The RIDM will open with the world premiere of Le nez by Quebec filmmaker Kim Nguyen. The War Witch director creates a fascinating journey through the mysterious world of the sense of smell. Closing the festival is another world premiere: the new documentary Spartiates by Swiss filmmaker Nicolas Wadimoff (Clandestins and Aisheen – Still Alive in Gaza). Set in the outskirts of Marseille, where a mixed martial arts instructor – a larger-than-life personality and a strict taskmaster – is struggling to keep his school open.
Eleven awards will be presented to the winning films in the RIDM’s four competitive sections. The the International feature competition, there are 13 films of wildly diverse styles and origins. This competition is a testament to the variety and innovation found in documentary cinema. From a Turkish documentary tale (Once Upon a Time) and direct cinema from the Democratic Republic of Congo (Examen d’État), to essays touching on the personal and the political in Cyprus (Evaporating Borders) and a dizzying ethnographic experience in Lebanon, these stories all inspire viewers to see the world in a new light.
The use of novel directing techniques gives rise to unique, unforgettable films such as Tour of Duty, the story of former “comfort women” from South Korea; N – The Madness of Reason, a deep, visually arresting reflection on the legacy of colonialism in Africa; and Actress, a portrait – part documentary, part performance – of an actress known mainly for her work on The Wire.
The RIDM will also reconnect with some favourite artists, such as Joshua Oppenheimer with The Look of Silence, the eagerly anticipated companion piece to The Act of Killing. The new film is a devastating look at the Indonesian genocide from the victims’ point of view. J.P. Sniadecki, who participated last year in the Sensory Ethnography Lab retrospective, returns with The Iron Ministry, a fascinating immersion in Chinese life, filmed entirely aboard the country’s trains. The festival also has the latest from Pierre-Yves Vandeweerd (Les tourmentes) and Fernand Melgar (L’abri), both former recipients of the RIDM’s Grand Prix.
The Canadian feature competition boasts a strong field of films including new works by several well-known directors: Claude Demers (D’où je viens), Bruno Baillargeon (L’œuvre des jours), Jean-François Caissy (La marche à suivre), Paul Cowan (Les 18 fugitives, co-directed by Palestinian filmmaker Amer Shomali), Marie-Hélène Cousineau (Sol, co-directed by Inuit director Susan Avingaq), Diane Poitras (Nuits) and Alanis Obomsawin (Trick or Treaty?).
Emerging talents are also well represented: with Juanicas, Karina Garcia Casanova has made an intensely emotional chronicle of her brother’s mental illness; in Les derniers hommes éléphants Arnaud Bouquet and Daniel Ferguson chronicle life among the Bunong of Cambodia, whose endangered culture has for millennia been founded on the taming of wild elephants; Vincent Toi’s I’ve Seen the Unicorn takes us to the director’s birthplace, Mauritius, for a poetic look at the horse racing and its deep significance for the country’s people; and Julia Kwan’s Everything Will Be is an insightful reflection on the transformation of Vancouver’s Chinatown.
International short and medium-length competitions see sixteen shorts and eight medium-length films that will showcase the art of making concise documentaries, a talent mastered by the filmmakers in this selection. In Atlantis, Ben Russell explores the mythical lost city with a kaleidoscopic essay somewhere between philosophy and pure perception. Pierre Schoeller, the director of L’exercice de l’État, returns with Le temps perdu, a chronicle of everyday life in a Syrian refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan. Yuri Ancarani, the Italian director who thrilled last year’s festivalgoers with his trilogy of shorts, is back with San Siro, an epic and slyly funny anatomy of Milan’s famous stadium. And, using animation, Marie-Josée Saint-Pierre brings the exceptional artist Claude Jutra back to life.
Among this year’s exciting discoveries are the intriguing Buffalo Juggalos, about the strange subculture of Insane Clown Posse fans; Les immaculés, a documentary in rendered images about the stigmatization of Gypsies in Europe; and Boucle piqué, an intense look into the lives of young figure skaters.
There is so much more, including the Panorama Special Presentations and the series Retrospectives and Tributes. This year RIDM will celebrate the work of American experimental director James Benning. The event – with 10 films, two installations (presented in collaboration with VOX, centre de l’image contemporaine), a small-group workshop and a master class – is the most extensive program of its kind ever to be presented in Canada.
The 17th annual RIDM takes place from November 12 to 23, 2014. Click here and look for the link to the RIDM and other November film festivals.