RIDM 2015

RIDM 2015 Review: The Unknown Photographer

This screengrab from the Unknown Photographer web site show the videos that can be watched even after the RIDM documentary film festival is over. (Since it is just a screengrab, clciking on the arrows won't do anything.

This screengrab from the Unknown Photographer web site show the videos that can be watched even after the RIDM documentary film festival is over. (Since it is just a screengrab, clicking on the arrows won’t do anything.

Like the Polar Sea 360° project, The Unknown Photographer has one component that you can explore with an Oculus virtual reality headset for the duration of RIDM, and several other parts that you can enjoy at home whenever you choose to do so.

The Unknown Photographer is a co-production between the National Film Board of Canada and Turbulent, with the financial support of Canada Media Fund. It was inspired by a thick album of World War I photos that was found in an abandoned building in Morin Heights. Some accounts say the building was a home, some say it was a barn, but in Looking For Fletcher Wade Moses, a film on the project’s web site, filmmaker Philippe Baylaucq says he found it in a sort of “haunted house” when he was still a teenager. That story is better yet, no? He felt it was a treasure that needed to be saved, so he took it, and eventually gave it to photographer Bertrand Carrière, who made Looking For Fletcher Wade Moses.

The album belonged to Fletcher Wade Moses, but despite lots of research into the man’s life, including talks with his daughter and grandson, Carrière was not able to determine if he had taken the photos or not. While he was interested in Fletcher Wade Moses, he was more interested in the photos and the landscapes they depicted. He was shocked by the devastation, with entire cities reduced to rubble. He realized that most of the photos had been taken in the last years of the war, on the Western Front. He went to France to see what those places looked like years later.

Precisely because it was impossible to identify the photographer (or photographers) the virtual reality part of the project is a work of imagination and conjecture. In fact, the narrator who leads us through the experience is unsure of just who he is or where he is, though he does “remember the war.” (Julian Casey provides the voice of the English version; François Papineau provides the French one.)

This barren battlefield is seen in the virtual-reality component of The Unknown Photographer.

This barren battlefield is seen in the virtual-reality component of The Unknown Photographer.

Considering the present date and when the war was (1914-1918) he could well be speaking to us from the hereafter. Participants in the virtual reality experience can choose their trajectory through their head movements and by moving a joystick. They can move through a barren landscape of blackened trees, climbing down into trenches or up hillsides. They can navigate a huge, dark, museum-like space, and drift through photographic cubes that tumble from the sky, a bit like Tetris. A strange figure, upright, with the antlered head of a deer, makes frequent appearances. What is he? Some kind of spirit animal? A shaman? An ancestral memory from our cavemen days?

The parts that can be watched at home include videos about the “Vest Pocket Kodak: The Soldiers’ Camera,” and “Postcards and Letters in Times of War.”

This is the setup for experiencing The Unknown Photographer in the UXdoc Space at the Cinematheque Quebecoise. Does it look like plugging into The Matrix?

This is the setup for experiencing The Unknown Photographer in the UXdoc Space at the Cinematheque Quebecoise. Does it look like plugging into The Matrix?

The Unknown Photographer, (Le Photographe Inconnu)
Directed by Loïc Suty
Country : Quebec
Year : 2015
Language : English, French
Runtime : 120 Min
Platform : Réalité Virtuelle / Virtual Reality (Oculus Rift)
Production : Marc Beaudet, Benoît Beauséjour, Claire Buffet, Louis-Richard Tremblay
Technical Direction : Osman Zeki
Sound : Martin Fish
Contact (Distribution) Élise Labbé, Office National Du Film Du Canada
e.labbe@onf.ca
Cinémathèque Québécoise – Salle Norman Mclaren (Salle UXdoc), 335 de Maisonneuve Blvd. E. (For the virtual reality part)
(For the virtual reality part)
Visit unknownphotographer.nfb.ca for online components.
RIDM (Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal) runs from Nov. 12-22, 2015. Visit the web site ridm.qc.ca for more information.

Advertisements

RIDM 2015 Review: Llévate mis amores (All of Me)

In a scene from the film LlŽevate mis amores, a member of the group Las Patronas holds bags of food for Central American migrants travelling north on a freight train.

In a scene from the film LlŽévate mis amores, a member of the group Las Patronas holds bags of food for Central American migrants travelling north on a freight train.

