Short Session 1 was seen as part of the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival

Alright, no more delays. Time to do the last session of short films from the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival… and on the last day of the festival (So you might wanna RUN and go see some of these)

Street Kids (Directed by Simon Mundine) follows two orphan boys, Rakib and Jahangir, who try to make it day to day by selling boiled eggs and bottled water to people passing through the train station that they’re currently using to sleep in. Through a series of interviews we learn about what led to them having to live this kind of life and what they wish they could do instead. Their stories are heartbreaking and honest, they hold nothing back and you can see the hope and determination in their eyes. Their desire to somehow get through this and make a better life for themselves is powerful, it’s the kind of short that really makes you wish there was something you could do to help and hopefully it’ll inspire people to lend a hand to people like Rakib and Jahangir.

Painting My Canvas (Directed by Mark Hellinger) tells the story of Stephen Whitaker, an artist who lived a difficult life. As Stephen tells the story of what he’s been through your heart will break for him, so when he finds solace and safety in the arts by putting his feelings down onto canvas it’s empowering. It’s a touching and moving tale, so honest and raw that you really can’t help but just feel for Stephen. It’s just so powerful, with one hell of a gut punch ending.

Ngumpin Kartiya (Directed by Ben McFadyen) covers many important stories in the short time it has, from the Wave Hill Walk-off (a 7 year strike that led to the Gurindji having some of their land returned to them and effectively began the land rights movement in Australia) to the Freedom Day Festival, all while exploring the messages behind the song From Little Things Big Things Grow. It’s a quick and simple lesson in an important era of Indigenous Australian history that gives a good general overview of one of the most important historic moments in the fight for Aboriginal land rights. Getting to talk to the descendants of Vincent Lingiari (the man who led the initial strike) and see how those actions 54 years ago still resonate today is incredibly powerful, this is a great quick lesson that more people should experience.

Aboriginal Warrior (Directed by Gary Hamaguchi) tells the story of the life of Kickboxing World Champion Chris Collard. From a hard home life full of abuse to falling in with a bad crowd that led to serving prison time, Chris Collard’s life wasn’t easy in any way but as he tells it through the interview that makes up the bulk of this film, he makes his story into one of glorious triumph. Overcoming the hard life he grew up with to become a legend in his field, he uses the skills he gained in Kickboxing to help the youth of today. It’s a fascinating story told beautifully by Chris who doesn’t hold back even a little, it feels so raw and powerful that it’s impossible to look away for even a moment.

Eternal Flame (Directed by Derek Ho) is an ode to a great teacher named Professor Zhang, a teacher whose joy and love for his students is apparent within seconds of seeing him just sitting in a classroom ready to start the day. Through interviews with Zhang, his wife and a few scant bits of film from inside the classroom we get to see what makes this man such a special teacher. While the film is about one specific teacher though, it feels like it could apply to any truly great teacher with how it focuses on the passion for teaching and improving the lives of those in their care. A truly touching sweet little film that shines brighter than a thousand candles.

Eternal Flame Short
Eternal Flame

Buff (Directed by Gavin Bond) is all about the love of film, as told through brief interviews with several film lovers, critics and enthusiasts (including the return of David Stratton who was in a previous short I talked about). By sharing their various answers to questions about favourite films, scenes, dialogue and even what they don’t like about certain movies, we slowly get a picture of just what makes a film buff and how many strange and different people you can fit under that umbrella. It’s an absolutely charming love letter to the idea of loving films… and considering what I’ve decided to spend my time on earth doing by writing about my love of films, is it any wonder that I found myself enjoying this quite a lot?

Until We Touch (Directed by Charlotte Mungomery) shows us a dozen mothers reading letters from their children who are unable to see them due to work, distance and quarantine brought on by Covid 19. It’s a stark reminder of one of the true horrors of the last few years, our inability to visit family without fear of doing them harm just by sharing a room with them. The entire film is shot from the outside of the homes that these mothers live in and that constant reminder of how we had to live our lives is heartbreaking (thankfully we have vaccines now so we can stop this reality from happening… so go get vaccinated goddammit). Even with the distance and the barriers between them, the familial love just emanates from every frame of this charming little documentary.

Living on the Line (Directed by Sara Ehrlich) explores the women involved in the fascinating (and slightly terrifying) sport of highlining… a sport where a large wire is place between two mountains/cliffs and you walk across it. Through interviews with several participants and footage of one of their meetings, we get to see what attracted these women to this sport, how they use it to face their fears and how it has created this tightknit little community. While the sport might not be for everyone (you couldn’t PAY me enough to try it), it’s incredibly touching seeing the people who love this sport showing just how important it is to them, absolutely engaging from start to finish.

Roll’n (Directed by Daen Sansbury-Smith) looks into the story behind the song “Roll’n” by Uncle Kutcha Edwards, what led to its creation and the meaning behind its lyrics. It does this not only through interviews with Uncle Kutcha, who is such a fascinating person that I would watch a 2 hour interview with him, but by the director of this film exploring what this song means to him and even offering his own lyrics to update the song. It’s a great look into the power of music and the way history can inform the art that people create. A joy to watch, the kind of short you hope will begin the rise of an artist into something truly grand.

Te Wao Nui (Directed by Ngāriki Ngatae) lets us spend time with Tohe Ashby, a Māori healer trying to save one of the last Kauri trees. Throughout the short we get a glimpse at how Tohe practices his healing, the history of indigenous medicine and just generally get to spend time in the vast wilderness that surrounds this one dying tree. It’s a fascinating piece, complete with stories of healing, grand metaphors and a compelling lead figure. By the end of it you will be hoping that Tohe is able to do something to save the last Kauri tree, and something tells me he’s one of the few people alive who could do something about it

And that concludes our journey through the shorts of the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, and indeed the end of the festival itself. Thanks for reading these little reviews, it’s back to normal releases until the end of the year (Oh god, this year is almost over, huzzah)

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