Happening Now: Melbourne Documentary Film Festival

By Maria Griffin
Image courtesy of MDFF

There are lots of incentives to stay indoors at the moment (particularly in Victoria) but, whatever your reason for staying in, the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival (MDFF) is here in time to help dispel cabin-fever.

Back for its fifth year in 2020, this year’s festival will be online, so you can watch it from the comfort of your loungeroom. On offer is an eclectic mix of world class documentaries, with something to appeal to everyone.

It may be relatively young, but MDFF has been described by Film Daily as “quickly rising to become one of the most well-respected and thought-provoking festivals in the world.” MDFF has consistently ranked in the top 2% of all film festivals in the world on FilmFreeway’s Top 100 and has twice been ranked by Film Daily as the Top Documentary Film Festival in the World.

The Festival is committed to providing a supportive platform for local filmmakers and, in 2020, the festival will be premiering 50 + Australian documentaries. They also have a commitment to gender parity; 45 documentaries presented this year are directed by female directors. The schedule includes 4 World Premieres, 38 Australian Premieres and 8 Melbourne Premieres and films from Brazil, Russia, Canada, New Zealand, Finland, Israel, United States, United Kingdom, Spain, South Korea and France.

The beauty of documentary is that the subject can be just about anything. It’s the filmmaker’s unique perspective on the topic that makes a surprising and often fascinating story and this is demonstrated in spades at the festival. Here’s just a few examples of what’s in store at MDFF 2020:

Man on a Bus directed by psychologist and filmmaker Eve Ash. As she explores her family background over a decade of filming, an unexpected story unfolds, revealing how a Polish holocaust survivor managed to lead a double life in Australia.

After the Lockouts II, Gladys’ War on Music directed by Paul G Robert. The sequel to the renowned ‘After the Lockouts’ feature, this second film explores the attack on live music that the Liberal NSW government’s new regulations poses and takes a deeper look into the machinations of power and their impacts on business, culture and personal liberties.

Strangers to the World directed by Grant Fraser. A dramatised documentary starring Rachel Griffiths and Oscar Redding that examines the lives of two people, Etty Hillesum and Franz Jaegerstaetter, who both stood their ground against the Nazi oppressors in Europe in 1943 and suffered with their lives.

A Thousand Words Unspoken directed by Derek Ho. Filmmaker Derek Ho’s journey investigating how his gay brother’s adoption of Christianity impacted on his sexuality. A story of brotherly love and betrayal, it reveals Derek’s own dark secret he had been hiding for 30 years.

Forman v Forman directed by Helena Trestikova. The ultimate documentary biography of Oscar winning Czech film director Milos Forman, director of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest.

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