Llévate mis amores (All of Me) is a film about a group of Mexican women known as Las Patronas, after La Patrona, their village in Veracruz state. They’re poor in possessions, but rich in humanity and love. Even though they have very little themselves, they work hard to help people who have even less than they do.

Since 1995 they have been preparing food and water for migrants from Central America who ride freight trains through Mexico into the U.S. The trains are called La Bestia (the Beast), or sometimes, the Train of Death, because people can die if they fall off. The migrants are victims of a bad economy and globalization – there isn’t enough work in their home countries and they can only travel via freight trains because passenger service ended when the Mexican railroads were privatized in the 1990s. A train might have as many as 800 riders, with some inside the boxcars cars, others on the roof or even hanging precariously between the cars. The train is not the only danger on the trip – there are crooked police, thieves, kidnappers, human traffickers and extortionists.

Every day the women cook huge pots of rice and beans and make tortillas over wood fires. They pack the food in plastic bags and fill recycled bottles with water. When they hear the whistle of an approaching train, they rush to the tracks to toss the food and water to the migrants, who hold their hands out eagerly. They never know when the trains will come or how many there might be.

In this scene from the documentary film LlŽevate mis amores (All of Me), a Central American migrant is able to call her mother, thanks to the helpful women known as Las Patronas.

In this scene from the documentary film LlŽévate mis amores (All of Me), a Central American migrant is able to call her mother, thanks to the helpful women known as Las Patronas.

Some migrants jump off the train for the food, and then they can’t get back on. When that happens, they are driven to the next place that the train stops or slows down. That’s not all that La Patronas do. They have taken injured migrants to hospitals, and on those occasions when doctors or hospitals refused to help, they have nursed them back to health themselves. They lend people cellphones so they can check in with their families.

When the director asks the women to describe themselves the younger ones talk of their hopes for the future (to be a lawyer or a journalist) while the older ones talk about their pasts – one had an abusive husband who was murdered, another had a potential husband who stayed up north too long, yet another was pulled out of school at a young age because someone told her father that the vaccinations given to students would cause sterility. One woman liked to sing and dance; she had wanted to be in a band. Some worked in the fields, others worked as maids; those with children want them to have a better life.

Llévate mis amores (All of Me) is truly inspirational; long before it was over I was wondering what I could do to make the world a better place. It was great to see the screening sell out, too. You can buy tickets online to make sure that you get in. Director Arturo González Villaseñor will be at the screening to answer questions after the film. When asked if the film will be available for rent or purchase he said that it probably will be eventually, but for now it’s still making the rounds of film festivals.
Llévate mis amores (All of Me)Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015, 9:15 p.m., Excentris (Salle Cassavetes), 3536 St Laurent Blvd.

RIDM (Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal) runs from Nov. 12-22, 2015. Visit the web site ridm.qc.ca for more information.

RIDM 2015: My suggestions for Sunday, Nov. 22, the last day of this year’s festival

A scene from the Mexican documentary Llevate mis amores (All of Me), one of many films being shown at RIDM, Montreal's documentary film festival.

A scene from the Mexican documentary Llevate mis amores (All of Me), one of many films being shown at RIDM, Montreal’s documentary film festival.

Before I go to bed tonight, I hope to write proper reviews of these films that I’m suggesting to you, but for now, I’ll just write a short description to get something online as soon as possible.

Click on the underlined name of a film to be taken to the synopsis on the RIDM web site.

Oncle Bernard – L’anti-Leçon d’économie
Words of wisdom from the late economist Bernard Maris. He was one of the people killed at the offices of Charlie Hebdo earlier this year.
Oncle Bernard – L’anti-leçon d’économie, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015, 7 p.m., Excentris (Salle Cassavetes)

The next two films are on at the same time. What a shame, and what a quandary, because I think they’re both wonderful. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest Llévate mis amores (All of Me), directed by Arturo González Villaseñor, as a first choice because there is no guarantee that it will come back to Montreal again, though I truly hope that it does. This is a film about people in Mexico, mostly women, who do a lot to help others, even though they have very little themselves. Every day they prepare food and water for migrants who are making their way north to the U.S. by train. RIDM says it is “A wonderful human adventure,” but that’s really an understatement. It’s inspiring! Seriously.

This film was sold out on Saturday, so if you want to see it, consider buying your tickets online to avoid disappointment. I almost missed it myself.  I thought that Saturday’s screening was the second, and last one. I am so glad that it isn’t, so that I can suggest it to you. Director Arturo González Villaseñor will be at the screening to answer questions after the film.

