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Must-See Films at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival 2022

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Showcasing the hottest international & Aussie documentaries
Punks, Rebels, Mavericks and Renegades

The 7th annual Melbourne Documentary Film Festival has just released its incredible line-up!

Discover the very best documentaries on the international festival circuit online and nationwide this July! Pre-order now at www.mdff.org.au and take advantage of exclusive package deals.

This year's Melbourne Documentary Film Festival is set to showcase an exciting curated program with feature film documentaries on-demand and direct from prestigious international film festivals from 1 to 31 July. Selected films will then screen In-Cinema from 21 - 31 July.

The Melbourne Documentary Film Festival is guaranteed to provide a rich array and engaging mix of documentaries that will inspire, influence and provoke.

Here are the Top 20 must-see documentaries!

1. Sing Freetown

Directed by Clive Patterson

Emmy winning filmmaker from Sierra Leone, Sorious Samura, has grown tired of telling negative stories about Africa. He embarks on a journey with his best friend, Sierra Leone's most famous playwright, Charlie Haffner, to create an epic work of national theatre - a play to reclaim their country from negative media narratives and the damaging legacy of colonial rule. It doesn't go as planned.

2. Hostile


Directed by Sonita Gale

Hostile is a feature-length documentary focusing on the UK's complicated relationship with its migrant communities. Told through the stories of four participants from Black and Asian backgrounds, the film reveals the impact of the evolving 'hostile environment' - a term used by the UK government in 2012 to illustrate the atmosphere they wanted to create for migrants, with the intention of provoking them to leave of their own accord.

Hostile explores how the lives of international students, members of the Windrush generation and 'Highly-Skilled Migrants' have been affected. After decades of hostile immigration policies, Britain has reached a crisis point. With Brexit, the Points Based Immigration System and the Nationality and Borders Bill taking effect, the film asks: once the 'hostile environment' has targeted all migrants, who will it extend to next?

3. Dieseln'Dub

Dieseln'Dub is a feature documentary shot across Australia and in London, starring beloved Australian artists Declan Kelly, Emma Donovan, Radical Son, Pat Powell, Frank Yamma and Gambirra Illume fronting an eclectic band of NZ Maori descent, Jamaican and African ancestry, Scottish, Irish and Jewish roots – a living embodiment of Australian multicultural diversity. Guests on the film include dub maestro Mad Professor, with a special appearance by Aboriginal elder Rosemary Plummer on Warumungu Country.

Thirty years after legendary Australian band Midnight Oil released global hit Diesel and Dust, Australian musician Declan Kelly brings together a diverse roster of musical artists to reinvent the Oil's iconic songs in dub-reggae style. Touring from the sunny coast with epic performances at Bluesfest, the band road trip through the ancient outback desert to play for remote communities on dusty outdoor stages, and fly across the globe to historic Ariwa studios in London to mix with dub maestro Mad Professor.

The artists reflect on the enduring legacy of Midnight Oil's protest hits such as The Dead Heart, and what it means to sing those words decades later, under the added weight of Indigenous experience. They ponder what has changed and what has remained the same, sharing stories of personal struggle and a journey to healing through music.

Live music film, documentary and road trip, Dieseln'Dub is a mesmerising stream of consciousness ride from stage to studio, from sparkling coast to the red heart of the central desert underscored by powerful songs like The Dead Heart, Beds are Burning, and Power and the Passion pumping through the screen in fresh new dub-reggae stylings.

Revelatory and uplifting, Dieseln'Dub is a fresh perspective on Australian culture with stunning live performances and beautiful imagery, profound Indigenous wisdom and startling personal reflection in a deeply enjoyable viewing experience.

4. Abby's List: A Dogumentary

Directed by Mark Sutherland

Realising she's nearing the end of her life, Abby, the 14-year old Whippet, and her human, Mark, embark on an epic cross-country bucket list trip. Imagine her luck... peeing on the world's tallest trees, making friends with a dolphin & deer, riding "It's a Small World..." But are they actually doing Abby's List or Mark's?

