Short Session 4 was seen as part of the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival

With only a few days left in the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival to go, time to go through the last of the documentary shorts. Because this is all random selection, let’s look at short session 4 because I like the number 4 and wanted to do it at this point.

Ngatanwarr: An Open Door (Directed by Mitchell Withers) talks about the importance of teaching people about the Indigenous history of Australia. Through interviews with a pair of Indigenous elders, we not only get to learn about why it’s important to know this stuff (to quote one of the interviews, “We’ve got to talk about the past to move to the future”) but we also get a very brief lesson to accompany it. The lessons given are fascinating and horrifying, from the simple stuff like learning the language to first hand accounts of what some of the white settlers did to those who they were stealing land from. It’s a film that asks people to learn a little history and just gives a sample of what there is to learn, and once you’ve had that sample, you’re undoubtedly going to want to learn more… especially if the teachers are as engaging as Uncle Locky Eccles and Uncle Rob Lowe (no relation to the star of 9-1-1: Lone Star, I’m assuming)

Brothers in Arms (Directed by Guillym Davenport) reunites us with the director of a previous short, Searching For A Friend. This time Guilliym is spending time with a pair of brothers who both have a couple of personal demons they need to work through. What comes across more than anything is this deep brotherly love that they share and it’s truly touching to see just how close the two of them are. I admit, as an older brother myself I’m somewhat of a sucker for stories about brothers (see my fawning love of Onward for proof of that) but there’s something so pure and real here that is captured effortlessly. A breezy 5 minutes that I wish lasted forever, it’s just that heartwarming.

Harbour Lights (Directed by Jary Nemo) tells the long forgotten story of the Ladies Harbour Lights Guild, a group of Melbourne women who did a lot of work around the time of the First World War to help create the Mission to Seafarers building, a place designed to give those working on ships a place to rest. They also did quite a bit of fundraising and other very impressive charitable works… and as I mentioned, their stories feel lost to time. This documentary gloriously revives them, using interviews with historians and a lot of archival photography we get to have a glimpse into this incredible group of heroes. It’s a glorious little film that does what a lot of great documentaries do, it takes a piece of little known history and shines a light on it so we can see all the incredibly special little details. Plus it shows you what the Mission to Seafarers building looks like today and it’s just lovely to know that this little piece of history is still standing strong as ever.

On The Road (2020) Short
On The Road (2020)

On the Road (Directed by Arctic Qu) follows Cathy Yang, a student at Melbourne University, who happened to be in China around the time that the pandemic began. As one of the many Chinese international students that were caught overseas during the China travel ban that the Australian Government put in, the only way for her to return to do her studies was to make the long trip through Cambodia so she could make it back. It’s just striking to witness this student trying to make her way back, watching as she has to deal with the new rules that the Pandemic has made into the norm or just how much work is required to pull off something this important. Seeing her dealing with the strange beaurocracy that popped up to attempt to deal with the pandemic (including the glorious loophole of “Just have a 14 day stopover in Cambodia and you’re fine”) is insane and throughout it all there is a remarkable strength that we could all learn from. Just a fascinating look at a unique experience of something we’ve all shared recently.

Eden Canoes (Directed by David Longden) details the Eden Canoe Project, a community project where a group of indigenous youth are tasked with building a set of three boats over 2 weeks under the teaching of local Aboriginal elders. Over the course of the film there’s a lot of history being taught, all of it important for any Australian to learn, but also just this wonderful sight of a community of people bonding and growing together to do something genuinely impressive. Watching this gaggle of teens and young adults working together in order to assemble functional boats in just a few weeks is impressive, seeing them go from strangers to friends is heartwarming. This one is just a nice sweet easy viewing experience with a ton of charming people showing how easy it can be for a community to come together to do something pretty damn cool.

My Two Lives (Directed by Sarita Gold) allows Lotte Weiss to tell her story as a survivor of the Holocaust. Throughout the interview with this absolutely incredible woman, we learn about what her life was like during her internment at Auschwitz and Birkenau and how she managed to be one of the few survivors of that horror. Shown throughout the short is artwork that was made based upon Lotte’s stories of her time in the camps. It’s a powerful reminder that we need to keep the stories of these survivors alive, that there are people who are still around today that carry the scars of that horror and hearing the stories is important. Seeing the stories being told to young people who can, in turn, keep them going for generations to come so we never forget is important. The art that is inspired by these stories, art that will live forever and ensure we never forget, is important. This is a truly special little short about a truly special person who proves just how strong the human spirit can be.

And that’s all of Short Session 4. Only two more to go but what order will I do them in? Who knows or cares, as long as they’re done because there are so many great shorts to enjoy.

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