Llévate mis amores (All of Me), Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015, 9:15 p.m., Excentris (Salle Cassavetes)
Another film that starts at 9:15 p.m. is Le Bouton de nacre (El botón de nácar in Spanish, The Pearl Button in English), directed by Patricio Guzmán. It’s quite wonderful too, but given Guzman’s fame, it is more likely to return to Montreal screens. (Guzmán directed Nostalgia For The Light, one of my very favourite documentaries, along with Salvador Allende, The Pinochet Case, The Battle of Chile, and others.)

Le Bouton de nacre is about water, the universe, Chile’s native peoples and the disappeared of the Pinochet years. It is full of beautiful images and sounds and also contains tales of incredible horror. Some of those tales are quite recent, while others are much older.
Le Bouton de nacre, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015, 9:15 p.m., Cinéma du Parc 2

I have seen the three films above, and recommend them wholeheartedly.

In Police Academie (Cop Class) director Mélissa Beaudet follows “three very different cadets during their final year of training.” It sounds interesting, and it has received good reviews, but it starts at 9 p.m., which puts it in conflict with Llévate mis amores (All of Me) and Le Bouton de nacre (El botón de nácar). Police Academie will be shown at Excentris starting on Nov. 27, and it will be on TV (ICI RDI) on Jan. 16, 2016.
Police Academie (Cop Class), Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015, 9 p.m., Cinéma Du Parc 1
RIDM (Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal) runs from Nov. 12-22, 2015. Visit the web site ridm.qc.ca for more information.

RIDM 2015 Review: The Other Side

Mark and Lisa in the documentary film The Other Side.

Mark and Lisa in the documentary film The Other Side.

Do you ever watch a film and find yourself wondering “WHAT were they thinking?” Or, “What WERE they thinking?” “They” could be the film studio, the writer, the director, the actors, or, in the case of a documentary, the participants.

I had that thought often while watching The Other Side, a documentary filmed in rural Louisiana by Italian filmmaker Roberto Minervini. The film is divided into two parts of unequal length. The first, and longest part, is about Mark and Lisa, down-on-their luck lovers and drug addicts who aren’t shy about getting naked. In fact, they spend most of their at-home time that way. There’s also a scene where Mark wakes up at the side of the road, starkers, and ambles home, his bare feet making a flappin noise on the highway.

They use drugs frequently while on camera, and Mark is seen injecting Lisa and others with them. Could that drug-use footage be used as evidence, if they are arrested? Or do the authorities alreasdy have plenty on him already? He has spent time in jail.

In another scene, Mark and a (male) friend break into a school and make fun of a wall chart that explains economics and capitalism. (I’m not suggesting that those things are above mockery, far from it!) While they’re having their laughs, they describe themselves as pimps, which I found disturbing. If they really are pimps, it was not demonstrated explicitly. Mark injects a pregnant, nude dancer before she does her act. Does he gets part of her earnings?

Whatever you might think of drug dealing, it seems that “good, honest work” is not readily available in Mark’s neck of the woods.

The other part of the film deals with some heavily-armed guys who are expecting bad things, and pretty soon, too. An insurrection, a revolution, the big bad government coming to take their weapons, something like that. While their world-view seems more than a little twisted, they seem dead serious. These guys are scary. I’m glad they are far away, thugh heaven knows, maybe there are others who think the same way, closer to home than I realize.

People throughout the film badmouth U.S. president Barack Obama with racist language, which I found uncomfortable to listen to. The support one guy expressed for Hillary Clinton was surprising, because I had assumed that racists would be sexists, too. Apparently not always.

Quite apart from the too-much-information aspect and the racism, The Other Side won’t be for everyone. It would be depressing as fiction, as reality it’s much worse.
The Other Side (click for more info)
directed by Roberto Minervini
Country : France, Italy
Year : 2015
Language : English
Subtitles : French
Runtime : 92 Min
Production : Muriel Meynard, Paolo Benzi, Dario Zonta
Cinematography : Diego Romero Suarez-Llanos
Editing : Marie-Hélène Dozo
Sound : Chico Bernat Fortiana, Ingrid Simon, Thomas Gauder
Contact
(Distribution)
Maxwell Wolkin
Film Movement
maxwell@filmmovement.com

Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, 9:30 p.m.
Cinéma Excentris – Cassavetes, 3536 St. Laurent Blvd.

RIDM 2015 Review: Polar Sea 360° is a virtual-reality voyage to the Arctic with a rich, detailed, online component, too

Screen grab from Polar Sea 360 web site. Clicking on it won't do anything!

