MDFF

The Melbourne Documentary Film Festival will celebrate its sixth edition when it returns this month.

Audiences will be treated to an impressive selection of the world’s best documentaries online from July 1 – 31 online, and at Cinema Nova July 21 – 31 as part of Documentary Month. 

The Melbourne Documentary Film Festival showcases the very best documentaries from Venice, SXSW, Slamdance, CPHDOX, Doxa, Hot Docs, VIFF, Shanghai Film Festival, Harlem International Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, and the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

The Melbourne Documentary Film Festival will include over 140 Documentaries, Web Series, VR and Shorts, four World Premieres, 15 Asia / Pacific Premieres, 40 Australian Premieres, 10 Victorian Premieres and six Digital Australian Premieres. 60 Australian Documentaries, Web Series, VR and Shorts feature in the program.

Of the 60 Australian documentaries being showcased, an incredible 19 of those are feature length including documentaries from award-winning and critically acclaimed Australian filmmaking icons Warwick Thornton and Bruce Beresford.

The year, the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival will also present a series of free online Masterclasses hosted by Chris Pankhurst of Documentary Life including:

  • 24th July 2021 Experimental Documentary – with Ashleigh McArthur
  • 24th July 2021 Introduction to Mobile Phone Filmmaking for Documentary Filmmakers from Cinespace
  • 25th July 2021 Mental Health and Documentary Filmmakers – Doug Block – The D Word and Rebecca Day

You can register for these free masterclasses here

See below for your full list of Australian documentaries screening at this year’s festival.

An Improbable Collection

Directed by Bruce Beresford

Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956) and William Orpen ( 1878-1931) were, until around 1940, two of the most widely acclaimed artists of the twentieth century, their works being displayed in major galleries all over the world.

Because of a shift away from representational painting their eminence plummeted. A large collection of the work of both painters was acquired by a wealthy Australian businessman, R.D. Elliott, prior to 1945. Elliott died in 1950 and left his remarkable collection to the Mildura Council, who have the works on display in the attractive Mildura Gallery.

The film outlines the brilliant careers of both men ( Brangwyn was English, Orpen Irish) along with their plunge to obscurity – a trajectory that is one of the defining characteristics of the art world – because of changes in taste and /or the emergence of new styles of art.

Batoor: A Refugee Journey

Directed by Barat Ali Batoor

Afghani photojournalist Barat Ali Batoor won a Walkley Award for the images he captured on his own refugee boat journey.

One of Afghanistan’s leading photographers, Batoor first won international acclaim in 2011 for his powerful photo essay exposing one of his country’s darkest secrets – the scandalous and brutal trade in young ‘dancing boys’ used for entertainment and prostitution.

But his work made him a target of the Taliban and the powerful warlords who control the evil trade. Forced to flee, he took refuge in the Pakistani city of Quetta. But with the targeted killings of Batoor’s own Hazara community on the rise in the city, he again became a target of assassins.

With imminent death threats against him, Batoor was forced to flee along an asylum seeker route taken by thousands before him.

He embarked on an epic journey that saw him traverse three continents, be people smuggled over multiple borders, survive a shipwreck in the open seas, become lost in the jungles of Indonesia, escape from imprisonment and spend months living undercover as an illegal immigrant.

Remarkably, Batoor recorded his entire journey, creating a compelling record of his own journey and the lives of asylum seekers in a perilous world of cross border trafficking and risky sea voyages.

Finally granted refugee status in Australia, the 37 year-old has retraced his 13-months journey creating a powerful account of his odyssey and turning his film footage and Walkley-winning images into a stunning 90 minute film.
‘Batoor: A Refugee Journey’ tells the harrowing story of one person’s struggle to find freedom and safety while also probing moral issues around human displacement, people smuggling and migration policy.

The film highlights the powerlessness and the precarious lives of the world’s 70 million displaced souls; and is an attempt to give a voice to the planet’s most vulnerable people.

