Melbourne Documentary Film Festival 2024: top picks

From In the Shadow of Beirut to Diving Into the Darkness, your guide to our top picks at this month's Melbourne Documentary Film Festival.
In the Shadow of Beirut. Image supplied.

The Melbourne Documentary Film Festival 2024 has already kicked off online, and will be in-cinema (at Cinema Nova in Melbourne) from 17 to 31 July 2024. Visit the festival website for the full range of international and Australian documentaries – but in the meantime, here are five top picks from ScreenHub staff.

All Static and Noise

USA (2023). Survivors and their families risk everything to expose the truth of China’s Uyghur detention and ‘re-education’ camps. The filmmakers collaborated with the Uyghur diaspora in seven countries to create a film that exposes the enormity of state-sponsored oppression and individual struggles under horrific conditions. Weaves photography, animation, dance, poetry, an original music score and personal testimony that reminds us that in the darkest of times, we are strongest together. Director David Novack, collaborator Abduweli Ayup, and members of the Uyghur community will be in attendance. In-cinema screening.

In the Shadow of Beirut

Ireland (2023). A portrait of modern-day Lebanon as seen through the eyes of families living in the Sabra and Shatila areas of Beirut – neighbourhoods in which sectarianism and violence is a permanent way of life. In the Shadow of Beirut weaves four compelling storylines together in a searing portrait of a people and a city struggling to survive amidst some of the most difficult living conditions imaginable. Directors: Garry Keane and Stephen Gerard Kelly. In-cinema screening.

Diving Into the Darkness

Australia (2024). An awe-inspiring odyssey about cave diving icon Jill Heinerth, and her journey of exploration, resilience and self-discovery into the planet’s deepest depths. Starring Jill Heinerth, Bill Stone and Robert McClellan. Director: Nays Baghai. In-cinema screening.

Waŋgany Mala

Australia (2024). This film follows the journey of Nirmala in South Sulawesi as she works on the construction of a traditional pinisi sailboat and discovers her region’s ongoing connections to Marege’ – the Makassan name for Arnhem Land. Filmed over five years in collaboration with Anindilyakwa and Yolŋgu communities, this documentary is set to a soundtrack by experimental Melbourne composer Fia Fiell, and features rarely seen footage, photographs and artwork. Director: Will McCallum. In-cinema screening.

Reading Landscape with David Holmgren

Australia (2023). Walk with David Holmgren (co-originator of the permaculture movement) across Djaara Country, as he shares his insights and discusses his unique approach to reading landscape, a wealth of knowledge and wisdom developed over 40 years. Director: Dave Meagher. In-cinema screening.

The Melbourne Documentary Film Festival runs online from 1 to 31 July 2024 and in-cinema from 17 to 31 July 2024. More information.

Paul Dalgarno is author of the novels A Country of Eternal Light (2023) and Poly (2020); the memoir And You May Find Yourself (2015); and the creative non-fiction book Prudish Nation (2023). He was formerly Deputy Editor of The Conversation and joined ScreenHub as Managing Editor in 2022. X: @pauldalgarno. Insta: @dalgarnowrites