Screen grab from Polar Sea 360 web site. Clicking on it won’t do anything!

Go to RIDM’s UXdoc Space at Cinémathèque Québécoise, put on the virtual reality headset, and you’ll find yourself immersed in the Arctic – except you won’t need big mitts and an extra warm coat.

You can look right, left, up, down or behind you; there’s always something to see. You might be in a helicopter, on a blue-sky, sunny day, hovering above ice, snow, glaciers and icebergs or somehow outside the ‘copter, looking into it at the pilots. You might be on the deck of a small boat, in the dining room of cruise ship, or riding through a small village on an all-terrain vehicle. On top of all that, you can see the aurora borealis shimmering in the night sky in its mysterious way.

For me, it was a fascinating experience and well worth the trip to the Cinémathèque, which is conveniently located mere steps from the Berri-UQAM metro. But that’s not all, there so much more!

Before and/or after experiencing the Arctic in this way, you can find a wealth of information, from many points of view, at the web site polarsea360.arte.tv  There is a video with several chapters, and a “magazine” with 10 episodes; some of these episodes also have short videos embedded in them, as well. During the main video, and many of the video segments, viewers can use the arrow keys on their computer to get a 360-degree view. (The project can be enjoyed on smartphones and tablets, too, but I used a desktop computer. If you have a virtual reality headset at home, you cam use that. too. The web site has links to three companies that sell them.)

Screen grab for the Polar Sea 360¡ web site shows Arctic ice bergs.

Screen grab for the Polar Sea 360 web site shows Arctic ice bergs.

Polar Sea 360° is an international project with participants from Canada, Argentina, Denmark, France, Germany, Greenland, Ireland, Norway, and Switzerland. They include Arctic residents, authors, amateur explorers, biologists, a Canadian Coast Guard officer, filmmakers, geographers, geologists, historians, photographers, a prof in international politics, sailors, sea captains, scientists, singers, and veterinarians.

Climate change, and the way it affects people, wildlife and the landscape, is a major topic of the videos and the texts. The trip offered by the French cruise ship Boréal would not have been possible in past decades, because the ice was thicker then. Increased access to the Arctic means more shipping, exploration for oil and minerals and the habitat destruction and pollution that can come with that.

We also learn about the DEW Line, the Franklin expedition, explorer Roald Amundsen, and Inuit history and culture, including the forced relocation of some Inuit to Resolute Bay to shore up Canada’s arctic sovereignty claims, the abuse at residential schools, the importance of narwhal and seal in the traditional Inuit diet, their hospitality customs, hunting methods, throat singing, traditional place names, historical routes, and the problems of the present day; Nunavut has highest suicide rate in Canada.

A graphic about Arctic sovereignty from Polar Sea 360. The international, interactive project combines information about ecology, geology, history, politics and more.

A graphic about Arctic sovereignty from Polar Sea 360. The international, interactive project combines information about ecology, geology, history, politics and more.

The waters being navigated in Polar Sea 360° are part of the famous, near mythical, Northwest Passage. Mention of it takes me back to Grade 6 history class. (You, too?) In those days, we didn’t learn much about the negative aspects of exploration and the imperialism that came with it. But we did learn about the Northwest Passage – for centuries, explorers dreamed of it and searched for it – a quicker way from Europe to the riches of Asia. The man (of course, it would be a man!) who found it would be rich, famous, admired, bring glory to his country, etc. It was a big deal then and it has become a big deal once again. Read more about the RIDM presentation of Polar Sea 360° here.

 

Polar Sea 360°

Country : Canada, Germany
Year : 2014
Language : English, French, German
Runtime : (up to you!)
Platform : Réalité Virtuelle / Virtual Reality (Samsung Gear Vr)
Website : http://polarsea360.arte.tv
Production : Irene Vandertop, Thomas Wallner, Stephanie Weimar
Artistic Direction : Thomas Wallner
Technical Direction : Scott Herman
Sound : Janine White
Contact
(Production)
Thomas Wallner, Deep Inc., thomas@deep-inc.com

Visit the UXdoc Space at Cinémathèque Québécoise, 335 de Maisonneuve Blvd E., from Nov. 12-22, 2015, from 11a.m. to 8p.m., to see Polar Sea 360° and other interactive presentations.
RIDM (Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal) runs from Nov. 12-22, 2015. Visit the web site ridm.qc.ca for more information.

