This Monday at RIDM

Our screen team reviews two documentaries screening at RIDM today, including a new film from Alanis Obomsawin.

The 22nd annual Montreal documentary film festival RIDM (Rencontres Internationales du Documentaire de Montréal) runs through Nov. 24. Here are reviews of two films screening today.

Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger

Alanis Obomsawin’s latest film, Jordan River Anderson, the messenger, examines the origins and failed implementation of Jordan’s Principle. Jordan’s Principle is a law introduced by the Canadian government to ensure that First Nations children receive the same treatment as all other Canadians. It is named after Jordan River Anderson, a boy born with a rare muscular disorder who lived out most of his life in prison as there was little to no infrastructure to assure he could return to his community and home. 

The film is structured around different stories of families that fought for equal treatment within the Canadian medical system. They are stories of hardship, sacrifice and solitude. Even as Jordan’s Principle was unanimously voted through in 2007, nothing seems to change. In 2016, a human rights case was brought against the government to force their hand in the matter. Obomsawin’s filmmaking is sensitive and carefully interweaves the personal with the political. The film showcases the Canadian government’s failure to stand up for all of its citizens, as the most vulnerable are often left behind. While the film has a somewhat happy ending, it is only the beginning of the battle. While Jordan’s Principle applies to children, once they reach 18, they will no longer be protected by it. The film’s final act serves as a celebration of new protections and an ominous foreboding of the fight to come. (Justine Smith)

Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger screens Quartier Latin (350 Émery) on Monday, Nov. 18, 8 p.m.

The Hottest August

Though The Hottest August is a film about American issues, it’s extremely unsurprising to hear the voice behind the camera tell two unimpressed, red-faced former NYC cops that she’s from Canada. The style and form of The Hottest August is pure NFB — philosophical voiceover, unhurried scenes from everyday life, diegetic talking heads, a soupçon of barely explained weirdness… Director Brett Story takes a look at the lives of average New Yorkers during the month of August 2017, slated to be the hottest one in history. Story talks to people from Staten Island whose lives have been forever altered by Hurricane Sandy, working-class life-long Brooklynites who rail against gentrification but in the same breath claim to be glad that it’s moving “rough” people (skater kids, food truck vendors, etc.) out of their lives.

The Hottest August is very much a post-Trump, eco-anxious look at the state of the world, but a portentous voiceover from Story almost ensures that the film is writing cheques it can’t cash. It takes a fragmented approach to a world that is crumbling under the weight of its fragments, but there’s really no way that a film this purposely wide in its perspective is ever going to answer the questions it poses. That’s part of the point, mind you: The Hottest August presents not only millennials worried at the prospect of a dire future (“What future?” says one of the skate kids, certainly unconsciously moving the Pistols’ “no future for you” to a more 2019 “no future for us”), it also presents a yuppie economist/art enthusiast who straight-facedly claims that there isn’t enough capitalism in the world and that we should be able to claim ownership of clean air. Nevertheless, I feel like I can kind of figure out that we’re irredeemably fucked without the definition of capitalism being read out over depressing footage. (Alex Rose)

The Hottest August screens at Cinéma du Parc (3575 du Parc) on Monday, Nov. 18, 8:45 p.m. and again at Cinémathèque Québecoise (335 de Maisonneuve E.) on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 5:30 p.m.

See the complete RIDM program here.