15 years, 15 all-time favorites
For the last 15 years, the RIDM has offered audiences the premier selection of Canadian and international documentaries. To celebrate, the RIDM team has decided to invite guest programmers to this year’s festival: 15 arts-and-culture personalities, from near and far, has each selected a documentary that changed their lives. And the RIDM’s staying out of it: no whispered suggestions, no pre-approved lists. Just 15 personal selections, creating their own subjective narrative, a unique window on film’s founding genre. Documentary filmmaking has the power to broaden our perspective of the world around us, while exploring the infinite possibilities afforded by the cinematic arts. RIDM’s 15-year love affair with the documentary—the discoveries, the discussions and the debates—duly honoured with 15 cherished and transformative works.
Gael Garcia Bernal
Gael García Bernal is best known as an actor in fictional films, but he is also heavily involved with documentary cinema.
In 2005, he co-founded (with Diego Luna and Pablo Cruz) a production company called Canana Films. Since 2006, the partners have been organizing Ambulante, both a festival and a foundation whose mission is the worldwide promotion of Mexican films, particularly documentaries, through grants and workshops. Gael is also the co-director of The Invisibles, a documentary series produced for Amnesty International.
Over the course of a decade, the director of Monsieur Lazhar has become one of Quebec’s most appreciated and award-winning filmmakers.
After arriving on the scene in 2000 with La Moitié gauche du frigo – a truly unique film featuring a documentary-like aesthetic and pioneering use of digital cinematography – he soon emerged as one of the many fiction directors profoundly influenced by documentary filmmaking. Indeed, he launched his cinematic career by participating in the Course destination monde youth documentary project and directing a feature-length documentary (Pâté Chinois). Those experiences proved to be a highly effective apprenticeship for a filmmaker who has already won two Jutras for Best Director.
Whether as General Delegate or President, “Citizen Cannes” has been the face of the Cannes Film Festival for more than 30 years.
An impassioned cinephile, a rigorous and sharp-eyed critic, a man known throughout the film world, he lives for his passion, as he makes abundantly clear in his engrossing book La Vie passera comme un rêve. To help us mark our first 15 years, he is stepping away from his red carpet to encourage us to rediscover a landmark documentary.
One of the most important active American documentary filmmakers, Laura Poitras has completed the first two parts of a trilogy about the United States after 9/11.
My Country, My Country (RIDM 2007) delves into the contradictions of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, while The Oath (2010) is a profile of Osama Bin Laden’s former bodyguard. After winning numerous awards and receiving an Oscar nomination, she is now at work on her trilogy’s conclusion. Laura is also the executive producer of The Law In These Parts (World Cinema Jury Prize, Sundance; to be shown at RIDM 2012).
Today a recognized master of documentary cinema, Frederick Wiseman was once a law professor who would take his students to see the workings of American institutions first hand, until he decided to start filming them instead.
Despite the long suppression of his first film, Titicut Follies, he has never stopped exploring. For the last 45 years, he has doggedly investigated social structures and observed human relationships with remarkable insight, always employing his trademark formal rigour. In 2011, the RIDM presented a retrospective of ten of his works and he gave a master class via Skype.
Kim Longinotto is an internationally acclaimed British documentary filmmaker, whose work – in the direct cinema tradition – lets the camera evoke the warmth, humanity and strength of her subjects, who are often women.
She has filmed in numerous countries, including Japan, Iran, Kenya, South Africa and India. Her fifteen films (most of them distributed by Women Make Movies), include Divorce Iranian Style, The Day I Will Never Forget, Hold Me Tight, Let Me Go, Rough Aunties and Pink Saris. Her work was the subject of a RIDM retrospective in 2003.
Patricio Guzmán studied film in Spain and lives in Paris, but it is the modern history of his homeland, Chile, that has been central to his filmmaking since the early 1970s, when he collaborated with Chris Marker on the documentary trilogy The Battle of Chile.