RIDM 2015: Watch interactive documentary at home, or take part in an ‘assisted navigation’ with director Brett Gaylor

Director Brett Gaylor explains the Do Not Track interactive web documentary at RIDM, Montreal's documentary film festival.

Director Brett Gaylor explains the Do Not Track interactive web documentary at RIDM, Montreal’s documentary film festival.

Director Brett Gaylor explains the  interactive web series Do Not Track at RIDM, Montreal’s documentary film festival.

Do you know about Brett Gaylor? He directed Rip! A Remix Manifesto, a documentary about fair use, the concepts of “CopyRight and CopyLeft” and DJ Girl Talk. Maybe I’ll post some links about that later.

These days, Gaylor is the mastermind behind Do Not Track, an educational and international interactive web series about our privacy, or the lack thereof, on the Internet.
The project is a co-production between Canada’s own National Film Board, UPIAN, ARTE, Bayerischer Rundfunk (Bavarian Public Broadcasting), with the participation of Radio-Canada, AJ+ (“the digital-only video news network and community from the Al Jazeera innovation department”), RTS (Radio Télévision Suisse). It has seven supporters, too, including Montreal’s EyeSteel Film. You can see them all here.

There are seven episodes, with most being about 7 minutes long. Some could be longer, depending on the options viewers choose. The subjects are Tracking, Cookies, Social Networks, Mobile, Big Data, Future Bubble and Future of Tracking.

Each episode also has some articles related to the video – what we’d call “sidebars” in the newspaper biz. “How to protect your smartphone” part of Episode 4 of Do Not Track, would probably be of interest to anyone who has one. That same episode includes links to articles in the New York Times, The Intercept, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. (The EFF has rated so-called “secure messaging” products.

You can watch these videos at home, but if you come to the director’s navigation you can hear the inside scoop on the project, ask Gaylor some questions and possibly volunteer as a guinea pig to discover your Big 5 Personality Traits, according to an algorithm that analyzes your online activity.

At an assisted navigation of the documentary web series, Do Not Track, director Brett Gaylor showed particpants that the the web site of The Guardian has 35 trackers.

At an assisted navigation of the documentary web series, Do Not Track, director Brett Gaylor showed participants that the web site of The Guardian has 35 trackers.

Gaylor remined us that the Internet isn’t really free, we pay for it with information about ourselves instead of with money. (Gaylor went on the Guardian web page and showed us that it had 35 trackers.) Trackers collect information about our needs and interests to create a profile which they then sell to the highest bidder, who then places ads on our Facebook feed and elsewhere. He said Europe has better legislation about online privacy than the U.S. does, but that technology is moving so fast that legislation can’t keep up.

He raised the possibility that people would be denied loans, mortgages, or insurance coverage based on information gleaned from their online profiles and from the profiles of their friends and families.

Gaylor pointed out that we do get notices about cookies, but our only option is to click “OK,” there isn’t a “NO” button for opting out.

Has the NSA's surveillance program PRISM been reading your emails? This graphic was part of a presentation abut the interactive web documentary Do Not Track. (Photo: Liz Ferguson)

Has the NSA’s surveillance program PRISM been reading your emails? This graphic was part of a presentation about the interactive web documentary Do Not Track. (Photo: Liz Ferguson)

Spying on us isn’t just about selling stuff either, Gaylor presented a graphic about the NSA’s PRISM program, which has been reading email provided by Microsoft since 2007.

He asked people in the audience how much they’d be willing to pay for Facebook and Google if they would be free of ads and cookies. (What about you?)

Some people were willing to pay $10 per year for Facebook and as much as $50 for Google. Gaylor revealed that Facebook earns $9 per year on each Facebook account and Google earns $45 from selling information about each user.

Do Not Track
By Brett Gaylor, with the collaboration of Sandra Rodriguez and Akufen (Big Data episode)
Country : Quebec, Germany, France
Year : 2015
Language : German, English, French
Runtime :120 min
Platform : Webdocumentaire
Website : Http://donottrack-doc.dom
Production : Alexandre Brachet, Margaux Missika, Louis-Richard Tremblay, Gregory Trowbridge
Technical Direction : Nicolas Menet, Maxime Quintard, Avec La Collaboration D’akufen (Épisode Big Data)
Sound : Jason Staczeck
Distribution: Élise Labbé
Office National Du Film Du Canada
e.labbe@onf.ca

Do Not Track Screening – Navigation Assistée / Director’s Navigation
Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015, 7 p.m.
Cinémathèque Québécoise – Salle Norman Mclaren (Salle Uxdoc)
335 de Maisonneuve Blvd E.

