Film Festivals have had a hard go the last few years, having to adapt to the pandemic meant that a lot of them have had to move online. Over the last month I reviewed films for one of those festivals, the Sydney Underground Film Festival, but coming up throughout the month of October is the 6th Annual Melbourne Documentary Film Festival. 

Between the 1st and the 31st of October, the MDFF will be showing over 20 feature-length documentaries and dozens upon dozens of shorts. There’s so much on offer that it’s going to be a challenge to pick what to view… luckily for you, I’ve skimmed through the list and picked 5 documentaries that I’m most looking forward to in order to influence your decisions of where you put your money because that’s the kind of thing I do.

HONOURABLE MENTION: Alien On Stage

This list is about films I’m excited to see, not ones I’ve already seen and there’s exactly one film that’s part of the MDFF that I’ve already seen… fortunately, it’s absolutely amazing. Alien On Stage tells the story of a bunch of British bus drivers who put on a play for charity every year and one year they decide to put on an adaptation of the classic Sci Fi film Alien. Not only is this documentary absolutely hilarious, but it’s also a charming tale of perseverance and love of the arts. Honestly one of the best films of the year, this is the one you absolutely NEED to see (but again, I’ve seen it already so it’s an honourable mention)

5: Looby

Keith Looby is an Australian artist who has won a ton of prizes, had his work shown in galleries around the world, has been working for 70 years… and if the trailer for this film is to be believed, he’s burned almost every bridge he has ever crossed. Documentaries on famous artists are always fascinating to me (See the documentary on Marcel Duchamp sometime) but a documentary about an Australian artist who is simultaneously respected and reviled? The trailer doesn’t really give a hint as to why he’s burned so many bridges or what he did to piss so many other artists off, but it’s hard to deny that the story sounds fascinating enough to be worth looking up.

4: Hannibal Hopkins and Sir Anthony

If I were to make a list of my favourite actors of all time, Anthony Hopkins would be on there at some point. His role in Silence of the Lambs was career-defining and iconic enough that to this day just putting on an accent and saying “Hello Clarice” can send shivers up the spine. So now there’s a documentary about how Anthony Hopkins went from just being some boy in Wales into a two time Oscar winning actor? Oh yeah, I need to see this… especially after Hopkins’ heartbreaking performance in The Father reminded everyone just how goddamn brilliant this man is

3: Invisible: Gay Women in Southern Country Music

Don’t know if I even need to justify being excited about this one, a documentary about gay women in country music is a description that was almost tailor-made to get my attention. Considering Country Music’s long history of “family, religion and the patriarchy of country music”, hearing stories about how a group of gay women managed to work through that to become stars of the genre sounds like a genuinely fascinating time.

2. Ed Asner: On and Off The Stage

On August 29th we lost Ed Asner, a legendary actor with over 400 credits to his name, seven Emmys, a tonne of Golden Globes and a career that lasted over 60 years… just try and tell me that man’s life story won’t be one of the most fascinating things you’ve ever heard. He lived one hell of a life and even if you didn’t watch all his work (how could you, there’s just too much of it for anyone to truly get through) you undoubtedly knew something he did and probably loved him in it. A month after his passing feels like the right time to get a glimpse of this career overview.

1: Black Summer

It’s strange to remember that 2020 started in Australia with everything being on fire. From the end of 2019 to several months into 2020, we had some of the worst bushfires imaginable. From September 2019 until March 2020, the bushfires were so bad that it turned the sky red and no matter where you were in Australia you were able to smell the smoke. It was a horrific time, one that a lot of people still haven’t fully recovered from. While it’s still a very raw and open wound for many people, a documentary about the events of that horrible bushfire and how it affected the locals who suffered the worst of it is absolutely essential viewing for just about everyone.

So that’s my list of the 5 films I’m excited to see. Of course, in general, I’m eager to see pretty much every film that’s listed as they all look like they’ll at least have something interesting to show. Hope to see you there… I mean, it’s all online so I won’t see you but… YOU GET THE POINT!

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