Does it matter?

Quality time with her human, is all Abby really wants; and somewhere along the way, the universe intervenes, turning their three-week road-trip, into a three-year journey of a lifetime.

5. A Certain Mother

Directed by Mihaal Danziger

A Certain Mother interweaves the stories of four women from across Australia as they navigate the challenges of parenthood - offering an intimate look into social issues, and a snapshot of motherhood today.

From the Dandenong Ranges, through rural pastures, to Sydney's northern beaches - a single day unfolds for four women in the throes of motherhood. Whilst tending to the relentless demands of the day, they are determined to rise above the struggles that parenthood had brought close to them. Whether faced with disability, or their own anxieties, a weight-preoccupied teen or the biases of others, they are forced to deconstruct and redefine some of our culture's most sacred ideals.

6. Cats of Malta

Directed by Sarah Jayne Portelli

Cats of Malta celebrates the island's stray cats and the people who, through volunteering, art and folklore show the cats unconditional love and support.

7. Doctor Who I Am

Directed by Vanessa Yuille and Matthew Jacobs

Documentary filmmaker Vanessa Yuille (in her debut feature) follows friend and co-director Matthew Jacobs (British writer of the 1996 TV movie Doctor Who) as he is reluctantly pulled back into the fandom that rejected his work 25 years earlier. The journey not only becomes hilarious and emotionally perilous for the duo but also reveals a touching and quirky face-off between the American Doctor Who fans and Matthew himself. As they explore the fandom, Matthew unexpectedly finds himself a kindred part of this close-knit, yet vast, family of fans. The documentary deals with the desire to belong to a community, and how people can become nourished and enriched by the experience.

8. FoodForest

Directed by Louis De Jaeger

In this documentary, landscape architect Louis De Jaeger outlines how food forests can save the earth from suffocation, resuscitate communities, make agriculture sustainable, reverse global warming and still produce an abundance of food.

This film takes you on a trip through the secret gardens of food forest pioneers. From urban jungles to healing projects in psychiatric institutions. Because nature appears to be the best healer for the social, psychological and ecological scars that people have caused. If we give nature's resilience a chance, together we can create a new Eden. In fact, pieces of this new paradise are already visible.

9. The Art of Rebellion

Directed by Libby Spears

We first encounter LA-based street artist, Lydia Emily, as she creates a large-scale mural of a Masai woman in a tunnel, 30-feet underground in Oakland, California. Not the typical profile of a street artist, Lydia is 40-something and single mother of two daughters, one of whom has autism. She is also afflicted with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a debilitating disease that attacks the central nervous system and disrupts the flow of information to the brain.

Lydia's home is a haven for both her daughters. The youngest, Coco, is preoccupied with Russian geopolitics and editing Wikipedia, as autism expresses in surprising moments of genius. Dorothy navigates adolescence as she explores art and activism through collaborative works with Lydia.

New complications arise in Lydia's health as her MS relapses begin to increase. Beset by intensifying symptoms, Lydia struggles to complete a series of paintings for a solo show that could help her pay mounting medical bills.

Just when things are at their worst, a seemingly noble, bearish man named Andy arrives in Lydia's life and quickly finds a place in the family. Lydia and Andy's swift romance yields a wedding and a move to Austin for job security. But not long after relocating, Andy's temperament darkens and just nine months after their wedding, their marriage falls apart. The day Andy leaves Lydia, he empties their bank account, has the power turned off in their home, and cancels her health insurance.

Shocked, fearful, and alone, Lydia returns to California with her daughters to be closer to her mother and her friends and to return to the refuge of her art. And even as her disease progresses, Lydia persists, using shoelaces to secure paintbrushes to her hands as they lose their grip, declaring, "I dare you to make this my last year, I love my life - try and take it from me."