RIDM 2015 Review: Maman? Non, merci!

Why do strangers feel free to question women about their reproductive choices? That's one of the many things explored in the documentary film Maman? No merci! (No Kids For Me, Thanks!) It's being shown at RIDM, Montreal's documentary film festival.

Why do strangers feel free to question women about their reproductive choices? That’s one of the many things explored in the documentary film Maman? No merci! (No Kids For Me, Thanks!) It’s being shown at RIDM, Montreal’s documentary film festival.

 

“Baby hunger.” That’s what one of my friends used to call it. An overwhelming, seemingly impossible-to- ignore desire to have children. Some women have it, some don’t. All the same, women are expected to produce children, because. . .because we can? Contraception and abortion, if available, make it easier to plan the arrival of those children, but opting out of the idea of motherhood entirely is regarded as odd, possibly abnormal, inhuman, even. Where’s that famous maternal instinct?

Women who say they don’t want children are not taken seriously; they’re told that they’ll change their minds; they just haven’t met the right guy yet; they’re missing out on the most wonderful experience they could possibly have; they’re being selfish; they will have a lonely old age, and “you’ll be sorry!”

Consider for a moment the semantic differences between “childless” and “child free.” The first sounds rather forlorn, and might remind one of other words that end in “less” – words like homeless, penniless, hopeless. But “child free” – is it too celebratory? Could those who do have children see it as a criticism of motherhood and parenthood?

Perfect strangers feel entitled to quiz the childless-by-choice, berate them and analyze them. Seriously, is it anyone else’s business? Is there any other area of our lives that’s so open to scrutiny by others?

Author Lucie Joubert decries "frenetic maternalism" in her book L'Envers du landau.

Author Lucie Joubert decries “frenetic maternalism” in her book L’Envers du landau.

Maman? No merci! (No Kids For Me, Thanks!) is a documentary about women in Quebec, France and Belgium who are childless by choice, and quite clear and eloquent about it, too. Some men share their views, as well.

In the opening minutes of Maman? Non, merci!, director Magenta Baribeau says that she was surprised that strangers were so curious about her personal reproductive decisions; she decided to find other women like herself, and to discover why deliberate childlessness was so shocking for some in this day and age.

Right after the screening, there will be a French-language debate in the theatre on the topic La maternité, un idéal à repenser? (Rethinking Motherhood).

The participants will be: Magenta Baribeau, director of Maman? Non merci!; Stéphanie Benoit-Huneault, Special Projects Assistant, Réseau québécois en études féministes (RéQEF); Chiara Piazzesi, Professor, PhD (Département de Sociologie, UQAM); Judith Rouan, President of Fédération du Québec pour le planning des naissances (FQPN). Mélanie Sarazin, President of Fédération des femmes du Québec (FFQ) will be the moderator.
Maman? No merci! (No Kids For Me, Thanks!)
Directed by Magenta Baribeau
Country : Quebec
Year : 2015
Language : French
Subtitles : English
Runtime : 74 min
Production : Magenta Baribeau
Cinematography : Magenta Baribeau
Editing : Étienne Langlois
Sound : Gordon Neil Allen

Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015, 5:30 p.m.
Cinéma Excentris – Cassavetes, 3536 St. Laurent Blvd.

RIDM 2015: Music documentary Making a Monster comes highly recommended

Malcolm Brickhouse of the heavy metal band Unlocking The Truth, in a scene from the documentary film Breaking a Monster. It's one of several films about music being shown at RIDM, MOntreal's documentary film festival.

Malcolm Brickhouse of the heavy metal band Unlocking The Truth, in a scene from the documentary film Breaking a Monster. It’s one of several films about music being shown at RIDM, MOntreal’s documentary film festival.

I haven’t managed to watch Breaking a Monster yet, but it sounds really intriguing, so I’ll tell you about it by quoting the reviews of others.

The synopsis on the RIDM web site says: “In 2007, three African-American pre-teen metal heads became instant celebrities after posting videos of their street performances in Times Square. Their recently formed band, Unlocking the Truth, came to the attention of the Jonas Brothers’ manager, an ex-hippie with a nose for a hit who negotiated a lucrative recording contract for them. Surrounded by music-industry pros, the three friends had to learn in a hurry how to cope with stardom and protect their identity while making the most of the marketing strategies developed by white adults who “want what’s best for them.” A funny, incisive look at music marketing today.”

