Director of Antenna Documentary Film Festival, David Rokach, believes documentaries have a unique power to convey social, personal, artistic complexities. Rokach says,
I don’t see documentary as different from fiction or any other art form as a medium for the reflection of our lives.
As early as the 1920s and 30s, the documentary genre was lauded for its ability to democratise cinema. Just in the last few years hugely popular documentaries have brought international renown to a forgotten folk musician, demanded the almighty US government acknowledge its role in the Indonesian communist purge of the 60s and reconstructed the biggest sci-fi epic that never was.
Whether you put the growing popularity of the doco down to affordable technology, frustration with traditional media, or an eagerness for political discussion, the mainstream appetite for documentary film is big. And it’s growing.
The festival, now in its fourth year, deliberately keeps its programming wide and inclusive.
Our job is to promote the best and most innovative documentaries of the past year. The program is also a reflection of what is current in documentary cinema and of course, the wider world.’
This year, there’s an opportunity to see films from 20 countries that tackle subject matter that is personal, global, thought-provoking and terrifying – love and sex for disabled people, youth and unemployment, internet addiction, living with HIV, marriage equality, freedom of information, refugees and asylum seekers, the global financial crisis, the civil war in Syria, the uprising in Ukraine and much more.
Selection was made following a rigorous submission process, as well as through Antenna committee’s enviable participation in prestigious international festivals like Berlin International Film Festival, Hot Docs, International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam and DOK Leipzig.
In addition to new works, Antenna presents a retrospective documentary master and unique events
The Maysles Brothers are up this year – the makers of Salesman (1968), an affecting portrait of four door-to-door Bible salesmen, Grey Gardens (1975), a captivating story of two reclusive New York blue bloods, and Gimme Shelter, which included footage of the murder of a black teenager Meredith Hunter at a Rolling Stones concert (1970).
Those who fondly remember ‘choose your own adventure’ books will enjoy the ability to participate as more than passive audience, with the Choose Your Own Documentary event – where the audience will use a remote control to decide the protagonist’s fate from over 1,500 possible endings.
Rokach also has a unique event for filmmakers in store. In partnership with Tribeca Film Institute, Antenna is holding the first ever Documentary Hackathon in Australia. The Hackathon is two days of intensive workshops that bring together content creators and technology specialists to produce an interactive documentary, created for viewing online or on a mobile device.
Filmmakers, technologists and web designers will be placed into teams to work on an interactive documentary concept. The teams will be supported by expert mentors in digital storytelling and tech and also be exposed to funding opportunities and pitch training. At the end of the second day, participants will pitch their projects to a panel of experts and funders in the interactive field.
Director’s festival highlights
While it’s unfair to pick favourites from such a hearty program, Rokach does provide some festival highlights:
- The Australian premiere of Return to Homs, which won the best film at Sundance this year. Stripped of context and background, the film hurls the audience into Syria as the war unfolds, with a totally unique perspective.
- Mindblowing film Master of the Universe, which unveils the inner world of high-end investment banking during the hey-day of the 80s financial deregulation.
- The very beautiful Art & Craft, a film about an eccentric and talented art forger. It’s a smart yet humorous cat-and-mouse story about art, originality, obsession and truth.
- And finally, the closing night film The Special Need – a very human and heartfelt story of disability, love and sex.
Antenna Documentary Film Festival is on from 14–19 October at the Chauvel Cinema. Head to antennafestival.org for the program and to purchase tickets.
Antenna is a recipient of the City’s cultural grants and sponsorship program
If you’re looking around for funding, Rokach offers some advice,
Have a clear vision, passion and the ability to believe in what you are doing. The next step is to learn how to articulate your ideas. The most important thing is to meet the funders before applying. Always arrange a meeting to understand what the funders are looking for – and listen to advice.
Antenna has been funded under the City’s cultural grants and sponsorship program. If you are looking to apply, contact Jennifer Trinca on , who’d be happy to chat about your application.