10. The Other Fellow

Directed by Matthew Bauer

Bond, James Bonds. Can anyone ever live up to that name? An energetic exploration of male identity via the lives, personalities, and adventures of a diverse band of men, real men across the globe all sharing the same name – James Bond.

1952. Jamaica. When author Ian Fleming needs a name for his suave, sophisticated secret agent, he steals one from an unaware birdwatcher and creates a pop-culture phenomenon about the ultimate fictional alpha male.

2022. It is the year of 007's sixtieth anniversary onscreen and Australian filmmaker Matthew Bauer is on a global mission to discover the lasting, contrasting and very personal impacts of sharing such an identity with James Bond.

From a Swedish 007 super-fan with a Nazi past, a gay New York theatre director, an African American Bond accused of murder, and two resilient women caught up in it all, Bauer's cinematic mission is an audacious, poignant, and insightful examination of masculinity, gender, and race in the very real shadows of a movie icon.

11. Learning to Live Together: The Return of Mad Dogs and Englishmen

Directed by Jesse Lauter

In the spring of 1970, Joe Cocker undertook what became the legendary Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour, immortalised in a live album and concert film. Fifty years later, first-time filmmaker Jesse Lauter tells the complete story through the lens of the Grammy Award-winning Tedeschi Trucks Band's reunion of the Mad Dogs. In addition to Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi and the entire Tedeschi Trucks Band, this reunion featured 12 of the original Mad Dogs, including Leon Russell, Rita Coolidge and Claudia Lennear, plus guest performers Chris Robinson and Dave Mason, among others. The film showcases inspired performances from the reunion show, along with an exclusive look at the history of the tour and never-before-seen archival materials, commentary from the original members, critic David Fricke, notable fans who attended shows on the original tour and features the last filmed interview with the late Leon Russell.

12. Mike Mignola: Drawing Monsters

Directed by Kevin Konrad Hanna and Jim Demonakos

A feature length documentary about Mike Mignola and the creation of his comic book universe centred around Hellboy.

13. The Sound of Identity

Directed by James Kicklighter

In the spotlight of global media coverage, the first transgender woman ever to perform as Don Giovanni in a professional opera, makes her historic debut in one of the reddest states in the U.S.

14. Pushing The Boundaries: The Mavis Bramston Story

Directed by Stephan Wellink

Television down under was less than a decade old when in 1964, Carol Raye, a UK-born actress and television presenter arrived in Australia from Kenya where she had established the first television station in the capital, Nairobi. Raye settled in Beecroft NSW close to the ATN Channel 7 television studios. Raye had completed a Producers' course at the BBC and was looking for a role in production. Armed with her credentials, Raye met with Jim Oswin, the General Manager of Channel 7. Oswin employed Raye, who became the first female television executive in Australia. Raye saw that there was an opportunity to produce a show that dealt with biting political and topical satire, which was a bold idea, particularly for a commercial network that had more to lose than, say, the politically fence-sitting ABC. Raye pitched the idea to Oswin. The risk was taken and the result was The Mavis Bramston Show, a ground-breaking show on ATN Channel 7 which held record-breaking ratings for two straight years... no seasons in those days – they did forty shows, an hour weekly, every year.

With Producer Raye at the helm, and with a team of splendid writers, and a legion of legal advisors to ward off the libel suits, the cast of three – Raye, the late Gordon Chater and Barry Creyton performed that weekly hour almost exclusively. June Salter became a regular guest, and Noeline Brown was the original face – and voice – of the show's fictitious eponym. In 1965, others joined the cast, but they seldom numbered more than five or six.