Do Nothing And Do It Well

Directed by Liam Ward

The true story of Melbourne’s radical Chinese cabinetmakers
whose militant union defied racial stereotypes and struck fear into the White Australian establishment.

Black Summer

Directed by Hagyung Koo

A documentary about the 2019-2020 bushfires in Australia. Delving into the lives of the locals impacted and the affect it has had on the environment around them.

Buff

Directed by Gavin Bond and Ian Abercromby

Buff is a quirky, passionate and affectionate look at the magic of cinema and is a Perth based profile of film buffs, film critics and enthusiasts. The film not only explores the world of film fandom but is informative, poignant, entertaining and humorous.

Buff consists of a series of candid interviews with an eclectic range of Australian film enthusiasts asking them about ttheir passion for cinema, their favourite films of all time, favourite all-time scenes and dialogue.

This short form documentary not only examines the phenomena of film fandom but is also a personal profile of the various subjects and the reasons for their attraction and devotion to film

Inferno Without Borders

Directed by Sandrine Charruyer

The unprecedented bushfire crisis that struck Australia during the 2019-2020 summer sparked numerous controversies and its abnormality revealed underlying major issues with bush management and Australia’s part in contributing to global warming.

The nation-wide disaster enflamed by years of drought, drier fuel, unusually high temperatures and severe winds, was the worst in world history. As the population is faced with devastating losses, a number of questions arise:

• Could more hazard prevention methods have been implemented in order to reduce the severity of the natural disasters? If so, would these have been effective?

• Could it have been beneficial to reintroduce traditional fire management techniques stemming from Aboriginal cultures? By adopting these practices, could future generations look forward to an Australia of regenerated wildlife and healthy landscapes?

Experts in politics, ecology and land management stress the importance of adjusting to the new reality of extreme weather conditions and most importantly adopting methods to reduce global warming. Can our past save our future?

Noongar Culture in the Modern Era

Directed by Michael Liu

Through art, language, music, dance and ancient story telling, Noongar Culture in the Southwest of Western Australia is set to thrive well into the future.

Cry of the Forests – A Western Australian Story

Directed by Jane Hammond

WA’s south-west forests are part of one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet and are recognised for their ability to capture and store carbon. They are vital to slowing run-away climate change yet instead of preserving them we are cutting them down at an alarming rate for charcoal, firewood and woodchips. Forests play a crucial role in the water cycle but the streams that once bubbled through these ecological communities are drying up and the critical habitat they provide for endangered species is shrinking.

Cry of the Forests takes viewers to the heart of the forests to see first-hand the beauty of these towering ecosystems and the life they support. We meet the activists armed with go-pros and dressed in camouflage gear risking their lives to bear witness to the logging and we meet traditional custodians, tourist operators & farmers on the frontline of the battle to protect our forests.

Wanting To Fly

Directed by Matthew Morden

We follow Neil through his journey of human suspension. In addition, we delve into the suspension community in Melbourne, Australia to learn more about what leads people to suspend.

Beyond the Burning: voices from the East Gippsland fires

New Year’s Eve, 2019. The sky turns bright red in Mallacoota, East Gippsland, as a monstrous fire tears towards the town. Through mobile phone footage and interviews, bushfire survivors explain what it felt like to be there and the impact on local wildlife.

Afterwards, we see the scorched remains of a forest through the eyes of a renowned nature photographer. An ecologist revisits her favourite temperate rainforest – normally too wet to burn – and explains what’s being lost as a hotter climate dries out the bush.

In other parts of the ravaged landscape, wildlife carers offer shelter to injured animals, and a beekeeper explains how destructive logging practices have contributed to the frequency and intensity of the recent fires.

From this tragedy emerge local solutions. Traditional Owners survey the regenerating bush for totem species, conduct cultural burns and begin the long process of taking back management of the land. And renewable energy companies install battery and solar systems to make remote communities more resilient to future climate disasters, accelerating the shift from coal and gas to clean energy.

Told in the authentic voices of bushfire survivors, Beyond the Burning takes us through the tragedy of the 2019/20 Australian fires and out the other side, towards a vision of a better future.