Rob Aldam of Backseat Mafia reviews Breaking a Monster from the Sheffield Documentary Film Festival: (Director Luke) “Meyer allows the three to do their own talking and they’re all charismatic, intelligent and engaging characters. . . Breaking A Monster is an extremely funny and perceptive insight into the inner working of the music industry, where absurdity and infuriation abound. There’s much to love here, not least the three stars who hopefully have a bright future ahead in the music industry.”

Doug Dillaman saw it at the Sydney Film Festival in Australia and reviewed Breaking a Monster for The Lumiere Reader. He says: “we are fully immersed into both the band’s home world and the music industry without on-screen text to identify people; just like the teens themselves, we struggle to keep up, and have to decide what’s invaluable industry expertise and what’s laugh-out-loud absurdity, whether the industry pros have their best interests at heart, and whether the teens might just be happier playing Angry Birds and skateboarding. Tastefully shot and expertly cut, it’s superlative not just as music documentary but as a documentary in general. If the film has a flaw, it’s that, by necessity, it ends before it feels over; the story is still to be written, but if Meyer can retain his access after this film goes wide, I’d happily take a sequel.” (Italics are mine. That’s great praise, I think!)
Lanre Bakare reviewed Breaking a Monster for The Guardian: “Meyer’s success comes from understanding that the interesting thing about a rock band made up of 12-year-olds is their unique approach to rock’n’roll situations we’ve all seen a thousand times. When in meetings about their contract they play Flappy Birds; when they get to a hotel room they have a pillow fight rather than chucking a TV out of a window; and if something isn’t going the way they want it to, they turn to their mums. It’s a charming and engaging mix. . .”

(There are other positive reviews out there, but I didn’t find them as quotable as the ones above.)

Breaking A Monster
Directed by Luke Meyer
Country : United States
Year : 2015
Language : English
Runtime : 93 min.
Production : Tom Davis, Thad Luckinbill, Trent Luckinbill, Molly Smith
Cinematography : Ethan Palmer, Hillary Spera
Editing : Brad Turner
Sound : Tom Paul
Contact :(Production) Tom Davis, Seethink Films, tom@seethink.com

Monday, Nov. 16, 2015, 5:30 p.m.
Cinéma Du Parc 1, 3575 Park

RIDM 2015 Review: Star*Men

 

Director Alison Rose, second from right, and her astronomer friends take a break at the Rainbow Bridge National Monument in Utah.

Director Alison Rose, second from right, and her astronomer friends take a break at the Rainbow Bridge National Monument in Utah.

Majestic music, monumental landscapes, mighty telescopes, and millions and millions of stars and galaxies! Billions, actually, but I was enjoying the alliteration.

You will find those things and more in the documentary film Star*Men. It’s a real treat. In addition to the sound and images mentioned above, you get human interest stories with historical significance.

The 1957 launch of the Soviet space satellite Sputnik in 1957 caused serious alarm in the West. The other side in the Cold War had better technology – what might they do with it? There must have been some wounded pride, too, because Sputnik was right up there in the night sky for anyone to see.

The U.S. did not have enough experts of its own and recruited scientists from all over the world to help it compete in this “Space Race.” The “star men” of the film’s title are Roger Griffin, Donald Lynden-Bell, Wal Sargent and Nick Woolf, British astronomers who were hired to work at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. As they explain, this was wonderful in so many ways. At that time there was little work in the U.K. for people with degrees in astronomy. They could leave the class system and the U.K. weather behind for sunny skies and open roads.

Photo taken by Roger Griffin in 1960 show his fellow astronomers at a their U.S. campsite with a large English flag. After they noticed the American fondness for their flag, they decided to take lots of photos with their own.

Photo taken by Roger Griffin in 1960 show his fellow astronomers at a their U.S. campsite with a large English flag. After they noticed the American fondness for their flag, they decided to take lots of photos with their own.

All four made important discoveries in astronomy during their working lives. In time two returned to the U.K. and two found other jobs in the U.S. Beside explaining their accomplishments, director Alison Rose takes us along when the four have a reunion, 50 years after their arrival in California, that includes much fascinating talk and some very strenuous hiking, including a visit to the Rainbow Bridge National Monument in Utah. And they wear huge backpacks while doing it, too! The cinematography of Star*Men is exceptional – natural landscapes and the views of star galaxies and nebulae are stunning. The music is great, too. Director Alison Rose will attend the screening and answer questions afterwards.

