for Cinetalk.net

Our final festival of 2022, the RIDM has lots of docu-goodies on show. There was so much choice this year, that Cinetalk decided to give a compilation of our abridged critiques instead of the usual separated posts.

Without further ado, let’s talk about Herbaria, by Leandro Listorti. Burnt sprocket holes and optical sound create a sonic and visual world, bordering on the abstract. For many younger viewers, the film archives might not hold much significance as technology moves us further and further away from old movie-making techniques. However, film emulsion was not only used to create art, but also to document things that we now consider “the past”.

Herbaria attempts to preserve time by juxtaposing prints of near-ruined film negative with plant archives. The ephemerality of plants cause researchers to pluck them from nature, dry them flat, and then meticulously recreate them as hyperreal drawings. Alas, this form of documentation doesn’t last forever. Leaves crumble and disintegrate over time. In parallel, film negatives succumb to age. Since they are made with gelatin, they are subject to fungi, even if well preserved.

There is bittersweetness in recording something to save a memory or to document history, to later watch it fall victim to time and no longer be usable.

 

In a completely different genre, but still dealing with ephemerality, and the usage of film to document life, is Theo Montoya’s Anhell69. Montoya and his friends live a miserable life in Medellin, Colombia. Living in a war-torn country, things are made even more complicated for this group of young people, because they are queer. In Colombia, as in many countries, being LGBTQ+ is still a huge taboo. Shady jobs, drugs, and a lack of care about the future are common traits of this Medellin generation. They hold shame about being Colombian. They are youth raised without fathers. Montoya depicts a nation void of a paternal reference point

In an imagined alternate universe, he starts to create a film with his cohorts. Spectrophilia becomes a widespread virus where ghosts infect and kill the living. The director wanted his project to be without borders, and beyond gender. With a cast entirely made up of unhappy, artistic  queer men, Montoya took a special liking to a boy nicknamed Anhell. He made him the star of his fictitious movie, but did not expect real life to turn it into a documentary. With nobody wanting to think about the future, what can anyone do to make the present important? Perhaps there really isn’t a future for this unfortunate generation.

 

It seems that since the pandemic, more filmmakers are tackling these kinds of serious and disheartening aspects of life. In this sense, Karen Cho, too, has offered her take on modern society. Specifically, she explores how the pandemic has created a hostile environment in /North America’s Chinatowns.

Big Fight in Little Chinatown depicts communities that are far apart geographically, but united in their struggle. Chinese immigrants have consistently put down roots in their new countries by establishing themselves in Chinatown. Some leave once they gain better knowledge of their new home, but many continue to live and work in these tiny cultural villages.

Even before the pandemic, city officials have constantly tried to shut down and ship out the tenants and merchants of these neighborhoods. The arrival of Covid closed down not only restaurants, but bits of the Chinese community’s culture. Certain flavors or dishes can no longer be eaten without the restos that historically served them. In addition, the city of New York wants to build a community super-jail inside Chinatown. The expected 10-year construction will kill whatever’s left of the businesses and community. Likely, this is the intention of those in power.

Covid-era Asian Hate has only paved the way for governments to edge out the Chinatowns in favor of the construction of freeways, condos, and anything that would uproot a community they’d be happy to get rid of. The fight in Montreal’s Chinatown has been ongoing. A city block length construction trench smack in the middle of the neighborhood has been present for years, after a prominent grocery store “mysteriously” burnt down. Community leaders have been loud, and are picking up momentum and support to prevent more trenches in any foreseeable future. The Guy-Favreau complex already took out a third of what the old Chinatown used to be. The struggle in Montreal isn’t any less than in NYC, or Vancouver, or even Toronto. Community is a big deal when one is displaced from their home land, and need to work, build families, and educate themselves by a foreign country’s standards. The fight is arduous but needs to continue.

 

Anhell69: Nov. 26th, 3:45 PM

Big Fight in Little Chinatown: Nov. 26th, 1:15 PM

Herbaria: Nov. 24th, 6 PM

RIDM – in (physical) cinemas until November 27th, 2022

https://ridm.ca/en/

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