Street Kids

Directed by Simon Mundine

Rakib and Jahangir are homeless orphans fending for themselves on the streets of Dhaka. We join them as they spruik bottled-water and boiled-eggs to commuters on the chaotic train system. Barely surviving, the boys share their tragic stories and lament their lack of opportunity.

Painting My Canvas

Directed by Mark Hellinger

A man with a difficult past finds solace through art.

Ngumpin Kartiya

Directed by Ben McFadyen

Newly released Indigenous short film tells untold stories of the Wave Hill Walk-off and the Gurindji people while also revealing the true significance of the iconic song From Little Things Big Things Grow.

Ngumpin Kartiya is a film produced by the Gurindji Aboriginal Corporation, Freedom Day Festival and These Wild Eyes. Released on August 23, this 17-minute documentary film looks at a proud and sometimes difficult past, and also celebrates a bright and better future.

The Gurindji story, immortalised in the Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody classic From Little Things Big Things Grow, is known by many Australians – but often only vaguely. This film sheds light on the pivotal historical events that led to Aboriginal Land Rights and forever changed our nation and the plight of Indigenous people to reclaim their land. And it does so by revisiting the Gurindji community all these years later to hear from the descendants of Vincent Lingiari and those who took a brave stand against power and privilege some 54 years ago.

Aboriginal Warrior

Directed by Gary Hamaguchi

Chris Collard grew up in a home without love. He thought the world hated him, so he hated it back. Going in and out of juvenile detention, and eventually turning eighteen behind bars, Chris decided to turn his life around. 

Realising he was repeating the detrimental cycles of those around him, he moved away from his family and friends to pursue kick boxing. Within five years he was a Kickboxing World Champion. Taking control of his future, Chris is now a loving father and husband who passes on the principles of Kickboxing to help youth learn anger management and self-respect

Eternal Flame

Directed by Derek Ho

Teachers are often compared to a candle. There is an old Chinese saying that teachers set themselves on fire in order to illuminate others. Our protagonist in this story, Professor Zhang, disagrees.

Eternal Flame is a love story not only captures Professor Zhang’s selflessness, passion and commitment to his students in a career spanning over 60 years, it also captures the same unwavering devotion he has for his wife

Until We Touch

Directed by Charlotte Mungomery

A short poem like documentary. Through windows we watch the polyphonic narrative of twelve mothers in lockdown who read letters from their adult children who are overseas, interstate or are quarantined in the same city.

Living on the Line

Directed by Sara Ehrlich

‘Living on the Line’ follows the journey of Anna, Kat and a group of inspiring women as they take part in one of Australia’s first big ‘all women’ highline gatherings. We witness their struggles as they confront and conquer their fears in high winds, pushing themselves to the limit. 

The film gives an insight into the unique world of highlining – exploring the close Sydney community, physical and psychological components and misconceptions of the sport. It delves into how the world of outdoor adventure sport has transformed for women over the years and the deeper and more personal motivations for chasing this adventurous ‘life on the line’.

Yes and

Directed by Aly Zhang

Cristina ‘Rhyme’ Spizzica and Jeremy ‘Zone’ Hughes are ‘Rhymezone’, an improvised rap musical comedy duo, where from a one word suggestion from an audience, launch into an unplanned and different rap musical every performance. Their relationship with each other, the art form, and themselves, is reflected on and joyfully considered in this portrait documentary.

The Last Typewriter

Directed by Yauming Chiam

A short (9.25minutes) documentary about Tom Koska who owns the last typewriter shop in Melbourne and possibly Australia. He has been repairing typewriters in the same street in Melbourne since the 1960s. He’s a remarkable individual, resolute in his determination to keep the sunset trade alive.

My Friend Paul

Directed by Emmett Redding

My Friend Paul is a reflection on fierce friendships that are all-consuming, yet wash away over time. It explores the nature of nostalgia and the fluidity of memory through the recollection of a summer in suburban Australia.

