This weekend at RIDM

Skipping motherhood, an uncomfortable profile of a filmmaker’s mother and a glimpse at three Internet stars’ flirtation with fame, screening at the doc film fest.

Maman Non Merci

Montreal’s documentary film festival — the Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal (RIDM) — runs through Nov. 22. Here are reviews of three films screening at the fest for the first time today.

Maman? Non merci!

When it comes to the happiness of women, social mores and expectations haven’t changed much over the decades. This is the focus of Québec filmmaker Magenta Baribeau’s documentary Maman? Non merci!

Baribeau traveled to Quebec, Belgium and France and interviewed women of different ages about their decision to not have children. In terms of technique, the film may not be doing anything innovative, but it is precisely its traditional interview-to-interview storytelling that makes the viewer invested in the topic.

Her subjects are at various stages in their lives, but still find themselves having to justify their choice not to have children to their families, friends and sometimes even complete strangers. Even though they have full reproductive rights, women are still faced with the expectation of motherhood. All of the subjects confess to having been at one point called selfish or that they won’t know true happiness until they have a baby. For something that is painted as so glorious, motherhood seems quite diminutive in that way. As one of the interviewees says, “So if I don’t make use of my uterus, I can’t be useful to society?”

What’s refreshing about Baribeau’s approach to the topic is that she interviews men too, who can choose not to become parents for sociological, political or personal reasons as well. There is no doubt that women face much more pressure than men, but Maman? Non Merci! offers a balanced and nuanced view of the many reasons people may have to not become parents. (Radina Papukchieva)

Maman? Non merci! screens at Excentris (3536 St-Laurent) today, Nov. 15, 9 p.m. and on Nov. 17, 5:30 p.m.

No Home Movie

No Home Movie

When Chantal Akerman’s No Home Movie premiered at Locarno earlier this year, it was seen as her formally difficult attempt to reckon with the death of her mother – a way to preserve her spirit in a way that was perhaps only truly useful to Akerman. After the film did the rounds in Locarno and TIFF, Akerman committed suicide in Paris. What originally seemed to many like a deeply personal but otherwise minor film suddenly took on the sombre airs of a final statement.

What happened to Akerman after the film was made doesn’t really change the film itself, which takes the shape of a rather formless collection of home-movie vignettes in which she often films her mother not doing much. They eat lunch, they speak on Skype, Akerman’s mother (her name is Nelly) does menial tasks around the house and tidies up; often Nelly walks in and out of the completely still shot. Sometimes she shares stories from her past (she’s a Holocaust survivor). It’s less a documentary than a personal essay about the very boring and very ordinary things that make a person who they are.

This, of course, is nothing new in Akerman’s work: her most notorious film is the mesmerizing  Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, a four-hour film that chronicles in painstaking detail the various menial tasks of a housewife. No Home Movie isn’t a fiction, but it’s similarly interested in the rigidity of monotony. For most people (and I suppose I must include myself in those ranks), it’ll prove to be somewhat of an ordeal as it eschews pretty much every aspect one looks for in a film. It’s difficult and somewhat impossible to crack; I don’t know if I really got anything from it, but it seems clear now that that was somewhat beside the point. (Alex Rose)

No Home Movie screens at Excentris (3536 St-Laurent) today, Nov. 15, 4 p.m. and on Nov. 20, 6 p.m.

Breaking a Monster

Breaking a Monster

The name Unlocking the Truth might not be familiar to you, but the video almost certainly is: the incongruous vision of three pre-pubescent African-American boys tearing through monstrous metal riffs in Times Square was a viral sensation in 2013. Breaking a Monster chronicles what happened after the three Brooklyn boys were noticed by producer Alan Sacks (Jonas Brothers svengali and creator of Welcome Back, Kotter) and signed to a $1.8-million record deal with Sony. Sacks has the fanciful idea that he can turn this instrumental riff machine into a pop sensation that bridges the gap between Bieber and Pantera — his enthusiasm basically ignores the fact that the record industry is dying and no one buys records anymore.

Breaking a Monster has a bit of a paid-programming vibe at times where promotion seems to be the final goal. Unsurprisingly, Sacks has a producing credit, and the film shows us time and time again that he’s a shrewd businessman beneath the somewhat goofy Hollywood exterior (he describes himself as “punk rock” while wearing an ascot and a cardigan). What’s most interesting about the film is the way it explores the difficulty of breaking a band that never actually thought about breaking. The band has the kind of fantasies of fame that most 13-year-olds would have, but they’re not particularly well-prepared for the grind of fame; when they’re signed, none of their songs have vocals or lyrics over them (the lyrics they do come up with are about at the level you’d expect from a 13-year-old whose love of metal stems from the background music on Naruto). While not revelatory or mind-blowing in an way, Breaking a Monster hits a sweet spot between the kind of thing you’d find packaged as a DVD extra and a warts-and-all exposé. (Alex Rose)

Breaking a Monster screens at Cinema du Parc (3575 Parc) today, Nov. 15, 4:45 p.m. and on Nov. 16, 5:30 p.m.

For the full RIDM schedule and ticketing info, go to the festival’s website.