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Montreal International Documentary Festival – The 20th edition of the Montreal International Documentary Festival (its French name, Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal, RIDM) is being held between November 9 and 19, and since this year marks a special anniversary for the event, its organizers have thrown a very ambitious lineup. A total of 142 films from 47 countries will be screened during the ten-day event.

Announcing the lineup for the 2017 Doc Fest: Bruno Deguen, Daniela Pinna, Mara Gourd-Mercado and Prune Lieutier

Documentaries are non-fiction movies, i.e., their stories are real, those who are featured in them are not necessarily well-known people or celebrities, and in a way, the documentary is the film equivalent to an essay on social issues. The topics could also be very diverse, for instance, this year’s opening film is titled “24 Davids” directed by Céline Baril, a Canadian filmmaker who travelled three continents to gather the testimonies of twenty-four people from different countries, who have in common their first name: David, come from different walks of life, but they are also “dedicated to changing and rethinking the world in their own particular way.” This movie will be presented in French, English, and Spanish, with English and French subtitles.

If the opening film seems to introduce the world to the spectators through the views of those 24 particular individuals, “Nothingwood,” the closing film would take the viewer to the reality of a country of which we hear and see a lot of in the news, usually associated with violent events. Afghanistan is seen here in a quite different fashion. Perhaps most people wouldn’t know that despite great obstacles, that country also makes movies: “Salim Shaheen is a force of nature whose imposing body instantly dominates the screen. He’s a movie lover who lives for the countless films he produces, writes, directs and stars in, preferably playing the role of an invincible hero. The uncontested king of Z movies in Afghanistan, Shaheen fights his country’s many real-life horrors with movie magic, cranking out 10 movies a year.” This movie is in English, French, Pashtun, Dari, with English and French subtitles.

Afghanistan’s king of Z movies is featured in the closing documentary, “Nothingwood”

Most of the topics covered by the documentaries deal with social issues. From Islamist radicalization of young Muslims in “Also Known as Jihadi” by Eric Baudelaire (France) in French with English subtitles, to the situation of Syrian children refugees in a camp in Jordan presented by “Zaatari Sjin” by Catherine van Campen (Netherland) with English subtitles. But there are other themes too, “Cielo” by Alison McAlpine (Canada-Chile) presents a “poetic, scientific, and spiritual journey in the company of stargazers,” with English and French subtitles. One film that was also presented at the Toronto Festival is “EX LIBRIS – The New York Public Library” by Frederick Wiseman (USA), a three-hour in-depth look into the diverse world of books and research in that iconic New York institution. “Wiseman looks into every corner, observing the library’s denizens with his customary rigour and insight. Beyond the library itself, he captures a state of intellectual excitement. In a place that seems to be the last bastion of social cohesion, arguments and discussions range freely, and the filmmaker takes advantage of that rich life to sketch a portrait of the United States and its current issues.”

For detailed information on each of the documentaries to be shown at the Doc Festival visit: www.rdim.ca/en

Feature image: “24 Davids” directed by Céline Barial will open the Documentary Festival on Nov. 9

By: Sergio Martinez – mtltimes.ca

To see the article in the Montreal Times 23.1 November 4, 2017 edition please click on the above image
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