AIDC pitching list points to new visions for 2021

The AIDC's main pitching competition showcases Asian and South American projects which shift the North-South dialogue in global documentary.

The Australian International Documentary Conference (AIDC) is a very useful tool to encourage the Australian sector to look globally. The international pitching competitions have been a key feature since the 1990s.

They have endured the slow erosion of the single documentary, supported the growth of the feature length film and countered the reflexive distaste of local broadcasters for foreign stories through Australian eyes. 

The AIDC has also struggled to work with partners in Asia, despite some valiant attempts. 

Over the last six years, the FACTORY, the most recent version of the international pitching showcase, has incrementally embraced these issues, and the 2020 list is really encouraging.

Here is just one example. ‘Gordon is a Scottish artist with a terminal brain tumour. He named his tumour Rick and creates comics to explore his own mortality.’ Scottish production company Melt The Fly is turning this story into a documentary which is currently in production. 

It is produced and directed by Austen McCowan who has made one documentary short according to IMDB and Will Hewitt, a video producer who set up the company with McCowan after three years as a video producer for other people. Not an enormous track record. 

But the executive producer is Amy Hardie, whose career as writer, director and producer started in 1992 and whose interests tend to the medical. She has a university degree in logic. 

Read: Most anticipated Australian TV drama

The project has been pitched at DocsBarcelona where it won the DAE Award focus on new talent, along with Sunny Side of the Doc and Edinburgh. Now it will be pitched again at the Australian International Documentary Conference in a living demonstration of an international business in action.  

The AIDC considers these projects have strong market potential. They are pitched to a variety of different financing trajectories, including funders, buyers, broadcasters, sales agents and distributors, to use the list in the release. There are three strands: the Central group are the most mainstream, while the New Talent showcase will tend to more challenging work. The Roughcut strand is an opportunity to pitch the most difficult work, using character, location and style to overcome risk aversion. 

There is one valuable prize – ‘four weeks of in-kind post production facilities and/or services by FINCH in Sydney – including grade, online and mastering to the value of $45,000 AUD. That is most tasty for a rough cut project. 

Full list

AIRBORNE
The story of Delhi’s apocalyptic air and escalating communal violence is woven together by an unlikely figure – the black kite, and its human entanglements.
Director: Shaunak Sen
Producer: Aman Mann
(India)

BREAKING THE NEWS
The Philippines’ biggest newsroom is killed by the government. As owners bargain to save it, a journalist fears what the price may be.
Director: Chiara Zambrano
Producers: Chuck Gutierrez and Baby Ruth Villarama
(Philippines)

CLEANING TRAUMA
Cleaning Trauma follows the journey of larger-than-life trauma cleaning business owner Sandra Pankhurst, as she begins a search for her birth mother and reinvents herself as an icon for resilience.
Director: Lachlan Mcleod
Producers: Charlotte Wheaton & David Elliot-Jones
(Australia)

GLORIAVALE
When widespread corruption, abuse and sexual assault is uncovered at the Gloriavale Christian Community, one man sets out to save his family and bring the powerful cult to their knees.
Director: Noel Smyth
Producer: Fergus Grady
(Australia, New Zealand)

HERE, THE SILENCE IS HEARD
After arriving in Chile and inhabiting the old house my grandparents abandoned in exile during the military dictatorship, the ghosts of an open family wound start appearing at night.
Director: Gabriela Pena
Producer: Picho García
(Chile)

LA LUCHA (THE FIGHT)
People with disabilities are among the most discriminated against in Bolivia. Fed up with being ignored, a group marches across the Andes to speak to the President.
Director: Violeta Ayala
Producer: Dan Fallshaw
(Australia, Bolivia, USA)

LONG LIVE MY HAPPY HEAD
A Scottish artist with a brain tumour creates a comic to prepare his loved ones for his death, whilst the pandemic forces him into isolation, trapping his partner in America.
Director: Will Hewitt
Director/Producer: Austen McCowan
Executive Producer: Amy Hardie
(United Kingdom, USA)

MAKE IT LOOK REAL
An intimacy coordinator – hired to choreograph Hollywood sex scenes and keep actors safe on set – aims to change her industry in the wake of the #MeToo movement but begins to question whether she really is able to protect the actors she works with.
Director: Kate Blackmore
Producers: Bethany Bruce and Daniel Joyce
(Australia, USA, United Kingdom)

MASTERS OF THE NIGHT SKY
An ecological love story that connects the dots between the symbiotic relationship of Australia’s fragile Alpine ecosystem and its iconic moth. Like a stack of cards, if this tiny insect at the bottom of the food chain fails to adapt to a warming planet, the entire biosphere could collapse.
Director: Grania Kelly
Producer: Veronica Fury
(Australia)

NORITA
In 1977 Nora Cortiñas’ son was kidnapped by Argentina’s dictatorship. During her forty-year search for him, Nora is transformed – from a conservative ‘housewife’ into a trailblazing activist and celebrated icon – inspiring a new generation to fight for their democracy.
Director: Jayson McNamara
Producers: Daniel Joyce & Rebecca Bennett
(Argentina, Australia)

PARADISE
Three environmental crusaders confront murder, betrayal and their own demons as they are tested like never before in their battle to save an island paradise in the Philippines.
Director: Karl Malakunas
Producers: Marty Syjuco & Michael Collins
(Australia, USA, Philippines)

SHH…DIAM
A Malaysian Muslim queer punk band, Shh…Diam! led by transman Faris Saad are fighting for a space to exist through their music, against conservative traditions and religious boundaries.
Director: Yihwen Chen
Producers: Catherine Chan, Alex Lee
(Malaysia)

SHIMSHON, HASIDIC IN ASIA
A divorced Hasidic rabbi, living alone in Hong Kong, attempts to find a Hasidic wife despite the odds while traveling the region practising the age-old custom of circumcising Jewish babies.
Director: Sadie Granberg
Producer: Shmuel Junger
(Israel, Hong Kong, Philippines, India)

STORIES IN STONE
For 75,000+ years, Aborigines encoded knowledge into mythological stories, ensuring the Elders’ wisdom transferred through generations. These crucial lessons are still taught today – now western science is learning too.
Director: Mark Jones
Producers: Naomi Cleaver & Mitch Torres
(Australia)

THE BLACK HAND
Anthony LaPaglia investigates his heritage and Queensland’s mafia Black Hand Gang: extortion, kidnap, murder in the era of Mussolini and Capone with global consequences that reverberate today.
Director: Kriv Stenders
Producers: Alan Erson & Adam Grossetti
(Australia, Italy, USA)

David Tiley was the Editor of Screenhub from 2005 until he became Content Lead for Film in 2021 with a special interest in policy. He is a writer in screen media with a long career in educational programs, documentary, and government funding, with a side order in script editing. He values curiosity, humour and objectivity in support of Australian visions and the art of storytelling.