The Very Large Array, an astronomicla radio observatory in New Mexico. Do they look like giant ears to you? (Malcolm Park photo from Star*Men web site.

The Very Large Array, an astronomical radio observatory in New Mexico. Do they look like giant ears to you? (Malcolm Park photo from Star*Men web site.

Star*Men
Directed by Alison Rose
Country: Canada
Year: 2015
Language : English
Runtime: 88 min
Production : Alison Rose
Cinematography : Daniel Grant
Editing: Dave Kazala
Sound: Ken Myhr, Daniel Pellerin, Peter Sawade
Contact: Alison Rose
aer@inigofilms.com
Star*Men, Monday, Nov. 16, 2015, 6 p.m.
Cinémathèque Québécoise – Salle Claude-Jutra, 335 de Maisonneuve Blvd E.
RIDM (Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal) runs from Nov. 12-22, 2015. Visit the web site ridm.qc.ca for more information.

 

RIDM Review: My Love, Don’t Cross That River

Kang Gye-yeol, left, is 89 and her husband, Jo Byeong-man is 98. They ust might be the cutest couple you have ever seen. You can see them in the Korean documentary film My Love, Don't Cross That River

Kang Gye-yeol, left, is 89 and her husband, Jo Byeong-man is 98. They just might be the cutest couple you have ever seen. You can see them in the Korean documentary film My Love, Don’t Cross That River

My Love, Don’t Cross That River is a portrait of a marriage. Jo Byeong-man is 98 and Kang Gye-yeol and is 89. They have been together for 75 years. Pretty amazing, right?

Director Jin Mo-young records their lives for 15 months, as they discuss their past, clean up around their rural home, prepare meals and take walks. They are slow walks, to be sure, but they can still move, and in one scene Jo Byeong-man carries an impressively large load of firewood on his back.

Many of their walks are taken hand in hand and that’s how they fall asleep each night, too. They are always seen in traditional Korean clothes, usually in matching colours – bright, beautiful colours. Were they on their best sartorial behaviour for the full 15 months, or is that just the way they like to dress? I’m going to assume the latter.

While you’ll hear the occasional comment like “people get old, you can’t do anything about it,” they are remarkably upbeat. They’re playful, too, like children, newlyweds, or the cute little puppies that arrive in the fullness of time (after the pastor’s dog pay a visit to their own pooch.)

Jo presents his wife with a little bouquet of flowers and she accepts them happily, rubbing them on her face and his. They throw autumn leave at each other, sample the seasons first snowfall (then play with that, too).

After all these years, he still appreciates her cooking: “He’s never said it isn’t good. . .he eats a lot and then says ‘what a great meal.’ ” Actually, Kang Gye-yeol seems to have more energy (or patience) for food preparation than I do!

Children and grandchildren come to visit, bring gifts and pay their respects on New Year’s Day and Kang Gye-yeol’s birthday. Presumably they live far away, because we don’t see them much, apart from those days. I was uncomfortable watching a nasty fight between two siblings; it’s a harsh contrast to the warm affection that the two love birds share and it leaves them in tears.

Even at the beginning of the film, Jo Byeong-man coughs frequently and things just get worse as time goes on. Sometimes his cough keeps him awake at night. When they take their walks he has to stop more often to rest. Do you see where this is going? Kang Gye-yeol asks her husband to hang on a little longer, but at the same time, she starts burning some of his beautiful, colourful clothes so that he will have things to wear in the afterlife.

My Love, Don’t Cross That River was a big hit at the Korean box office, outselling many U.S. hits in the first weeks it was in cinemas. So far it is Korea’s most popular homegrown documentary. (Old Partner, about a man his ox and his wife, pretty much in that order, holds the No. 2 spot. The AmerAsia Film Festival showed Old Partner in Montreal in 2011. Read my review Old Partner for the Montreal Gazette here. )

My Love, Don’t Cross That River
Directed by Jin Mo-young
Country : South Korea
Year : 2014
Language : Korean
Subtitles : French, English
Runtime : 86 min
Production : Kyungsoo Han
Cinematography : Moyoung Jin
Editing : Zinsik Hyun
Sound : Minu Jung
Contact: Maëlle Guenegues
Cat & Docs
Maelle@Catndocs.Com

Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, 4:15
Cinéma Du Parc 1, 3575 Park