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AIDC’s Top 10 Documentaries to Watch at MIFF 2018

11 July 2018

The MIFF 2018 program features another excellent selection of local and international feature documentaries, doc shorts and factual VR works. And as always, the AIDC team is here to share our top picks to watch at this year’s festival. This time it's AIDC Director Alice Burgin who takes a look at this year's highlights and shares her list of MIFF docs not to be missed!

Island of the Hungry Ghosts

Winner of the Best Documentary Award at Tribeca Film Festival, Gabrielle Brady’s debut film is a poetic reflection on the physical and mental toll Australia’s offshore detention policies are taking on refugees and those determined to help them. A meditation on empathy, as well as an investigation into the Kafkaesque trappings of a bureaucracy shrouded in secrecy, this is an artistic essay nearing documentary perfection.

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Lots of Kids, a Monkey and a Castle

Sometimes documentaries can be funny. And when they are, you should go see them. Spanish actor-turned-director Gustavo Salmerón’s eccentric family portrait has all the ingredients for a good time: a crazy matriarch’s dream of a brood of children housed in a rustic castle with a wild monkey… In a brilliant balancing act, Salmerón creates (over a decade and a half of filming) a personal documentary comedy that is also a poignant reflection on Spain’s most challenging times.

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The Raft

The Raft - a playful investigation into a 1973 scientific experiment that puts contemporary reality television to shame. A sociologist puts eleven strangers on a raft for three months, just to, you know, see what will happen. Forty-five years later, the survivors reunite to tell their stories. Winner of the best international documentary film at CPH:DOX, if you attended AIDC 2018’s session Behind the BBC, you have definitely been waiting for this gem.

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Ex Libris: The New York Public Library

Perhaps you might have thought that octogenarian Frederick Wiseman, with so many accolades and an impressive body of work behind him, would consider slowing down. But his latest film would prove you mistaken. One of the true masters of the documentary form, the man who gave us Titicut Follies now turns the lens to the New York public library in an epic three-hour homage that no bibliophile should miss.

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No Greater Law

What happens when two filmmakers on two different continents find out through their subject they are making the same film? They collaborate of course! And the result is the powerful No Greater Law, an investigation into the complex debate around faith healing, religious freedoms and child mortality in the USA. An A&E Indie Film, this is a delicate doc that asks serious questions about whether or not religion, politics and science can ever truly find common ground.

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The Eulogy

Politics meets art in director Janine Hosking’s world premiere of The Eulogy, and we at AIDC cannot wait to see the results. The documentary focuses on the life of Australian pianist Geoffrey Tozer, an unsung child prodigy, who despite his talent, was continually shunned by the classical arts community. The film explores the way policy was developed to support artists in Australia, as well as what friend, Paul Keating publicly described as “the bitchiness and preference within the arts”. Ouch.

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Paris is Burning 

As part of its Fashion X Film program, MIFF is providing Melburnians a very special opportunity to catch Paris Is Burning in 35mm on the big screen. The much loved, yet controversial capsule of 1980s ball culture is credited as influencing influencers from Madonna to RuPaul. From throwing shade to vogueing, this documentary’s legacy propelled what was once a New York subculture into a globalised mainstream.

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Fatma 75

The opportunity to see work out of the African continent is rare. The opportunity to see a documentary made by an African woman rarer still. As part of the African Film Rediscovered program, Salma Baccar’s Fatma 75 is a feminist gem not to be missed. The 75 in the title refers to the year the film was shot, 1975, the UN’s Year of the Woman, with the state of women’s rights in Tunisia becoming the central focus of Baccar’s hybrid documentary. The first feature film made by a woman in Tunisia, the film was banned until 2003.

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Carriberrie (VR)

Sceptical about VR? Well, we highly suggest you head to Melbourne’s Planetarium and check out director Dominic Allen’s virtual reality experience Carriberrie. In collaboration with David Gulpilil, Jack Charles, Bangarra Dance Company and other Indigenous artists from across the country, this forty-five minute VR showcase is a celebration of song and dance, blending the traditional and the contemporary into one sumptuous visual experience.

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The Coming Back Out Ball Movie

MIFF’s closing night film is as glamorous as can be, featuring red carpets, sequined dresses and the most colourful characters in town. But The Coming Back Out Ball Movie, while a celebration of LGBTQI seniors, is about more than just a dance. Director Sue Thompson’s moving documentary explores the long-lasting effects of homophobia on her subjects, as well as the courageous steps they made to transcend oppression. After the bitter dispute of the gay marriage plebiscite, the film is a reminder not only of the distances we’ve come as a society, but also the fragility of the gains we have made.

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Don’t forget to check out other unmissable docs that are a part of the MIFF program which we featured in AIDC’s SFF top picks including: I Used to Be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story, Bisbee ‘17, Three Identical Strangers, Yellow is Forbidden, Finke: There and Back and Matangi / Maya / M.I.A.

The Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF)  runs 2 – 19 August 2018. Tickets on sale now.