Close to half of the 112 films at this year’s Melbourne Documentary Film Festival are by Australian filmmakers.
The intimately personal stories they capture offer a thought-provoking reflection and unforgettable look at Australia’s heart, complexity, and uniquely wonderful soul through a diverse and deeply moving collection of narratives that highlight some of the best work and extraordinary talent of Australia’s emerging documentary makers.
Here are 10 of the Australian docs we think you should check out at MDFF 2019.
“Tommy Emmanuel: The Endless Road” directed by Jeremy Dylan
“The story of guitar icon Tommy Emmanuel, whose journey takes him from Australia’s youngest guitar prodigy to the world’s most acclaimed acoustic guitarist. Revelations about the father he idolized send Tommy into a decades-long battle with addiction, which threatens to derail his family and career, even as he drives himself to become one of the world’s most compelling performers. The film also tells the touching story of the relationship between Tommy and his hero, mentor and surrogate father figure, the legendary Chet Atkins. Told through intimate backstage footage, explosive concert performances, rare archival material and unfiltered interviews with Tommy’s closest friends and family (as well as stars from Joe Satriani to Jason Isbell to Monty Python’s Eric Idle), the film examines the scars of childhood trauma, breaking cycles of self-destruction and the ambitious rise of a man determined to bring happiness to all corners of the globe with his music, even as his own life was in danger of toppling.” Don’t miss the Australian Premiere of Tommy Emmanuel: The Endless Road July 26th at Cinema Nova.
“The Art of Incarceration” directed by Alex Siddons
“Seen through the eyes of the prisoners, The Art of Incarceration explores The Torch, a pioneering not for profit organisation that runs arts programs for Indigenous prisoners and ex-offenders in the Victorian prison system. The film is an uncompromising insight into the artists’ quest for cultural identity and spiritual healing as they prepare for the annual Confined exhibition and for life on the outside.” See the World Premiere of The Art of Incarceration July 28th at Cinema Nova.
“Forged from Fire” directed by Andrew Garton
“Designer and metal artist Amanda Gibson gathers a team of seasoned blacksmiths from the world over to forge a life-size stainless steel and copper gum tree within a community traumatised by fire. The Blacksmiths’ Tree was not without its challenges, but what it became for the people who anticipated its completion is something no one could have imagined.” Forged from Fire makes its Melbourne Premiere July 22nd at Backlot Studios.
“Saving Warru” directed by Daniel Clarke and Amy Psyden
“Warru, or black-footed rock-wallaby, is one of South Australia’s most endangered mammals. In 2007, when numbers dropped below 200 in the remote central desert, the Warru Recovery Team was formed to help save the precious species from extinction. Bringing together contemporary science, practical on-ground threat management and traditional Anangu ecological knowledge, this unique decade-long program has recently celebrated the release of dozens of warru to the wild for the first time. Come on a remarkable adventure in conservation and culture as the indigenous people of the wild red deserts of Australia fight to save a national icon.” Saving Warru premieres in Melbourne July 20th at Cinema Nova.
“Looby” directed by Nick Garner and Iain Knight
“Looby is the story of what happens when an artist chooses to speak out. For Australian painter Keith Looby, it cost him almost everything. Winner of prestigious art prizes and collected by major galleries at home and abroad, Keith’s addiction to speaking his mind has left a string of failed business relationships, marriages and friendships. Bludgeoned into coherence by the filmmakers, assessed by dealers, curators, critics and fellow artists, Looby is a chance to look at a brilliant artist who had his moment in the sun, and to ask whether he should have another. Featuring an original score and sumptuous cinematography of long-forgotten masterpieces, this film is a delight for anyone curious about the truth behind the art.” The World Premiere of Looby takes place July 27th at Cinema Nova.
“The Candidate” directed by Helen Gaynor
“The Candidate is a feature length observational documentary that follows Greens candidate Alex Bhathal over the final three weeks of her campaign to win a seat in the Australian Federal parliament. In this, her sixth attempt, and with a 1% margin between her and victory, she and her team have good reason to believe that history is finally on their side. But this is no ordinary campaign…” The World Premiere of The Candidate can be seen July 28th at Cinema Nova during Melbourne Stories Program 2.
“Waiting: The Van Duren Story” directed by Greg Carey and Wade Jackson
“In the 1970s, Memphis musician Van Duren was tipped to be the next Paul McCartney but instead faded into obscurity. Years later, two Australian friends come across his record and set out to discover what went wrong.” See the Melbourne Premiere of Waiting: The Van Duren Story July 26th at Cinema Nova.
“Be You T. Fool” directed by Brendan Pinches
“An anonymous street artist reveals her secret practice of pasting portraits on the pillars of Chandler Highway Bridge in Melbourne, Australia.” Premiering in Melbourne July 21st, Be You T. Fool screens at Cinema Nova during Short Session 2.
“Restoration Island” directed by Aubrey Comben
“With the collapse of his business and personal life, due the 1987 stock market crash, ex-corporate businessman, David Glasheen makes the decision to live on an isolated tropical island in Far North Queensland, Australia. Having now spent 21 years living on Restoration Island, David Glasheen has rediscovered himself and his purpose in life. Using the island as an escape from the stresses of society, David, now 75 years old, reflects on what it was that led him towards this alternative way of living. Using a voice over taken from interview, Restoration Island observes Dave as he lives his life on the island and speaks to the pleasures and struggles of life living isolated from the norms of society.” See the Melbourne Premiere of Restoration Island July 20th at Cinema Nova during Short Session 1.
“Strange Tenants: Ska’d for Life” directed by Fiona Cochrane
“Strange Tenants were the “Godfathers of Australian Ska,” emerging in the 1980s in the wake of UK two-tone ska bands like The Specials but producing original political ska songs unlike most other Australian ska bands. 36 years later they’re still around and still political.” Catch the World Premiere of Strange Tenants: Ska’d for Life July 24th during Melbourne Stories Program 1 at Cinema Nova.
To learn more about the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, visit: mdff.org.au / @mdffest / and the MDFF Facebook Group