Tonight, Wednesday, November 12 sees the opening of the 17th edition of the Montreal International Documentary Festival, more familiar as RIDM, with the world premiere of Kim Nguyen’s THE EMPIRE OF SCENTS (LE NEZ), an exploration of the sense of smell, inspired by a sommelier’s book. The fest closes on Sunday, November 23 with Nicolas Wadimoff’s SPARTANS, a profile of a suburban Marseille MMA and the school he runs. Between these two films, RIDM will screen over sixty new and recent nonfiction features, plus shorts and new media projects. While the simultaneous presentation of DOC NYC on the festival calendar makes it impossible for me to attend, here are the titles that caught my attention:
In the first of several competitions, there are nine films vying for best Canadian Feature. Among these are: Vincent Toi’s I’VE SEEN THE UNICORN (pictured), a portrait of Mauritius through a boy with dreams of becoming a jockey; Arnaud Bouquet and Daniel Ferguson’s LES DERNIER HOMMES ÉLÉPHANTS, about a Cambodian minority whose tradition of taming wild elephants is threatened by development; Susan Avingaq and Hélène Cousineau’s SOL, an investigation into the unexplained death of a young indigenous Arctic man; and Diane Poitras’ NIGHTS, an immersion into Montreal’s nocturnal life.
Eleven films appear in the International Feature Competition, including: Pierre-Yves Vandeweerd’s exorcism of madness in a wintry landscape, FOR THE LOST (pictured); Karim B Haroun’s chronicle of a bloody memorial ritual, MYSTIC MASS; Dong-ryung Kim and Kyoung-tae Park’s recounting of the plight of Korean comfort women, TOUR OF DUTY; and Arami Ullón’s sensitive exploration of a mother/daughter relationship in the face of impending mortality, EL TIEMPO NUBLADO.
RIDM spotlights longer shorts and shorter features in its International Medium-Length Competition, which includes: Céline Baril’s ROOM TONE, which combines visuals of American urban landscapes with audio from familiar films; Laura Stewart’s SHOOTER AND WHITLEY (pictured), about a Wisconsin biker and his much younger girlfriend; and Feriel Benzouaoui’s ALGIERS, THEN, which reveals the Algerian capital through its taxi passengers.
The festival’s Horizons section focuses on current affairs: Ahmed Nour’s MOUG, a personal look at aftermath of the Egyptian revolution; Joris Lachaise’s CE QU’IL RESTE DE LA FOLIE, an exploration of a Senegalese psychiatric hospital; and Ngardy Conteh George and Allan Tong’s THE FLYING STARS (pictured), about the refuge soccer provides for Sierra Leone’s amputee victims of the civil war.
The environment takes center stage in Territories, which includes: Francis Riendeau’s LE CRI SILENCIEUX DU CHEVREUIL (pictured), which explores a Quebec island where deer outnumber humans; and Li-gyeong Hong’s THE EMPIRE OF SHAME, following a Korean class action suit against Samsung’s hazardous work environment.
Other sections focus on festival favorites, music, new media, and work that challenges traditional nonfiction, as well as retrospectives on James Benning, Kazuo Hara, and a series that examines the interrelationship between man and animal.