MAVIS was the mother of all Australian television comedy (comparable to the legendary UK program That Was The Week That Was), and the standard by which it is judged, even today. Interviews with Carol Raye, Barry Creyton, David Sale (writer and executive producer), lead writer, the brilliant Ken Shadie, Richard Walsh (writer and founder of OZ Magazine) Maggie Dence (Mavis #2), Bill Harding (writer), John-Michael Howson, Max Gillies, Lucky Starr, Anthony Ackroyd, Glenn A Baker, Peter Moon and TV and film historian Andrew Mercado take us on a trip that explores the phenomenon that MAVIS was and its legacy.

The show aired from 1964 to1968. The 1964 / 65 episodes represent the original purpose: to do topical and political satire. As 1966 progressed, the show became a variety show minus the bite of the original and it was not renewed after 1968.

The documentary will explore the effect of Mavis Bramston on a rapidly changing Australian society and how this pioneering show set the scene for generations of satirical programs including: Fast Forward, Norman Gunston Show, The Gillies Report, Full Frontal, Frontline, The Big Gig, Clark & Dawe, The Chasers and Mad As Hell.

15. Waterman

Directed by Isaac Halasima

Surfing legend. Olympic superstar. Hawaiian Icon. American hero.

Five-time Olympic medalist and Native Hawaiian Duke Paoa Kahanamoku shattered records and brought surfing to the world while overcoming a lifetime of personal challenges. Waterman explores his journey and legacy as a legendary swimmer, trailblazer, and the undisputed father of modern-day surfing, following the sport's first-time inclusion in this year's Games – a fitting tribute to his work promoting the sport around the globe. Narrated by Jason Momoa and was recently the top grossing documentary in North America.

16. Freedom Street

Directed by Alfred Darren Pek

14000 refugees are trapped in limbo; caught in the crossfire of Australia's border policy and Indonesia's indifference.

17. Memories That Make Us

Directed by Martin Potter

Memories That Make Us is a poetic, ethnographic documentary that draws on the individual and collective memories of ordinary Italian migrants who made Victoria, Australia their home after the end of the second world war.

18. Cuba My Soul

Directed by Craig Miller

Some twenty years after The Buena Vista Social Club, traditional Cuban music lives on, but it's facing a threat from foreign styles and a disinterested youth. We interviewed many of Cuba's best and legendary artists and explored Cuban music, past and present. We invited several of our artists to perform in a live concert which delivered virtuoso performances and a brilliant and captivating soundtrack.

19. Art Lovers Unite

Directed by Patrick j Thomas

Follow activist/fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and artist Dacob as they embark on a journey through art and its history.

Vivienne Westwood and Dacob drift through the hallways of the Gemaeldegalerie in Berlin, Germany, while they unlock the history and secrets behind masterpieces painted by Raphael, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Velázquez, Titian and many more.

Topics at the core of "Art Lovers Unite!" include:

  • How art inspires Vivienne Westwood as a fashion designer.

  • Why art is important and how it can help you grow.

  • How to join the movement of becoming a "Freedom-Fighter" through art.

  • Can art and fashion coexist?

  • Vivienne Westwood's trip to India with Naomi Campbell & deadly injustices perpetrated upon the population in Indian villages.

  • How art was perceived centuries ago and how it is perceived today.

  • Unlocking secret codes and symbols in paintings.

  • Art depicting death. Is there life after death?

  • The surprising reveal of Vivienne Westwood's favourite painting.

  • A percentage of this screening will be donated to one of Vivienne's favourite charities Cool Earth.

    20. Ticketyboo

    Directed by Renee Brack

    After losing her artist-father to Alzheimer's, journalist Renée Brack confronts her own fears by undergoing medical experiments as a human lab rat, risking her career & dignity to find out if she too has early signs of the disease. While on this precarious journey with devastating revelations, she discovers wonderful ways to stay connected to people we love living with dementia. In association with Dementia Australia!

     

    Early bird discounts are now available at mdff.org.au until 1 July 2022.

    View the full 2022 program and plan your festival experience at https://mdff.org.au/home.

    For all the latest on the festival, including masterclasses and special events, please see https://mdff.org.au/home, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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