Jouvencelles ridm

What to watch at RIDM this week

Montreal’s documentary festival is screening films about Quebec teens on social media, the aftermath of the Beirut explosion and the many permutations of grief.

The 25th edition of the Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM) is on from Nov. 17 to 27.


Octopus Beirut film documentary RIDM

Shot in the aftermath of the August 2020 explosion in Beirut, Octopus seeks to capture the intimate changes to the city following the explosion. With few voices, and a stark observational style, the film has a trance-like quality. Despite the city in ruins, incapacitated and torn apart, people continue to live; children still play in the streets, men still smoke their cigarettes and women get their haircuts. 

With little to no commentary or editorializing, Octopus reveals a sense of resilience and warmth. People can adapt quickly to new environments. They’re able to find joy even in destruction. Without it being a gung-ho motivational film about resurrection, it captures a people unwilling to back down, unwilling to be forgotten. Without articulating the thought, the film underlines a certain amnesia the world has faced with disaster. In the moment, people display solidarity and even outrage, and then 48 hours later, the news cycle has changed, and little thought is given to the aftermath. Though Beirut’s specific images and movements are the focus, the documentary expands outward to reflect on our social and global engagement as a worldwide community. 

With a short runtime, the film’s poetic nature doesn’t weigh too heavily. It treads a careful line between meditation and ethnography as it depicts a specific time and place with loving attention. 

Octopus is screening on Nov. 22, 3:45 PM (Cinémathèque Québécoise, Salle Crave).


What is it like to be young in the age of social media, in the shadow of the pandemic? With Jouvencelles, director Fanie Pelletier looks at three groups of Quebec teen girls navigating life online and off. In their late adolescence up until their early 20s, the girls talk and play and stream, discussing what brings them happiness and what causes them pain. Through form and dialogue, the film engages with how online experiences transform our relationship with our bodies and the creeping alienation that emerges as the online and offline selves feel increasingly at odds.

While much of the film is focused on intimate voiceovers and conversations between the girls, some of the most compelling elements are from various livestreams, from the girls and also unknown strangers. These sequences from Instagram lives and periscopes shed light on the performance of being online. The need to “do something” and embody or disregard certain beauty standards. It also showcases the impenetrable noise of abuse and longing as men flock to young women’s streams to hit on them and tear them apart. It’s almost at a certain point as if you don’t own your image at all, that your entire sense of self belongs to those who watch. 

Beautifully constructed, Jouvencelles may focus on the lives and longings of teen girls, but it has a lot to say more generally about how we all live. The film doesn’t take the easy way out by outright condemning social media. Instead, it examines with openness and vulnerability the way things are. 

Jouvencelles is playing on Nov. 24, 8:45 p.m. (Cinéma du Musée)

Back Home

Back Home RIDM documentary film

Striking a balance between the personal and the more experimental, Nisha Platzer’s Back Home turns the camera inward. In 1999, when she was 11 years old, Platzer’s older brother, at 15, took his life. Twenty years later, she’s still grappling with the enormity of the experience. Forced to return to her hometown to deal with a medical condition as part of her care process, she re-establishes a connection with a woman who greatly impacted her brother’s life. Captured over five years, the film showcases how Nisha can grow closer to her lost brother through this new relationship. Through montage and intimate conversation, it articulates how people live on through our love for them. Platzer even finds a way to weave her brother’s ashes into the literal film itself, using them as part of a film wash in an especially beautiful passage. The film’s open and poetic structure allows viewers to reflect on their relationships with life and death. Back Home is a deeply personal film that is also incredibly inviting. 

A compelling and challenging meditation on grief, the film speaks to contemporary life’s failures to put rituals and community into place as part of a mourning process. It also speaks to the failures of the mental health system, reflecting an even larger social and political failure to care for those most in need. 

Back Home is playing Nov. 23, 3:30 p.m. (Cinéma du Parc, Salle 2)

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

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