Polish station in Antarctica, filmmaker Viera Čakányová enters into conversation with an artificial neural network and takes an introspective look at the future in White on White.
Young people take centre stage in The Hill, in which Julien Chausit intelligently conveys the anxiety many young people feel in light of the destruction of the environment and the need to act to avoid catastrophe. Meanwhile, in Last Days at Sea, Filipino filmmaker Venice Atienza spends time with a young boy who will soon leave his village to study in the city.
In the tradition of ethnographic documentaries, Far Beyond the Pasturelands by Maxime Lacoste-Lebuis and Maude Plante-Husaruk is the final film in this section. In it, the filmmakers transport us to the Himalayas, where an expedition to find a rare mushroom is underway.
DIALOGUE BETWEEN THE ARTS – 11 films that draw inspiration from intersections of film and other artistic mediums
Aleph, a labyrinthine work by Iva Radivojević loosely inspired by the writing of Jorge Luis Borges, is a many-tentacled story that unfolds without losing its integrity. Filmmaker Ben Russell (who has previously won two awards at the RIDM for River Rites and Atlantis) returns with a clever reappropriation of Réné Daumal’s novel Mount Analogue in The Invisible Mountain, an enchanting journey that renders the invisible tangible. Eastwood by Alireza Rasoulinejad follows a filmmaker who, on spotting Clint Eastwood in a photo in the newspaper, heads to the city of Sirjan, Iran, in search of the iconic American actor.
Music serves as the inspiration for Reminiscences of 15 Musicians in Beirut Attempting a Re-imagination of the Egyptian Classic Yara Garat Al Wadi. In this film by Charles-André Coderre, a contemporary orchestra reinterprets Yara Garat Al Wadi, a well-known Egyptian piece of music. Likewise, in Singing in the Wilderness, Dongnan Chen observes the Christian choir of a Miao village, co-opted by a propaganda official from the Chinese government.
Two films in this section focus on creativity: Stray Ducks by Bruno Chouinard follows the epic story of the rubber ducks dropped into Greenland’s glaciers as part of an experiment on climate change, which have now made their way all over the world. The End of Kings by Rémi Brachet presents a kaleidoscopic portrait of Clichy-sous-Bois, drawing attention to gender relations and questioning the balance of power.
With an emphasis on exploration, The Truss Arch by Sonya Stefan is an ode to freedom rippling with reflection, somewhere between an autobiographical piece, a heartfelt tribute to an immigrant mother whose fate is out of her hands, and a dance film; while Ikebana by Rita Ferrando and Lily Jue Sheng is a sensitive film that questions representation as well as exploring the meticulous, meditative art of flower arrangement.
The colourful and creative The End of Wonderland by Laurence Turcotte-Fraser – a depiction of Tara Emory, a trans artist and pioneer of the burlesque, fetish, and erotic scene of the 90s – completes this section alongside Gabor by Joannie Lafrenière, this edition’s closing film.
HAUNTED TERRITORIES – 11 films that transport us to ghostly worlds where the weight of the past blurs reality and fiction
Poème fantôme by Laurence Olivier draws us deep inside a strange and haunted natural environment, while Abisal by Alejandro Alonso is a hypnotic fable in which worlds, temporalities, and realities overlap, recalling how the ghosts that haunt us often come from within.
Places are sometimes haunted by the systems that govern them. In The Gig is Up, filmmaker Shannon Walsh records the striking yet calmly recounted stories of workers exploited by the gig economy. Exposing a cruel capitalist system, this is a documentary destined to ring alarm bells. In 2010, fire tore through a prison in Chile, killing 81 people. Haunted by nightmares of the victims, El cielo está rojo by Francina Carbonell revisits the tragedy to denounce a precarious prison system.
Urban spaces and memory take pride of place in two films: Zaina Bseiso’s When Light is Displaced, in which an orange grove in California becomes an unexpected site of shared reflection around experiences of exile for a Palestinian father and daughter; and If You See Her, Say Hello by Hee Young Pyun and Jiajun (Oscar) Zhang, whichfollows a man who visits the town where he grew up, only to discover that the old city is in ruins and a new one has replaced it.
Speech is the focus both of By the Throat by Effi & Amir, a surprising work that explores accent as a powerful social marker and the sinister control tactics that exploit it; and of Minimal Sway While Starting My Way Up by Stéphanie Lagarde which, in a world where data are gathered to be analyzed by artificial intelligence, a talking elevator describes what it perceives.
During the pandemic, two friends keep up correspondence via excerpts of films. The result is Same/Different/Both/Neither by Adriana Barbosa and Fernanda Pessoa, which captures the feeling of a suspended space/time. In Delphine’s Prayers by Rosine Mbakam, two friends are connected by their shared belonging to the African diaspora. The filmmaker introduces us to Delphine, a woman whose greatest crime remains her own existence.
