The 2024 Melbourne Documentary Film Festival is ready to pack your July with unmissable stories of hope, perseverance, and culture with its bold lineup of films that invite viewers to experience the nuances of life together in this wild and complicated world. There are many ways one could describe the festival’s 9th edition but MDFF does it best with this year’s theme: Love Melbourne.

There is great beauty in the vulnerability of people who share their stories and experiences. Both the painful times and the joyful ones. In dark moments and bright spots love connects us all. As you uncover this year’s films we think you’ll uncover something beautiful about humanity too.

Beginning July 1st, audiences can stream the fantastic online portion of the festival all month.

While the in-person festival kicks off from July 17th-31st at Cinema Nova.

Curious what documentaries will be screening at the cinema?

Below are 12 of the extraordinary feature documentaries we think you won’t want to miss. As always, we encourage you to check out the full lineup of films here.

“In the Shadow of Beirut” directed by Garry Keane and Stephen Gerard Kelly

Synopsis: “A portrait of modern-day Lebanon as seen through the eyes of four families living in the impoverished Sabra and Shatila neighborhoods of the city, the scene of an infamous massacre in 1982. Through intimate, character driven and cinematic storytelling, the stark reality of life for the protagonists of the film is symbolic of the hundreds of thousands of others who fight for survival in the most diverse country in the Middle East, which has the highest per capita refugee numbers in the world. This is a nation suffering one of the worst global financial meltdowns on record, a country and a city that many now are trying desperately to flee.”

“Common Ground” directed by Josh Tickell and Rebecca Harrell Tickell

Synopsis: “Celebrities explore how many of the problems that ail humans connect to the state of the world’s soil. Independent farmers implementing historic indigenous techniques demonstrate how changing agricultural practices could potentially save the world.”

“The Promise” directed by Jye Currie

Synopsis: “A powerful feature documentary that unveils the unspoken struggles of mental health. Following Craig Hamilton’s remarkable story of overcoming depression and suicidal thoughts. With a diverse cast including mental health advocate Jessica Rowe, Joe Williams and Bailey Seamer, renowned sporting figures such as professional boxer Tim Tszyu, NRL coach Wayne Bennett and icon captain Paul Harragon the film takes you through pivotal moments of transformation. From heartfelt triumphs, witness the impact of personal stories as they intersect with themes of love, healing, and suicide prevention. As conversations spark, connections deepen. “The Promise” is a call to embrace empathy, ignite conversations, and shatter the stigma surrounding mental health.”

“Diving into the Darkness” directed by Nays Baghai

Synopsis: “Canadian explorer and storyteller Jill Heinerth is one of the world’s greatest living cave divers, fuelled by an insatiable curiosity to explore the unknown “veins of mother earth.” Jill has been involved in the most legendary and demanding cave diving expeditions of all time, from surveying the world’s longest caves in Mexico to discovering giant iceberg caves in Antarctica. Juxtaposed with these hair-raising dives are intimate, candid interviews and animated flashbacks to her younger years that reveal a complex array of motivations for taking on these challenges. Despite how over 100 of her friends have perished in the depths, for Jill, each adventure in this dive odyssey is one step closer to becoming the woman she wished she’d met when she was a child.”

“Isla’s Way” directed by Marion Pilowsky

Synopsis: “Isla Roberts, 87-year-old carriage driving legend lives with her girlfriend Susan in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia with two ponies and a dog. Over the course of one year, Isla returns to her remote marital home, attends her grandson’s farm wedding, welcomes the arrival of new great grandchildren and fights to keep carriage driving. “Isla’s Way” is the story of an extraordinary woman living an ordinary Australian life.”

“Planet Wind” directed by Dominic Allen

Synopsis: “Join Andy Evans, Australian renewable energy pioneer, as he follows the story of Offshore Wind across the globe, exploring our relationship to this immense planetary force. Filmed in thirteen countries and featuring over twenty offshore wind experts, “Planet Wind” delves into humanity’s relationship with the wind throughout history and cultures. This global journey reveals the real story behind the development of offshore wind as an energy source, how this ever-present planetary force is being harnessed, and its transformative potential for our future. Beyond just power, it offers the world and its nations a path to energy independence, revitalizes regions hit hard by industrial decline, and presents a crucial solution to reduce harmful emissions. Offshore Wind Energy is not presented as mastery over nature, but as a step towards a deeper connection with it. “Planet Wind” offers a visionary perspective on a sustainable and regenerative world.”

“Cyborg: A Documentary” directed by Carey Born

Synopsis: “Colourblind artist Neil Harbisson is the world’s first formally recognized cyborg, with an antenna permanently implanted in his head allowing him to hear color. He is on a mission to convince the world to adopt his credo: Design Yourself.”

“All Static & Noise” directed by David Novack

Synopsis: “Jewher, a Uyghur teen from China, lands in the US after she is violently separated from her father at the Beijing airport. Abduweli, a linguist and poet imprisoned and tortured for teaching Uyghur language, leaves for Istanbul upon his release. Together, they join survivors of China’s “re-education camps” and their families, in Turkey, Kazakhstan, Europe and the United States to expose atrocities with the hope that global awareness brings change.”

“Blak Douglas vs The Commonwealth” directed by Angelica Cristina Dio

Synopsis: “Before winning the coveted Archibald Prize in 2022, artist Blak Douglas debuted one of his most emotionally charged works, Domestic Violets, at the National Gallery of Australia’s 3rd National Indigenous Art Triennial: Defying Empire. The work features a portrait of his grandmother, from Dhungatti people, at the centre. In this documentary, Blak Douglas shares his experiences of tracing his grandmother’s story. Beginning with old family photographs, he follows his grandmother’s life back to the Cootamundra Girls Home, where she became a Ward of the State, stripped of her name, language, family and culture and forced into servitude. At the NSW State Archives, he unearths the harrowing machinations of a system that deliberately fragmented his family. Blak Douglas tells his story, his way, in a gripping testament to the spirit and transformative power of art to address injustices of the past. His reflections are powerful, brutally honest and disarming, establishing him as one of the most vital voices in the Australian arts landscape.”

“To Thank the Room” directed by Belinda Lloyd

Synopsis: “Maggie Fooke’s Brooklyn Arts Hotel was a beloved institution in downtown Fitzroy, Melbourne – short stay guest accommodation for artists and lovers of the arts and run in an organic and generous manner so as to facilitate chance meetings and often enduring connections. Truly a place you would be glad you’d found, and where you never knew what would happen next, and which despite its ad hoc style of operation clocked up over 25,000 guests stays during its 15 years in business. When the time came for Maggie to sell the building and close the hotel – which was also her home – she decided there would be a film. An email was sent inviting friends and former guests to join Maggie in documenting Brooklyn’s final 100 days of operation, and this film is the result of that intuitive and generative process.”

“His Name is Ray” directed by Michael Del Monte

Synopsis: “Ray used to be a sailor, but now he lives on the streets of Toronto. For years, heroin has been more important than home, family or even life itself. But Ray dreams of getting back on the water and – in the ultimate achievement of the oblivion he craves – sailing away from it all.”

“Reading Landscape with David Holmgren” directed by Dave Meagher

Synopsis: “Walk with David Holmgren (co-originator of the permaculture movement) across Djaara Country, as he shares his insights and discusses his unique approach to reading landscape, a wealth of knowledge and wisdom developed over forty years. David’s approach contributes to re-embedding reading landscape into our cultures as a known and fundamental human capacity, providing an opportunity for humans everywhere to deepen their connection to place.”

For more information on the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, visit: and check out for a complete list of films and showtimes.