The 23rd edition of the Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM) came to a close today (Dec. 2), with Alyx Ayn Arumpac’s Aswang taking home the Grand Prize for best international feature.
The 85-minute feature film (pictured) provides a powerful look at Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte’s repressive drug policy and highlights the violence doled out by his government across the Philippines.
In a statement, the jury praised the film “for its gritty yet sophisticated approach to editing and its careful, compassionate camerawork,” adding: “This film succeeds, with heartfelt compassion, in bearing witness to the horrendous plight of the people of the Philippines, who must cope with violence, abuse and political corruption on a daily basis.”
The Special Jury Prize in the category went to Khalik Allah for his 199-minute film IWOW: I Walk on Water, which serves as an intimate and intense portrait of a Harlem neighborhood.
The Grand Prize for best national feature went to Toronto-based filmmaker, curator and activist Michelle Latimer for Inconvenient Indian. The 90-minute film, which also took home the TIFF 2020 People’s Choice Documentary Award, examines the ongoing colonization of Indigenous peoples in North America, and the relationship between Natives and non-Natives throughout history. The doc is based on Thomas King’s award-winning 2012 study, The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America. King also serves as the film’s narrator.
“The Grand Prize goes to a film that takes an unapologetically modern look at history, in which the director strikes a majestic balance between her subject and a bold art form. It is a film that acknowledges the countless stories that Indigenous artists have to tell,” said the jury
Latimer’s Inconvenient Indian was also feted with the Magnus Isacsson Award – presented to a socially conscious work by an emerging Canadian director.
The Special Jury Prize for the section was awarded to Jean-François Lesage for Prayer for a Lost Mitten, which profiles the stories of those searching through the lost-and-found.
The jury, in a statement, said: “In this Special Jury Prize-winning film, the director takes a delicate and poetic approach to the universal subject of love and belonging, using a daring artistic approach. It is a film built around the idea of loss, shot in soothing black and white, that restores energy and hope – a hope we tend to lose sight of in our crisis-ridden world.”
Special mention in the best national feature category was extended to The Forbidden Reel by Ariel Nasr.
Elsewhere, the New Visions Award was presented to Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt for their work on the 84-minute film No Ordinary Man, which peels the curtain back on the American jazz musician Billy Tipton and the representation and treatment of trans people by society at large. The film also received a special mention for the Magnus Isacsson Award.
“The winning film in the New Visions competition challenges prejudices and conventional wisdom on questions of gender identity. Past, present, fiction and reality mingle, leading to the conclusion that how others see us is only as important as we make it. A powerful story of passion and self-acceptance. The use of a casting-call as a framing device proved to be an excellent way to give many transmen an opportunity to appear both in front of and behind the camera.”
Finally, the People’s Choice Award was presented to Sébastien Lifshitz’s Petite Fille, an 84-minute portrait of a seven-year-old girl who questions her gender.