Short Ends had the pleasure to attend (in-person & virtually) the latest edition of the Rencontres Internationales du Documentaires de Montréal (RIDM). Although the festival has come and gone, these are three films that captivated us from start to finish.
Sous la montagne endormie (2021) dir. Charles Duquet, Canada
Under the Sleeping Mountain is a very quiet film, a rare form of expression in this day and age. Through images taken by the filmmaker during the span of several years, Duquet explores the complex conjunction of the most humane feelings and sublime textured landscapes. Equally breathtaking as it is jarring, Sleeping Mountain is able to convey with images and a couple words a wide array of emotions that could not have been understood in any other way. Duquet ultimately creates an ethereal vessel for memory, tenderness and love (or lack thereof), a portrait of a couple and a montage of indiscernible landscapes.
A River Runs, Turns, Erases, Replaces (2021) dir. Zhu Shengze, China, US
This city symphony set in Wuhan develops more as a mourning ballad rather than a celebratory opera like most classic city symphonies were constructed. Zhu profits from long takes à la James Benning that patiently unfold telling micro-stories in every vignette, where every character is fleshed out and feels real. The fact that Zhu decides to keep the pandemic as another silent character in this city of millions is an incredibly effective way to focus on the human elements that make an urban space such an interesting place… and then, when melancholy and grief are at their peak, Zhu erupts the film with a punk song (aptly named Drunk With City) accompanied by old photographs of Wuhan and its people. A River is more than memories, bridges and buildings, it is stories and histories.
La Opción Cero (2021) dir. Marcel Beltrán, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba.
Over the last decade, there have been more than a handful of documentaries that deal with immigration. Not a lot has the intimacy and closeness to the subject that Beltrán shows in Option Zero. Conformed by cell phone footage and interviews shot within an immigration camp in Panama, the film is able to retell the voyage of Cuban immigrants as they travel to the United States. The filmmaker takes part in very insightful conversations with varied characters, spanning from kids to old adults and everything in between. Allowing this safe space where the subjects are able to express themselves to someone they trust creates a dynamic relationship that is magnetic when seen on the screen. Agency is key in Option Zero, as a diegetic theme but also in its structure, as the film could have never existed without the footage taken by the immigrants on their phones.