This year’s Rencontres internationales du documentaire festival, running from Nov. 10 to 20, takes on a variety of themes and subjects as usual, but the migrant crisis and general global unrest loom large in many of the films presented this year.
RIDM opens with Gianfranco Rosi’s Golden Bear-winning Fire at Sea, which documents Lampedusa, a small Italian island that has become an important centre in the European migrant crisis. Philip Scheffner’s Havarie is an experimental deconstruction of migrant boat footage that takes on a whole new meaning, while the local production Gulistan, terre des roses focuses on women in Kurdistan who have taken up arms against ISIS.
Sylvain l’Espérance’s Voyage au bout de la nuit puts the focus on Greek protests, while Avi Mograbi’s Between Fences showcases a theatre group made up of refugees living in a camp in the Israeli desert. Guy Davidi (Oscar-nominated for the previous RIDM selection 5 Broken Cameras) directs Mixed Feelings, about an Israeli theatre teacher whose position on the conflict brewing around him complicates his job. Tim Sutton, director of the Willis Earl Beale documentary Memphis a few years back, returns with Dark Night, a semi-documentary inspired by the movie theatre shootings in Colorado with music by Montreal musician Maica Armata (Maica Mia, Caro Diario).
Kate Plays Christine
On the more biographical front, the most recognizable figure is most likely David Lynch, the subject of David Lynch: The Art Life, which examines not only Lynch’s films but also his work as a painter and a visual artist — a rare glimpse into the mind of the notoriously analysis-shy Lynch. Actress Kate Lyn Sheil (House of Cards) slips into the role of the infamous Christine Chubbuck in the meta-doc Kate Plays Christine, which explores the preparations required to play the Florida journalist who committed suicide on live TV in 1973. (The fictional film with Sheil was never made, which makes this a not-quite-making-of, but another film account, starring Rebecca Hall, is opening at Cinéma du Parc on Nov. 25.)
Choreographer Ohad Naharin is considered the father of the “gaga” form of dance; his life and career are explored in Tomer Heymann’s Mr. Gaga. Swiss-German sociologist and anti-capitalist shit disturber Jean Ziegler is profiled in Nicolas Wadimoff’s Jean Ziegler, the Optimism of Willpower. It’s a stranger kind of biopic that transpires in John Bolton’s Aim for the Roses, which turns its camera not exactly towards famed daredevil Ken Carter’s attempt at crossing the St. Lawrence in a jet-powered car, but towards musician Mark Haney’s attempt to capture Carter’s exploits in a conceptual album. Meanwhile, Doutonboriyo, Nakasetekure! — Documentary of NMB48 looks at the phenomenon of Japanese idol groups.
Folklorists and musicians Fred Pellerin and Gilles Vigneault explore Québécois identity in Le goût d’un pays, while John Walker’s Québec My Country mon pays explores the two solitudes from the perspective of the hundreds of thousands of anglophones who chose to move away from the province in the 1960s and ’70s. The Hartings, a blind family from Montreal (you may have seen them singing in the metro), are profiled in Carl Guillermo Proto’s Resurrecting Hassan, while addicts from Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood are the focus of The Stairs.
Veteran documentarian Alanis Obomsawin returns with an incendiary documentary about residential schools, We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice, which was celebrated at its TIFF premiere earlier this year. Sébastien Rist and Aude Leroux-Lévesque profile a young couple who dream of leaving the small Inuit community where they grew up in Living With Giants, while Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s Angry Inuk explores the long-standing controversies and realities concerning the seal hunt.
This is, of course, a mere sampling of everything RIDM has to offer. It doesn’t even touch on the myriad shorts and mid-length films that are programmed, not to mention the more experimental works where the program notes do a much better job of setting the mood than I can without having seen the film. Watch this space for coverage of RIDM and capsule reviews during the length of the festival. ■
RIDM runs from Nov. 10–20 at various locations. For the complete program, check out their website.