An Introduction to Genre

Directed by Shannon Marinko

An insultingly simplistic examination of film genre that will ruin movies for you forever

Baba

Directed by Firass Dirani

‘Baba’, which means ‘Dad’ in Arabic, tells the heartwarming story of Mohamad Abbas Dirani, a Lebanese-Australian immigrant, and his ambitions as a young shepherd. Mohammad was the eldest of 10 children, and was ordered to be the family’s main bread winner at the age of 7. He never imagined adversity knocking at his doorstep so early

Icebergers

Directed by Darcy Newton

The club of cold open ocean swimmers – Icebergers – houses a heartwarming, motivational & supportive community full of inspiring stories.

Searching for a Friend

Directed by Guillym Davenport

When the memory of a lost friend is brought into focus for the filmmaker, they set out to try and find them again. What unfolds is a coming of age story about memory and the things we leave behind for the important people in our lives

Stranger in the Crowd

Directed by Matt Alpass

‘Stranger in the Crowd’ documents Phil, a man who fell into a life of performing as Elvis (amongst others) for the pure joy and entertainment of people from all walks of life.

This is not a film about an Elvis impersonator, but a snippet into the life of a man who strives to help people escape their own realities – whilst also escaping his.

Citizen of the Great Barrier Reef

Directed by Tom Abood

This documentary follows the work of a team of scientists, explorers and conservationists as they join forces on an ocean adventure to survey the effects of climate change on one of the most remote and rarely visited regions of the Great Barrier Reef. Calling for immediate global action, their work offers hope that our coral reefs can be rescued and protected for generations to come.

Solid Flesh

Directed by Christian Byers

A mutely observed, darkly humourous experimental documentary following the inner workings of a Sydney Funeral Home.

Raising Joey

Directed by Stephanie Senior

A Photographers Journey to save animals in need.

The Shape of Air

Directed by Rob Layton

Willy Nicholls is one of the few surfboard airbrush artists left in Australia. With his dog Ruby constantly at his side, Willy continues a craft that started in the 1970s when psychedelia and surf culture merged for a unique – and now dying – art form.

Salty Sea Dog

Directed by Lara van Raay

Madeleine Habib has spent her life in remote and sometimes dangerous situations, as she uses her skills as a Master Mariner to do work that many others wouldn’t dare to.

Murder on the Dance Floor

Directed by Louise Bertoncini

It’s 1925 and hundreds of people are dancing the foxtrot in Western Australia’s Government House, when BANG! A gun goes off. People turn to see jilted fiancée, Audrey Jacobs, holding the pistol while standing over the bleeding body of her ex, Cyril Gidley.

What should have been an open and shut case proved to be a very different stor

Roll’n

Directed by Daen Sansbury-Smith

Uncle Kutcha Edwards invites Daen, an artist and film maker to explore the inspirations of his original song ‘Roll’n’. The pair spend time in the studio and travel to significant places as they learn more about each other.

Ngatanwarr An Open Door

Directed by Mitchell Withers

Ngatawanwaar translates to welcome in Peek Whurrong.

Set in South West Victoria, the film serves as a welcome to non indigenous Australians to learn more about the lands on which they live, to be proactive and curious about the past. To talk about our true history and embrace aboriginal culture.

Brothers in Arms

Directed by Guillym Davenport

Two brothers are brought closer together by battling the same demons in this short documentary.

Harbour Lights

Directed by Jary Nemo

In Melbourne Australia at the turn of the 20th century a pioneering network of women at the Mission to Seafarers supported sailors who risked their lives at sea.

The documentary ‘Harbour Lights’ tells the remarkable story of the Ladies Harbour Lights Guild and the lives of seafarers at a time when the maritime industry was the lifeblood of global connection. It focusses on Melbourne’s iconic Mission to Seafarers building, its connection to the First World War and to a unique community of ships crew and volunteers

On the Road

Directed by Arctic Qu

As COVID-19 broke out in early 2020, Melbourne University’s international student Cathy Yang was forced to embark on a long journey through Cambodia in order to return to her study in Australia. She is one of over 100,000 Chinese international affected by the Australian government’s China travel ban policy.