His recent films deal with political figures (The Pinochet Case, Salvador Allende) and take a philosophical approach to the relationship between individuals and their past and memories, as in his superb recent documentary, Nostalgia for the Light.
chose LA FRANCE QUI SE LÈVE TÔT by Hugo Chesnard.
To all appearances a jovial pixie of a woman, Agnès Varda is one of the greatest artists of the last half century. A soul sister to the late Jacques Demy, over the years she has opened countless artistic doors.
Not only did she make her first film (La Pointe courte) at the age of 27, she anticipated the French New Wave by several years. She moved to the United States when the new French cinema was exploding, and has made many documentaries in addition to her fictional work. It was a documentary — the wonderful The Gleaners and I — that marked her return to the forefront of filmmaking in 2000.
chose THE COLORS OF THE PRISM, THE MECHANICS OF TIME by Jacqueline Caux.
A pioneer of minimalist music in the 1960s, Philip Glass stands as one of the great contemporary composers of music with repetitive structures.
As he says so well in the film he chose for us, the core of his work is connected to “movement, image and text.” In addition to ballets and operas, he has composed music for numerous films, including both fictional works and acclaimed documentaries such as Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi and The Thin Blue Line by Errol Morris.
Long before our own Xavier Dolan burst onto the scene, the film world was stunned in 1998 by the arrival of an 18-year-old Iranian prodigy whose first film, The Apple, earned her the honour of being the youngest filmmaker ever to be chosen for the official selection at Cannes (in the Un Certain regard section).
It was an exceptional beginning for the daughter of the great director Mohsen Makhmalbaf; she quickly established a naturalistic, profoundly humanist vision of present-day struggles, which she also captured beautifully in the sublime Blackboards.
A leading figure in Chinese independent filmmaking since the turn of the millennium, Jia Zhang-Ke won the Golden Lion at Venice for Still Life.
He is recognized worldwide for the depth of his work, which has relentlessly explored the dark side of a rapidly changing China’s obsession with globalization and economic growth. Working with non-professional actors and filming on location, he constantly blurs the boundaries between fiction and documentary. The director of two documentaries, he won the RIDM’s Kino Pen Award in 2010 for I Wish I Knew.
It is no exaggeration to call Alanis Obomsawin a legendary Canadian documentarian; you can even see her portrait at the entrance to the National Film Board’s head office.
The Abenaki filmmaker earned that unique honour by leading an exceptional career spanning more than 40 years, during which she has illuminated her people’s roots, culture and aspirations. She is a multidisciplinary artist who gradually incorporated a variety of artistic media into her documentaries, each of which is both a personal and a political work, including her unforgettable masterpiece, Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance.
choseCAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS by Andrew Jarecki.
A remarkably eclectic filmmaker – versatile enough to go from a Bukowski adaptation (Barfly) to a Hollywood thriller – Barbet Schroeder is one of a select few directors who has won equal acclaim for his fictional and documentary work.
That fact is especially remarkable in his case, because unlike Herzog or Malle he has made just three documentaries in the last 40 years. But each one is a landmark: many are the filmmakers who would be proud to list General Idi Amin Dada, Koko: a Talking Gorilla or Terror’s Advocate on their filmography.
chose VISIONS OF LIGHT by Todd McCarthy, Arnold Glassman et Stuart Samuels.
The legendary Velvet Underground founder has been a filmmaker since 2009.
His first short film, Red Shirley, is a fascinating portrait of his cousin: at nearly 100 years of age, her life story is a microcosm of the turbulent 20th century. Beautifully filmed by American photographer Ralph Gibson, the film reveals Lou’s keen interest in cinematography. His and Gibson’s visit to Montreal for the film’s Canadian première was a RIDM highlight in 2010.
An artist who defies categorization, for more than 20 years Japanese filmmaker Naomi Kawase has been building a diverse body of work that includes fiction, documentary and experimental fiction.
hotKnown for her profoundly sensitive films characterized by a deep connection with nature, she won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes for The Mourning Forest. Despite her penchant for exploring multiple genres, she has brilliantly established a singular vision. This year she honours us by declaring her admiration for the great Jonas Mekas, with whom she recently collaborated on a collective film.