Peter Wintonick: Why do we need RIDM?

Highly acclaimed filmmaker and producer Peter Wintonick, known for landmark documentaries such as Manufacturing Landscape: Noam Chomsky and the Media, among others, takes us back 14 years to the founding of RIDM.

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”
— George Orwell

Measuring reality has always been a suspect occupation. In the truth teller, there should always be a measure of transparent confusion. Or at least an admission: Whose truth are we talking about?

We know so little about the way the world works. But what we do know is this. The world is spinning, spinning, spinning, out of control; with its seven billion humans, and countless trillions of other lifeforms, we are spinning, spinning, spinning out of control. The world is spinning with spin-doctors issuing mad dictata pushed out from corporations, government corridors and the dark recesses of financial institutions. It is a chaotic, whirled wide dervish, deviant spin. Off centre. But off centre has never been a bad place to be, for a documentary filmmaker. There has never been a more important time for a docmedia creator.  There has never been a more important time for RIDM, the docultural catalyst.

George Orwell taught us that “Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”  In the case of RIDM, it is the necessity to show people what they may not like to see, and hear.

RIDM was born in fire. On a firing line of anger, out of constructivist suggestion, out of yearning, out of desire, out of a need to express ourselves, out of a compulsion to inform ourselves and our larger community, out of the fight for permission to express ourselves, out a need to restore a disenfranchised entitlement, a right to communicate, a right to space in the media commons, in the public sphere. RIDM was to be a space that celebrated the diversity and dynamism of both national and international production. What I remember from its beginning was a think tank swimming with people like Yvan Patry, Jacques Godbout, Dorothy Henault, Jean-Daniel Lafond, Martin Duckworth, René-Daniel Dubois, Kirwan Cox and a hundred others who were angry and were not going to take it anymore. We wanted to carve out a place in Plato’s cave for the creative, point-of-view documentary to flourish. A place where filmmakers, artists, institutions and the public could meet face to interface.

We were inspired by a coalition of Torontophones and Montrealophones who created a Caucus which became the Documentary Organization of Canada, which begot a festival called Hot Docs. Here in Montreal we came together as an ad hoc group to lobby for open space, to ameliorate our working conditions and to defy the rigorous denial of expression from public and private television.  Because it seemed to us that bureaucracies, broadcasters and institutions had never accepted that control could be divested into the hands of the makers. We, the makers, felt that we were closest to the public, because the public had never found favour with public broadcasters. And their commercial equivalents had always considered their audiences as consumptive mouths which were to be filled with products called programmes. Nothing much has changed between the late 1990’s and now. RIDM will continue its work, its workshops, screenings, debates, lobbying Forums, reports and studies. Until the world changes for the better.

At the turn of the millenium, then RIDM president Jean-Daniel Lafond wrote : “Life changes, reality is unstable, and we are often compelled to reinvent our vision in order to evaluate the world. Because of this, each documentary adventure is unique. The documentary filmmaker must keep vigil over the passage of time, lending meaning, much as a philosopher does, through the force of circumstance in an era where the media feeds on scoop, sensationalism and major events. “

Now, more than ever it’s the time for RIDM.
Peter Wintonick
International Producer Eyesteelfilm