My MDFF Viewing Wishlist

Australia is amazing, and here is another reason for documentary fans to go: The Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, which runs July 6-14, 2018. In its third year, the festival program deftly balances the global and local, the political and popular, and the serious and fun.

I played virtual festival-goer for this one, perusing the program and developing my own viewing “wishlist” if I could attend in person.

MDFF programming addresses international issues while highlighting national and local ones. Environmental concerns in the Amazon are addressed in Peiman Zekavat’s Timbo and Ada Bodjolle’s Amazonia Damned, as dam projects threaten the rainforest and indigenous peoples’ ways of life. Australian national concerns arise in Jane Hammond’s A Crude Injustice, which examines how an offshore oil spill devastates seaweed and fishing industries in West Timor while those responsible deny the spill’s impacts. One film that particularly caught my attention was Not Just Another Mountain, directed by Chris Davis, about a felled deeply symbolic tree and the various groups’ values surrounding it.

The festival also honors its city with stories specifically about Melbourne with two “Melbourne Stories” events. The first occurs July 7, 2018, with Big in Japan and the second occurs July 8, 2018, with a series of shorts. Rachel Morssink and Ian Tran’s short Olympic Nick poses the most thought-provoking question: “What happens when a $3.7 billion dollar regional rail project gets derailed by a 76-year-old Melbourne man and his humble doughnut van?” Those must be some awesome doughtnuts.

Political titles mingle with popular culture titles with a particular focus on unique stories. One title that busts boundaries is Jemma van Loenen’s Bam Bam, about a Lebanese Muslim girl hailing from Australia who seeks victory at world amateur boxing. Out of My Head, directed by Jackie Ochs and Susanna Styron, looks at migraines as more than “just headaches,” raising questions about their places as a neurological disease. Two films tell stories about taxi drivers in Ireland. Siri Nerbø’s Men in the Mirror follows four Nigerian taxi drivers working in Galway, while Mia Mullarkey’s Throwline follows activist taxi drivers in Kilkenny who work together to prevent suicides.

Popular culture is also well represented in the program. While we probably know the fate of the Marty McFly actor from Back to the Future, how many of you are asking, “But what about Biff?” Ismael Lotz’s I Am Famous visits actor Tom Wilson and the role’s impact on him and his career. Tony Zierra’s Filmworker casts a lens on Stanley Kubrick’s life through his assistant Leon Vitali, who worked with the auteur for more than 20 years.

Music by far is one of the most popular subjects for documentary, and MDFF pays homage to that genre with features about EDM and rock, not to mention other music bios and music-related topics. Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami captures the artist’s expansive and expressive life. Nicholas Dobkin’s Touching Sound The Technika combines music, video games, and their players to show their evolution into a community.

Overall, the program of the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival offers a great variety of documentary titles — shorts and features, animated / experimental and more traditional, serious and fun — sure to appeal to the most discerning documentary festival-goer. Tickets are available via moshtix, Film Freeway, and eventfinda.

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