GESTURES OF RESISTANCE – 10 films celebrating gestures both great and small of those who fight the status quo
In Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy (Emerging Canadian Filmmaker Award and Rogers Audience Award for Canadian Feature Documentary, Hot Docs 2021 and the Colin Low Award for Best Canadian Director, DOXA 2021), filmmaker Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers takes her camera into her own community, the Kainai First Nation, to shed light on their collective struggle to overcome the opioid crisis and to heal the wounds caused by colonialism.
Dear Jackie by Henri Pardo is a cinematic letter to baseball player Jackie Robinson offering a historical and social perspective on racism. Just a Movement by Vincent Meessen, meanwhile, is a free adaptation of Jean-Luc Godard’s La Chinoise that explores the story of Senegalese Marxist militant Omar Blondin Diop.
The winner of this year’s Œil d’Or (Golden Eye) award at Cannes, A Night of Knowing Nothing by Payal Kapadia draws on the correspondence between two university students whose romantic relationship is thwarted by the archaic caste system. Also set in India is Writing with Fire by Sushmit Ghosh and Rintu Thomas, which follows female journalists of the Dalit community who decide to move beyond their print newspaper and, instead, to produce videos with a reach of millions.
Little Palestine, Diary of a Siege by Abdallah Al-Khatib gives a Palestinian militant’s perspective of the Yarmouk refugee camp, under a brutal siege by the Syrian regime and surviving only thanks to the resistance and generosity of the community. An original collaboration between the filmmaker and the Cuban refugees stranded at a camp in Panama, La opción cero by Marcel Beltrán tells the inside story of a dangerous migration.
Audrey and Maxime Jean-Baptiste reappropriate the archives of France’s National Center for Space Studies to tell a story of collective dispossession in Listen to the Beat of Our Images, an incisive and otherworldly cinematic essay. In All of Your Stars are But Dust on my Shoes by Haig Aivazian, seemingly disparate video and sound elements enter into a dialogue, reminding us that light always has its dark side.
And, since resistance can sometimes be embodied by silent struggles, this section’s final film is Edna by Brazilian filmmaker Eryk Rocha. Both poetic and brutal, this film follows an older woman whose diary records her memories of survival in a territory scarred by massacres.
ECHOES OF THE PAST – 11 films that call for reflection on the past, to understand the present and imagine a better future
Equipped with an old tape recorder and his keen eye, an Indigenous man speaks with Elders of his community whose assimilated Christian faith coexists with a longing for the past in Nothing But the Sun by Arami Ullón. Ëdhä Dädhëcha¸| Moosehide Slide by Dan Sokolowski juxtaposes two stories – the white man’s version and the First Nations’ version – that explain the formation of a geographical feature. This experimental short film highlights the impossibility of reconciliation without recognition of the ancestral stories of Indigenous peoples.
Carolina Arias Ortiz travels to Costa Rica to reconnect with her dying father in Objetos Rebeldes. Like an archaeological dig, this essay unfolds along several strata, revealing cracks in the country. In Under Silence and Earth, filmmaker Gisela Restrepo makes the trip to Colombia to search for the body of her aunt who took part in armed conflict.
zo reken by Emanuel Licha, the winner of the Best Canadian Feature Documentary Award at Hot Docs, takes us to Port-au-Prince and inside a 4×4, where Haitian inhabitants discuss colonization and international aid, casting a critical eye on many broken promises. The First 54 Years – An Abbreviated Manual for Military Occupation is a detailed guide from director Avi Mograbi that unveils the forces at work in the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank.
Kal Fatemeh by Mahdi Zamanpour Kiasari depicts the daily life of Kal Fatemeh and her sons, who live in a remote region of Iran. Undaunted by the hardship of rural life, this is a woman whose greatest struggle is the regret of contributing to her daughter’s unhappiness.
Impressive photography is layered with a sound composition made from the desert wind in Galb’Echaouf by Abdessamad El Montassir, which calls up the ghosts of sociopolitical conflicts in the Western Sahara. In Can a Mountain Recall – a cinematographic essay in the form of a personal diary – Delfina Carlota Vazquez tries to unravel the mystery surrounding a volcano that looks out, enigmatically, over a Mexican city.
Winner of the Burning Lights Competition at Visions du Réel 2021, Stefan Pavlovic steps onto the emotional rollercoaster of two men whose growing friendship helps them reconcile themselves with their past in Looking for Horses. In Conversations avec Siro, frank and frequent discussions between filmmaker Dima El-Horr and her friend Siro provide an opportunity to reflect on solitude, exile, and the future of a Lebanon ravaged by successive crises.
VITALY MANSKY RETROSPECTIVE – Facing Reality
This year, the RIDM pays tribute to filmmaker Vitaly Mansky, whose keen eye and critical perspective on political questions is more necessary than ever before. Through his films, the Russian producer and director addresses complex questions with a cinematographic style that is at once persuasive and provocative. His films Broadway. Black Sea (2002), Private Chronicles. Monologue (2011), Pipeline (2013), Under the Sun (2015), Close Relations (2016), Putin’s Witnesses (2018) and his most recent opus Gorbachev. Heaven (2021) will feature in this retrospective of his work.