Wandering among the ancient temple ruins of Angkor Wat, she tells her story. Visions of history, the pandemic world and present time intertwine with each other. The metaphor of travel as life brings a message of the human condition, and our universal connection.

Eden Canoes

Directed by David Longden

Six Indigenous youth, build three boats, in two weeks.

My Two Lives

Directed by Sarita Gold

Lotte Weiss is a Holocaust survivor. She has never forgotten the horrors of her three years of internment at Auschwitz and Birkenau. Yet it is her immense life force that propelled her through the torture and devastation enveloping her. Her inherent integrity and morality remained steadfast. It was her capacity for goodness, kindness, forgiveness and love which never faltered throughout the misery and beatings she endured, to give her the strength and the will for survival. This is her story interpreted by artist Thea.

Holy Duty

Directed by Sarah Marcuson

If there is one topic most people are afraid to confront, it is that of death. Many of us, if not most, spend our lives avoiding talking about death. Certainly, not many of us willingly welcome death into our lives.

Yet, there is always an exception to the rule – and that exception is the “Chevra Kadisha”, or “Sacred Society”. This group of Jewish volunteers do not just briefly confront death – but spend years of their life preparing, sanctifying, and burying Jewish bodies.

What would bring someone to face death head-on? And ultimately – what does it do to a person?

Inner Portraits

Directed by Christian Berzi

A profile of photographic artist R J Poole, who formerly served in the Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SAS)

{Perspectives} : Jon Julio

Directed by Dom West

This short takes a look at the rich history of the Australian skating scene through the eyes of Jon Julio, the sport’s longest standing professional athlete and most respected industry leader. Through his connection to the Australian scene in the early 90s, Jon sheds light on the country’s unique influence during the sport’s founding years and the importance of the leaders from skating’s past in 2019.

Angel

Directed by Charlotte White

This intimate, in-depth look at India Angel’s songwriting process and celebrated debut single ‘Move On.’ reveals the emotional and vulnerable road from pen and paper to commercial success.

Nanna Power

Directed by Anne Keen

What could cause a great grandmother to lock herself to a fence?

The Gloucester Knitting Nannas formed during the regional New South Wales town’s fight against AGL, which made national headlines.

‘When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty’ is the motivation behind four grandmothers who protest against gas and greed in Australia.

Lost Contact

Directed by Jaina Kalifa & Amelia Paxman

Aldo has always felt like a being from another planet, stranded on Earth. His autism and long struggle to speak fluently alienated him from others. Now, he searches for meaning in the esoteric and for connection with people like himself.

Eight Steps

Directed by Masina Taule’alo

It is about Masina Taule’alo, an autistic university student who talks about his experience in the Australian education system. His parents are also there too, and they talk about the challenges they came across with Masina’s schooling, because of how the system responded to his autism spectrum.

Australia Burns…silence of the land

Directed by Shane McLachlan

In 2019-20 Australia experienced a catastrophic bushfire season, one of the worst on record. This documentary focuses not only on the fires and their devastating effect on Australia’s unique wildlife and eco system, but whether climate change played a roll, why was it so random and merciless and will this become the new normal?

My Rembetika Blues – A film about love, life and Greek music

Directed by Mary Zournazi

Rembetika music or the Greek blues is a music born of exile and the streets. Developing its roots from the mass migration of people in the early twentieth century, filmmaker M. Zournazi traces the journey of her forebears from Smyrna in Turkey to Sydney Australia but discovers more than family history, she finds out how music connects people during times of struggle and crises. By weaving together different stories of music and migration, she documents experiences that are often left out of the chronicles of history.

