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Wednesday
Jun282017

DOC FEST DIRECTORS PONDER WHAT "DOCUMENTARY IS..."  

Long before the conjured cinematic world of fictional narratives emerged, there were groundbreaking filmmakers objectively capturing the true wonders of the real world. It has been over 100 years since the documentary genre was born, a period that has seen the emergence of such masters as Dziga Vertoz (Man with a Movie Camera, 1929); Leni Riefenstahl (Triumph of The Will, 1935)D.A. Pennebaker (Don't Look Back, 1967); Frederick Wiseman (Titicut Follies, 1967); Albert and David Maysles (Salesman, 1969; Gimme Shelter, 1970; Grey Gardens, 1975); Chris Marker (Sans soleil, 1983); Claude Lanzmann (Shoah, 1985); and, Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line, 1989; The Fog of War, 2003). But what does the term ‘documentary’ mean to the modern practitioners of the factual film? SCREEN-SPACE asked eight of the filmmakers screening their latest at the 2017 Melbourne Documentary Film Festival to finish the sentence, “Documentary is…” 

DOCUMENTARY IS.… “a format to shine a light, investigate the truth, record history and celebrate amazing people and places while entertaining with style. #MakeADifference”
C. FITZ, Dir:  JEWEL CATCH ONE (pictured, above; C. Fitz, left, with Jewel Thais Williams. Photo: Michael Owen Baker, LA Times)
From the MDFF program: With 4 strikes against her (black, female, poor and a lesbian), our trailblazer, Jewel Thais-Williams, helped changed laws, save lives and influence communities across Los Angeles, California as she opened her legendary nightclub's door for 42 years.

DOCUMENTARY IS.… “a passion of mine. I love the stories, the real stories. The challenge to make a film in this genre has been one I’d aspired to for many years. I took another passion of mine, music, and decided I wanted to give it a shot. I honestly had an epiphany to make this film. I wanted to make this film.”
PATRICK BUCHANAN, Dir: LUNAR ORBIT
From the MDFF program: Lunar Orbit takes us deep into the Ultraworld of the pioneers of ambient house music. We explore The Orb's unique creative process with unprecedented studio access and delve into the story behind the music. 

DOCUMENTARY IS…. “imagining how situations will unfold then aligning yourself to capture the action.”
MAT DE KONING, Dir: MEAL TICKETS (pictured, right: Koning, left, during production in 2010).
From the MDFF program: The lives of high school band mates and their roadie who dedicate their twenties to seeking success in the music industry. From Perth to New York, Melbourne to Los Angeles we are given a back stage pass to the gigs, the tour, the conflicts and indulgences. 

DOCUMENTARY IS. “taking action. And by action I don't necessarily mean, being an activist. At some post-film discussions people call me an activist and I am quick to correct them. I consider myself more of an engaged citizen. Activist, to me, often means someone so angry (often rightly so) about an issue that I can't really have a conversation with them. So for me, documentary is taking action--but that action can be as simple as listening, asking good questions, asking dumb questions, moving in a direction to better understand something.” 
THOMAS BENA, Dir: ONE BIG HOME
From the MDFF program: On the tiny island of Martha’s Vineyard, where presidents and celebrities vacation, trophy homes threaten to destroy the islands unique character. Twelve years in the making, One Big Home follows one carpenters journey to understand the trend toward giant houses. When he feels complicit in wrecking the place he calls home, he takes off his tool belt and picks up a camera.

 

DOCUMENTARY IS…. “storytelling that can have a social impact. It can humanise an issue so people can connect, be moved and take action.”
BELINDA MASON, Dir: CONSTANCE ON THE EDGE
From the MDFF program: One family. Two wars. Three countries. What does it take to forge a new life far from home? Filmed over 10 years, Constance on The Edge is an unflinchingly honest portrayal of one refugee family’s resettlement story in Australia. 

DOCUMENTARY IS.... “an art form that gives people a voice and a chance to tell their personal truth.” 
STEPHANIE CLATTENBERG (pictured, right), Dir: PLAY YOUR GENDER
From the MDFF program: Juno Award-winning musician Kinnie Starr is on a quest to find out why only 5% of music producers are women even though many of the most bankable pop stars are female. What does it take for a woman to make it in music? 

DOCUMENTARY IS.… ”the nexus between art and social engagement in non-fiction story-telling. In recent years documentary has been re-branded by television as ‘Specialist Factual’, ‘Factual Entertainment’, ‘Docu-soap’ and ‘Reality Television’. Ratings are now the major driver for public broadcasters since the Howard government made ratings a prerequisite for government funding. And to increase ratings, the non-fiction TV doc has been restructured to make it ‘more accessible’ and easy to follow. So this is has become what most people now think of as ‘documentary’. But the great documentaries, the ones that have lasted and will continue to last, are more complex. They require real engagement from the audience. They are based on ideas and composed of open-ended explorations. And rather than relying on presenters and narrators, they explore different ways of telling a story - the language of the film.”
NICK TORRENS (pictured, left), Dir: CHINA’S 3DREAMS
From the MDFF program: China’s 3Dreams takes us deep inside the dilemmas and dreams of China’s people – without mediation from Western presenters and narrators. Featuring rare archive and extraordinary testimony from former Red Guards and Rebels, here is a powerful parable of China in the 21st century. 

DOCUMENTARY IS.... “a real story that matters today and in time becomes a record of who we were collectively.”
CLAIRE STONE, Dir: SEVEN WOMEN IN NEPAL THE BIRTH OF A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE
From the MDFF program: Seven Women in Nepal examines how one Australian created a successful social enterprise with the disabled women of Nepal and what is possible with a willingness to learn from mistakes and the right people to help.

The 2017 Melbourne Documentary Film Festival runs July 9-16. Session and ticketing information can be found at the events official website.

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