For the fourth year running, the RIDM and Wapikoni mobile join forces to present 4 x Wapikoni mobile: four shorts to be screened before each feature film in the Canadian competition. This selection is a snapshot of the creativity of new voices in Indigenous filmmaking, including works by Mary Menie Mark, Melanie Lameboy, Alfred McKenzie, and Véronique Picard. A fantastic way to celebrate Wapikoni mobile’s many achievements since 2004.
Hosted by Matthieu Dugal, La soirée de la relève Radio-Canada is the chance to see six short documentaries by Quebec’s next generation of filmmakers. Audiences will have the chance to discover works by Jérémie Picard, Julia Zahar, Sara Ben-Saud, Stéphane Nepton, Simon Larochelle, and Aucéane Roux. This exciting event will be held on Sunday, November 14 at 7 p.m. at the Cinéma du Musée, attended by the filmmakers. Following the event, the films will be available on the RIDM’s online platform from November 18 to the 21, and then on ICI TOU.TV.
From November 2 to 27, the Société des arts technologiques’ [SAT] dome will play host to the immersive film Territories of the Americas by Patrick Bossé, a travelogue inspired by the artistic career of multidisciplinary artist René Derouin. The film, in which 360° footage combines with graphic animations, retraces the artist’s journey from Quebec to Mexico. Territories of the Americas is presented by Hubblo in collaboration with the RIDM.
ROUNDTABLES AND DISCUSSIONS
The roundtable Working in the cultural sector: redefining what’s essential, presented in collaboration with the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), will address labour standards in the cultural sector, as well as issues in adapting to the constraints of the ongoing pandemic. This discussion will take place on Saturday, November 13 at 2 p.m. in the Salle Norman-McLaren of the Cinémathèque québécoise.
Another roundtable, Regional documentary cinema: creation, production, and distribution, presented in collaboration with URBANIA, will be held on Saturday, November 20 at 1 p.m. in the Salle Norman-McLaren of the Cinémathèque québécoise. For this event, documentary filmmakers and other professionals working in rural areas and smaller cities in Quebec will discuss cultural creation in these locations, as well as collaboration, territory, and representation.
TWO ANNIVERSARY EVENTS
Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Institut national de l’image et du son (INIS) will present a selection of its best documentaries entitled 25 years of INIS: from strength to strength, followed by a discussion with some of the INIS alumni.
This discussion will take place on Thursday, November 11 at 7 p.m. in the Salle Norman-McLaren of the Cinémathèque québécoise.
2021 also marks the 50th anniversary of Vidéographe. To highlight the occasion, artist and filmmaker Luc Bourdon has put together a selection – Le devoir de mémoire – of five films from the artist centre’s 2300-title catalogue. The screening will take place on Friday, November 19 at 6 p.m. in the Salle Norman-McLaren of the Cinémathèque québécoise, followed by a discussion hosted by Luc Bourdon.
And finally, for the seventh year running, the RIDM is delighted to invite families to the Cinémathèque québécoise for its Family Screenings, an international program of short films for ages six and up, as well as a workshop on learning from images adapted for youths. Presented in collaboration with the Carrousel international du film de Rimouski, the Family Screenings will take place on Saturday, November 13 at 10:30 a.m. and Sunday, November 21 at 2:30 p.m.
AWARDS AND JURIES
The following prizes will be awarded during the RIDM awards ceremony on Saturday, November 20 at 5 p.m. in the Salle Norman-McLaren of the Cinémathèque québécoise:
Grand Prize for International Feature Competition – presented by TV5
Special Jury Prize for International Feature Competition
Grand Prize for National Feature Competition – presented by PRIM
Special Jury Prize for National Feature Competition
New Visions Award – presented by SCAM and Post-Moderne
Best International Short or Medium-Length Film
Best National Short or Medium-Length Film – presented by Télé-Québec and SLA Location
Magnus-Isacsson Award – presented with the ARRQ, DOC Québec, Funambules Médias, Cinema Politica, and MainFilm
Student Award – presented by the Caisse Desjardins du Plateau Mont-Royal
People’s Choice Award – presented by the Canada Media Fund (NOUS | MADE)
PRICES AND SALES OF PASSES AND SUBSCRIPTIONS
To ensure that access to the program is simple and affordable, the online box office offers several options for purchasing your festival pass:
– Tickets for in-theatre screenings are $13. A discount of $2 per ticket applies for any purchase of five or more tickets. There will also be a physical box office at the Cinémathèque québécoise during the festival.
– For those who prefer to watch from the comfort of home, and for documentary fans across Canada, the RIDM will offer online access to the vast majority of its program from November 14 onward, via the RIDM online platform. At $85, the RIDM passport gives you access to the online program, which will be released in three program blocks between November 14 and 25.
– Alternatively, a subscription for one online block can be purchased for $30. This option allows you to view all the films from one of the three program blocks via the online platform. All the details are available on the festival website.