Mila Aung-Thwin: Top 7 RIDM films
We asked Mila Aung-Thwin, chair of RIDM’s board of directors and co-founder of EyeSteelFilm, to tell us which films he can’t wait to see at this year’s fest. Here are his top 7 picks.
Picking good films to watch at a festival is an ancient mystic art, involving analyzing the leanings of the programmers (are they populist or avant-garde?), decoding previous awards (do Sundance laurels mean overtly political?), and analyzing the trailer for indicators (do they use too much music?). However you choose, it’s a risk. A bad documentary can completely ruin your day. A good one will change the way you think forever. And a great documentary just might do both. So having done my homework this year, here are my top seven picks for the RIDM, in no particular order:
Skateboard films are their own unique sub-genre, usually made by skateboarders, for skateboarders, and for this reason they are never boring. The best ones are usually a hybrid between documentary, fiction, true crime and performance art films, and if they’re really good, they are inherently, subversively political. This is what I expect from Dragonslayer, which has been tearing up the documentary festival circuit.
I have spent many summers moving rocks around for people to build walls, and as a result I have tremendous respect for the craft of making walls. As a very general rule of thumb I also believe that films that take 10 years to make are always good (because if they weren’t, they would have been abandoned). There are some glaring exceptions to this rule, but I’m assuming Work in Progress is stunning (perhaps because the filmmaker uses the subtitle “The Greatest Story Ever Told”).
Great works of fiction often draw on even greater documentaries for their inspiration (check out Don’t Look Back by D.A. Pennebaker which served as a Bob Dylan blueprint for Todd Haynes I’m Not There). It had never occurred to me until recently that the first half of Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (one of the finest first-halves of any movie) was in fact inspired by Frederick Wiseman’s Basic Training. Wiseman’s films are all an immersive cultural cinematic experiences, try to see as many as you can at the RIDM this year.
You can see them in industrial spaces all over the world, these massive metal containers, forgotten husks of international transport, which have colourfully transformed our global economy. This film is fascinating for its ecological essay as well as the unique, off-limits visual landscape it explores.
Hero or villain? Environmentalist or terrorist? Regardless of categorization, Wiebo Ludwig is definitely one of the most interesting Canadians to come around in a long time. This feature portrait of him the man and his mission is brave for even tackling the subject.
There is a trend in my picks so far: most of these films are ones I once thought about making myself – but am glad someone else made instead. Such as this title, about old extras waiting to make a movie. Having worked as an extra, I know all too well the boredom and insecurity the job of being an “extra person” can put you in, and I’ve always been dying to know the state of mind of someone doing this job for many years.
The title evokes the most remote, foreboding place on earth, and trailer of this film seems like a hard-boiled science fiction. If the best documentaries take you places you’d be too scared to go on your own, then this is sure to be one of them.