We Are Conjola – Our Fire Our Story

Directed by Ash Brennan

NYE 2019. Director and film maker Ash Brennan lost his house in the Conjola Park Bushfire which nearly killed his brother and many others who stayed to fight. From a Perth hotel room Ash saw the first image of what used to be his house in the background of a news reporter

After almost being wiped off the map, a traumatised community waited for help. But it never came. Conjola was abandoned and left for dead. Local artists then started creating. They needed to heal. It gave the community hope and solidified their journey to recovery, together. Ash hopes that this film will be part of that recovery

Wild Things

Directed by Sally Ingeleton

Wild Things is a feature length documentary that follows a new generation of environmental activists that are mobilising against forces more powerful than themselves and saying, enough. Armed only with mobile phones, this growing army of eco warriors will do whatever it takes to save their futures from the ravages of climate change. 

From chaining themselves to coal trains, sitting high in the canopy of threatened rainforest for days on end or locking onto bulldozers, their non-violent tactics are designed to generate mass action with one finger tap. Messages go viral within seconds. It’s a far cry from the heady days of the Franklin River and Anti Uranium Mining Blockades when street marches were the only way to be heard.

Against a backdrop of unprecedented drought, fire and floods; we witness how today’s environmentalists are making a difference and explore connections with past iconic environmental campaigns. Surprisingly the methods of old still have currency when a groundswell of school students inspired by 16-year old Greta Thunberg say, ‘change is coming’ and go on strike demanding climate action.

With Flying Colours

Directed by Christina Hogarth

The colourful true story of Australia’s first female helicopter pilot, Rosemary Arnold, who shook the male dominated aviation industry and inspired a new generation of female pilots by using fashion to combat sexism.

Voices of the River

Directed by Stephanie King

“The Fitzroy River is a living system. It has the right to life… It’s a part of me and I’m a part of it, so together we’re gonna protect each other.” – Anthony McLarty, Walmajarri Traditional Owner.3

The National Heritage-Listed Martuwarra Fitzroy River stretches over 700km from the desert to the sea, and is a site of great cultural significance. However, the river’s cultural and ecological values are now under great threat from Murray-Darling style proposals to pump water from the river and establish an intensive irrigated agriculture industry. 

Documentary webseries Voices of the River goes out on Country with ten Traditional Owners to share stories of cultural connection and the fight to protect one of the last in-tact river systems in the world

The Beach

Directed by Warwick Thornton

Alone in one of the most stunningly beautiful, yet brutal outback environments in the world, award-winning film director Warwick Thornton, attempts to change his life before it’s too late. Film maker, Warwick Thornton’s incredible international success has come at a personal cost. 

He has reached a crossroad. Change or die. Warwick has chosen to change. He has chosen to give up the limelight, the drugs and alcohol, to go it alone, on an isolated beach in one of the most beautiful, yet brutal environments in the world, to see if he can transform and heal his life.

Impact Beyond the Night

Directed by Kath Dooley

This immersive 360 VR video explores impacts and collisions between bodies in the solar system, shedding light on the origins of our cosmic backyard. It is inspired by the work of Dr Katarina Miljković, a planetary scientist who specialises in planetary geoscience and space exploration at Curtin University’s Space Science and Technology Centre in Perth, Western Australia. 

Combining space imagery from NASA, observational footage of Miljković at work and recreated scenes of the moments that propelled her on the path towards a career in Planetary Science, the project seeks to inspire an audience of all ages, and to promote STEM learning for girls

The Space Between

Directed by Bianca Biasi

Spurred on by a paranormal experience as a child, filmmaker Bianca Biasi explores the grounds of Sydney’s old Quarantine Station, reputedly Australia’s most haunted site.

Encountering inexplicable phenomena, Bianca and her team of psychics, experts and professional ghost-hunters gather evidence, talk to witnesses and seek the truth about the strange events said to occur here.

Along the way the team zero in on the mysteries and controversy surrounding the eleven most reputedly prominent entities on site – with surprising results.

In her quest for answers about the paranormal, Bianca draws on documented history, numerology, psychic readings and psychological theory but stumbles on a common thread of trauma, and in particular childhood trauma, that links key members of the team with their sensitivity to the paranormal.

The series is packed with twists and turns culminating in Bianca facing her past – her own childhood ghost.

Being a gay child in a highly religious Catholic family, Bianca explores the experience of feeling like an outcast and alone.

