Acts of Love (What to watch online at Montreal documentary film festival RIDM)

What to watch online at Montreal documentary film festival RIDM

The online portion of the festival continues today with Bloc 2 of its virtual programming.

The 24th annual Rencontres Internationales du Documentaire de Montréal, ie. the Montreal documentary film festival best known as RIDM, runs from Nov. 10–24.

Acts of Love

Acts of Love (What to watch online at Montreal documentary film festival RIDM)
Acts of Love (What to watch online at Montreal documentary film festival RIDM)

After relocating to Chicago because an older boyfriend has lost interest, filmmaker Isidore Bethel undertakes a relationship “project.” Using Grindr, he sets up dates and interviews, finding subjects willing to discuss and to answer questions about love, connection and intimacy within the gay community. The film takes a radically kind and empathetic approach by addressing the loneliness of contemporary life amidst the illusion of connectivity. Raw and almost student-like in form, the movie harkens back to the early classics of queer documentary cinema, which utilized limited resources to explore transgressive questions and ideas with tenderness and intimacy.

At once uncomfortably intimate and wide-ranging, the film, co-directed by Francis Leplay, examines the pressures of hook-up culture with intense vulnerability. Combining interviews, photomontages, staged sequences and narration, the movie often feels like a diary punctuated by the harshness of reality. Bethel as a subject/persona is someone ill at ease and seeking affirmation; this tension between his desire to control and how he is foiled is often at the heart of the film’s drama. The sequences, in particular, involving the filmmaker’s mother (who is quite critical of the project) add an extra dimension of self-reflexivity that contributes to a more well-rounded film that explores interpersonal relationships and the bond between the artist and his work. 

Canards Errants 

Canards Errants (What to watch online at Montreal documentary film festival RIDM)
Canards Errants (What to watch online at Montreal documentary film festival RIDM)

Over 10 years ago, NASA dropped 90 yellow rubber ducks into holes in Greenland’s glaciers as part of an experiment on climate change. Now, scientists are still trying to locate the ducks, which they hoped would be scattered across the world. With Canards Errants, director Bruno Chouinard utilizes the strange and surreal symbol of the yellow duck to create an often fantastical and apocalyptic vision of the end of the world. Told from all across the world, all from the point of view of an unblinking piece of sunflower-tinted plastic, the movie reflects with irony and deadpan comedy on the state of climate from a wide range of perspectives.

While pegged to a rather interesting scientific experiment, the added nuance of transforming the nefarious invasiveness of plastics in our oceans (and also our bodies) in its cutest form only further enriches the film. It reflects not only on a more profound unwillingness to adopt substantive behavioural changes but how our misguided affections for cheap objects and materialism drives our very worst impulses. The mysterious bonds that link humans to their most inane creations drive so much of the film’s absurdity and all but ensure our collective doom. 

Little Palestine, Diary of a Siege

Little Palestine, Diary of a Siege (What to watch online at Montreal documentary film festival RIDM)

Unfolding in the district of Yarmouk during the Syrian Civil War, Little Palestine, Diary of a Siege depicts the lives of the primarily Palestinian residents during increased fighting from the regime. An incredibly intimate and often harrowing film by Abdallah Al-Khatib examines the worsening conflict and its impact on the refugee population. While wide-ranging in perspective, the movie takes particular interest in children and the elderly, focusing on the community’s most vulnerable members in a quest for greater truths. Far more than just a portrait of war, the film examines the nature of home and community among already displaced people. 

The film’s narrative remains somewhat vague, motivated by the unfolding of time. Al-Khatib’s incredible eye sets the film apart, which brings us, often literally, close to its subjects. His sense of observation is astonishing — a camera “discovering” a subject by lingering on dirty feet, nails painted with silvery purple polish, pans up to reveal a little girl staring back at him (and us). The way he shoots children in particular, often at a much lower eyeline, brings us directly into their world. His interview style similarly encourages children to speak frankly about their lived experiences during active warfare, with little or no recourse for escape.

For more on RIDM, please visit the festival’s website.

For more film and TV coverage, please visit the Film & TV section.