5 films to see at RIDM 2023, Montreal’s documentary festival

RIDM is screening 138 films from 47 countries from Nov. 15 to 26.

The 2023 edition of RIDM, the Montreal International Documentary Festival, runs from Nov. 15 to 26, presenting 138 films from 47 countries and several free discussions and activities. One of the best documentary festivals in North America, this year’s program features groundbreaking auteurist documentary filmmaking that’s well worth checking out. 

Among the major selections include RIDM’s opening film, Bye Bye Tiberias, directed by French-Palestinian-Algerian director Lina Soualem, who follows her mother — actress and filmmaker Hiam Abbass — to paint an intergenerational portrait of the women in her family. The closing film will be Novembre, directed by Iphigénie Marcoux-Fortier and Karine van Ameringen , which invites audiences to wander the streets of Montreal and come to terms with the most dreaded month of the year. 

Among the special screenings includes Denis Côté’s latest, Mademoiselle Kenopsia, which we reviewed earlier this year out of TIFF. Côté will also present a masterclass and the festival will host a party featuring French duo Potochkine, who provided music for the film. There will also be a special screening hosted by Alanis Obomsawin of two early works, Christmas at Moose Factory (1971) and Amisk (1977), to launch a DVD box set featuring a curated collection of her work from the NFB. 

Cult MTL contributor Nora Rosenthal will also be presenting her short film

Nine Easy Dances, a series of short vignettes of family life suffused with laughter and tenderness, punctuated by the chaos of filming and the unknowns of an aging household. 

With many other events and screenings, the program is well worth poring over. If you need a little help, though, here is our recommendation of some essential films worth seeing. 

Apolonia, Apolonia

Apolonia, Apolonia (directed by Lea Glob)

When Lea Glob first met Apolonia Sokol in 2009, she appeared to be leading a storybook life. The talented Apolonia was born in an underground theatre in Paris and grew up in an artists’ community — the ultimate bohemian existence. In her 20s, she studied at the Beaux-Arts de Paris, one of Europe’s most prestigious art academies. Over the years, Lea Glob kept returning to film the charismatic Apolonia and a special bond developed between the two young women.

Apolonia, Apolonia screens at Cinéma du Parc (French subtitles) on Nov 17., 8 p.m. and at the Cinémathèque Québécoise (English subtitles) on Nov. 26, 8:45 p.m.

Coconut Head Generation

Coconut Head Generation (directed by Alain Kassanda)

Every Thursday, a group of students from Nigeria’s University of Ibadan organizes a film club, transforming a small amphitheatre into a political agora where they refine their vision and develop a critical voice. “Coconut head generation,” a scornful expression to designate a stubborn and brainless youth, takes on a whole new meaning when the students turn this stigma around to claim their freedom of thought.

Coconut Head Generation screens at the Cinémathèque Québécoise (French subtitles) on Nov. 16, 3 p.m. and at the Cinémathèque Québécoise (English subtitles) on Nov. 21, 1 p.m.

Feet in Water, Head on Fire

Feet in Water, Head on Fire (directed by Terra Long)

Date palms, imported and cultivated decades ago, flourished in the Coachella Valley in Southern California. A cacophony of voices from across generations reflects on the shifting landscape of the region; some remember the first few acres that were planted, while others enjoy the luxuries of new golf courses. Feet in Water, Head on Fire is a sensorial vibrant 16mm experience that takes us on past, present and future journeys. Director Terra Long hand-processed the footage using leftover dates and native plants, intertwining the environment into the fabric of the film. Through complex and nuanced scenes, non-sync interviews blossom into a wonderfully gentle but memorable portrait of a community in flux.

Feet in Water, Head on Fire screens at Cinéma du Parc (English subtitles) on Nov. 23, 8:30 p.m. and at the Cinémathèque Québécoise (French subtitles) on Nov. 25, 6 p.m. Director Terra Long will be in attendance for both screenings. 


Hummingbirds (directed by Silvia Del Carmen Castaños and Estefanía “Beba” Contreras)

Best friends Silvia and Beba record their lives as they dance, make music and face an uncertain immigration process in Texas near the Mexican border. Their hang-out spots are so familiar but, stuck in an immigration process over which deportation hangs as a constant possibility, home still seems a fragile concept. Between bars, drive-thrus, friends’ couches and the borderlands, they confront the stresses of survival, the future and community-building. The film premiered this year at Berlinale and won the Grand Prix of the Generation 14plus International Jury for Best Film.

Hummingbirds screens at Cinéma du Parc (English subtitles) on Nov. 19, 6:30 p.m. and at the Cinémathèque Québécoise (English subtitles) on Nov. 26, 5 p.m.

Still Film

Still Film (directed by James N. Kienitz Wilkins)

In the form of a fictitious legal deposition, James N. Kienitz Wilkins explores the last 40 years of cinema using images taken from Hollywood film press kits. This obsessive and joyful film flits between memories, conspiracy theories and technological obsolescence, like a meditative contemplation on contemporary cinema and truth itself.

Still Film is screening at the Cinémathèque Québécoise (French subtitles) on Nov. 17 at 8 p.m. and at the Cinémathèque Québécoise (French subtitles) on Nov. 19, 8:30 p.m.

For more information about RIDM, including tickets, check their website.

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