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Concordians bring their films to the 2019 Montreal International Documentary Festival

The university will host the opening and closing events, and other screenings from Nov. 14 to 24
November 5, 2019
Mara Gourd-Mercado: “RIDM is the home base for a lot of filmmakers.” | Still from Workhorse by Cliff Caine. All photos courtesy of RIDM
Mara Gourd-Mercado: “RIDM is the home base for a lot of filmmakers.” | Still from Workhorse. All photos courtesy of RIDM

The 22nd annual Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM) will feature the work of 12 Concordia filmmakers.

From November 14 to 24, the festival will screen 154 films from 47 countries — including 57 from Quebec and the rest of Canada. For the third year in a row, RIDM has achieved gender parity among its filmmakers, with 78 female directors and 67 male directors.

Mara Gourd-Mercado, executive director of RIDM, is proud of the role the festival plays in supporting documentarians.

“We always say that RIDM is the home base for a lot of filmmakers. There are not many places where documentary — and specifically creative documentary — can be screened, and it is part of our mission to give a house to those films and make sure they get seen and screened,” she says.

“We also love to be able to feature first films and follow those artists through their careers.”

From horse-pulling teamsters to struggling rural communities

The following Concordians and their films will be presented at RIDM:

'You feel very privileged to be observing this'

Caines is a Toronto-based graduate of Concordia’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In Workhorse, he documents three families with commercial horses that have reached the point of succession.

It features the last commercial logger in Ontario on the brink of his retirement, without anyone to take over his practice; the owner of a horsepower-only farm who’s transitioning its management to his daughter for a trial year as he retires; and an aging horse-pulling teamster who’s preparing to pass the reins to his son.

“The idea of how this knowledge is shepherded and passed on was very interesting to me,” says Caines. He cites as an example the farm owner’s internship program, which has seen dwindling attendance over the years.

“It was heartbreaking because it’s just very impressive the amount of knowledge in their hands. You feel very privileged to be observing this, and a responsibility to observe it.”

Leroux-Lévesque and Rist, Concordia alumni and partners in life and work, will have their Quebec premiere of A Place of Tide and Time, which first screened at Hot Docs in Toronto.

The film follows the young and old members of the isolated English-language community of St. Paul’s River on Quebec’s Lower North Shore. Local teens grapple with knowing that going away for university means they probably won’t return home, and the older generation works to maintain their way of life.

The filmmakers stumbled upon the story more than five years ago when they were invited to the Lower North Shore to teach video workshops in schools.

“We discovered a place that was just absolutely gorgeous and surprising because they’re English-speaking communities, lost almost in the middle of nowhere at the complete eastern end of Quebec,” says Leroux-Lévesque.

“This place is really unique and beautiful, and we connected easily with the people. We decided we had to tell the story of the youth who basically have to go away after high school because there’s no post-secondary education there. Then it’s hard for them to come back.”

Rist notes the challenges on the Lower North Shore are specific to those communities but also shared by other rural areas in Canada and elsewhere. “It’s a universal issue of rural and remote communities that are dependent on one industry; how do these communities survive and can they survive?”

A longstanding partnership

Benziane’s Nitrate will have its world premiere on the festival’s opening night. Nitrate is a short film about the shared experience of refugees in Montreal struggling to fully enjoy the city’s summer fireworks. It was made as part of the Regards sur Montreal film residency program.

Legault’s Sisters: Dreams & Variations, which depicts the creative worlds of two artists with Icelandic roots, is part of New Visions, a competition for first features in the festival’s Canadian program.

As a long-time festival partner, Concordia itself has connections to RIDM aside from its alumni. The university’s Sir George Williams University Alumni Auditorium will show RIDM’s official opening and closing films — Beniamino Barrese’s The Disappearance of My Mother on November 14 and the Canadian film Drag Kids, by Megan Wennberg, on November 23.

RIDM also partners with Cinema Politica, which hosts weekly screenings of independent political films at Concordia with discussions afterward. This year Cinema Politica will screen RIDM films Conviction, which asks four female prisoners in Nova Scotia to imagine how to best support society’s most vulnerable members and break the cycle of conviction and recidivism.

It will also show No Gold for Kalsaka, which documents an environmental disaster connected to a Burkina Faso gold mine.

“It’s exciting for the university because it always provides a buzz to have great Montreal cultural events like this here,” says Mandi Morgan (BFA 10, GrCert 16), booking coordinator for Concordia Cinemas.

She adds that Concordia’s involvement with the festival — and the number of alumni who screen each year — can be inspiring for current students.

“It encourages those in the film program. Being an alumna myself, it’s very exciting to see my colleagues work together and create projects.”

Check out the full 2019 RIDM program. Concordia faculty and students can get a discount on film packs for the festival.



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