Was her paranormal experience as a child a genuine encounter with the spirit world? Or was it the creation of a child desperate for love and struggling for acceptance in an environment of fear and rejection?

Partly filmed during the recent Covid-19 pandemic, the history of quarantine has a compelling relevance to current events.

This is My School

Directed by Iqbal Barkat

A year-long, intimate and loving study of a primary school in one of Sydney’s most diverse suburbs. At its heart is an exploration of how a community comes together to ethically educate children for the contemporary world.

Night Before Day

Directed by Daniel Bury

In 2020, Sohail is just one of 79 million displaced people in the world. He is a teenager in a Greek refugee camp.

Inspired by Theo, a local human rights worker, Sohail joins other refugees, artist Nakam and war-injured Ali, to migrate from the camp and create a new form of citizenship not previously imagined.

Through cinematic VR or film, we intimately share their journey from night to day.

Available as 8 min 3D x180 for VR and 2D for all other screens.

Catherine Kindergarten

Directed by Kaye Cleave

Catherine’s Kindergarten is the story of a mother’s emotional journey to confront her grief after the death of her only child, juxtaposed with her physical journey to a Nepalese mountain village to open a school in memory of her daughter.

I am that mother.

My grief journey began twenty years ago when I left my home in Australia for the anonymity of San Francisco. I remember lying awake in my attic apartment, in a gracious Victorian overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, hearing the moaning of foghorns guiding ships home. I felt adrift, with no safe harbour, and my gut whirled with guilt and shame: I’d failed as a mother to protect my child.

In San Francisco, I met Prakash, a young Nepalese student. Born in Lalu, a remote village nestled in the shadow of the snow-capped Himalayans, he had suffered great losses too. When he shared his vision of building ten schools in the district surrounding his village, I was inspired and wrote a children’s picture book to fund a kindergarten in memory of my daughter.

Once the school was completed, I flew to Kathmandu. From there, I boarded a tiny plane to Western Nepal, then hired a car to drive into the mountains, and the following morning, hiked tirelessly to reach Lalu. I had invited an American friend to accompany me and film the journey. James turned out to be the perfect companion —good-humoured, resourceful and unbeknownst to me, a talented cinematographer.

By the time we arrived in the village, I was exhausted and feeling vulnerable. Stripped of all familiar supports including friends, yoga classes and a meditation community— even basic needs like running water, electricity and Western bathrooms. Alone in my mountain hut, I had a meltdown thirty minutes before the start of the official ceremony to open Catherine’s Kindergarten and the adjoining hostel for orphans. “It’s a good thing I’ve done,” I sobbed, “but it won’t bring my daughter back.”

The Healing

Directed by Nick Barkla

The Healing is an inspiring documentary about transformation and getting a second chance in life. It explores a life-saving equine welfare program that brings traumatised ex-racehorses and traumatised military veterans together to help heal each other.

Mental as Everything

Directed by Damon Smith

Damon Smith has estimated that he has spent around 50 thousand hours of his life, so far, participating in absurd ritualistic behaviors associated with his obsessive Compulsive Disorder. 

With the help of his anxious friend, Adam, these two, Australian musicians, share, with original music, preposterous humor, and outlandish animations, the intricate and debilitating nature of what it is like to live and talk about mental illness in a world where it’s ok to talk about a broken arm but not ok to talk about a broken mind.

The Art in Healing

Directed by Stella Dimadis

The Art In Healing’ is a half hour documentary by award winning director, writer and producer, Stella Grammenos-Dimadis. The film explores the role that creativity and art
plays in people’s lives, particularly when personal trauma occurs or when people are afflicted by natural disasters.

The inspiration for the film came about by contemplating the questions; ‘Why is art such an important aspect to civilisation and our society’? and ‘Does the human brain benefit from interacting with art, and if so, how’? From these questions a number of people offered their experience and research, especially in describing brain plasticity and the ability of the brain to rewire after an artistic experience.

Click here for the full MDFF program, and how you can watch them.