Documentaries on Film/TV/Video


Albatross Dir. Chris Jordan

The Transitions Film Festival is touring to Dendy Newtown in Sydney this March with an enthralling selection of its most engrossing and inspiring documentaries about the existential challenges and creative visions that are redefining what it means to be human.



Madman Entertainment has today released the first trailer for the highly anticipated documentary GURRUMUL, a celebration of the iconic Australian artist Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu.Celebrated by audiences at home and abroad, Indigenous artist Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu was one of the most important and acclaimed voices to ever come out of Australia. Blind from birth, he found purpose and meaning through songs and music inspired by his community and country on Elcho Island in far North East Arnhem Land. Living a traditional Yolngu life, his breakthrough album Gurrumul brought him to a crossroads as audiences and artists around the world began to embrace his music.

Sting described his voice as a ‘voice of a higher being’ and the great Quincy Jones eloquently said that his voice ‘was one of the most unusual, emotional and musical voices I have ever heard.’ Continue reading GURRUMUL : A PORTRAIT OF ONE OF OUR GREATEST SINGERS


Oscar nominated for Best Feature Documentary, FACES PLACES is a road trip of two minds, Agnès Varda, whose unique cinematic vision since the 1950s has earned her a loyal following of enthusiastic cinephiles around the world, and the iconic photographer/muralist JR, boasting over a million followers on Instagram. These two artists have more in common than one might imagine. Continue reading FACES AND PLACES: ART AFFIRMING LIFE


This image: The Fight (supplied by United Notions Film)
Banner Image: Working Class Boy. Photo :Andrew-Farrell

Screen Australia has announced production funding for 12 documentary projects through the Documentary Producer and Commissioned programs.

The slate includes an adaptation of Jimmy Barnes’ memoir WORKING CLASS BOY ; a feature-length version of Violeta Ayala and Daniel Fallshaw’s award-winning Guardian short THE FIGHT; a second season of FILTHY RICH & HOMELESS, the most watched documentary series on SBS in 2017; and a three-part series delving into the life of cult leader Anne Hamilton-Byrne from the team behind feature documentary THE FAMILY. Continue reading DOCUMENTARY FUNDING ANNOUNCED BY SCREEN AUSTRALIA


Told entirely in the words of James Baldwin, through both personal appearances and the text of his final unfinished book project, I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO touches on the lives and assassinations of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Medgar Evers to bring powerful clarity to how the image and reality of Blacks in America today is fabricated and enforced.

Medgar Evers, died on June 12, 1963. Malcolm X, died on February 21, 1965. Martin Luther King Jr., died on April 4, 1968.
James Baldwin loved these men and was determined to expose the complex links and similarities among these three individuals. He was going to write about them. He was going to write his ultimate book! ‘Remember this House’ was the working title of that book.
But James Baldwin never wrote ‘Remember this House’ and film maker Raoul Peck has stepped in with this ambitious film to partly fill the void. Continue reading I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO – JAMES BALDWIN, IN HIS OWN WORDS


Featured photo- Lexi Laphor in ‘The Glass Bedroom’, an Arts Bite Project.

Ready for Mardi Gras 2018? It will be the 40th anniversary and the creative juices of Australian LGBTQI documentary filmmakers must be bubbling like champagne as Screen Australia and ABC TV Arts announce LOVE BITES.

In recognition of the milestone, Screen Australia and ABC TV Arts have teamed up to provide an national platform for Australian LGBTQI filmmakers … a curated series of 10 x 5 minute shorts to be premiered on the ABC Arts channel on iview during Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in March 2018. Under the banner LOVE BITES applications are now being received and will close Sunday August 6th.

The initiative is backed by funding and practical support. ABC TV and Screen Australia will commit a total of $100,000 to this initiative, offering 10 filmmakers $10,000 each to make the short film for delivery in January 2018. Each team will be supported by a Screen Australia Investment Manager and an ABC Digital Arts Commissioning Editor. Continue reading LOVE BITES : A DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKING LGBTQI INITIATIVE


Houston , we have a problem.

Nick Broomfield’s documentary about Whitney Houston, CAN I BE ME?, is such a slow burn affair that interest for the general view may well splutter before it ignites.

It begins with the 911 call triggered in response to her unresponsiveness, the emergency call that first alerted the world that Whitney Houston had exited this life at the age of 48.

Over the radio voices, another voice intones that Whitney Houston died of a broken heart. Continue reading CAN I BE ME? : WHITNEY’S REFRAIN THAT WE NEVER HEARD


Invariably, the great surprises and sincere sensations of the Sydney Film Festival come from documentary film makers shining cinematic spotlights on our past, present and futures, rectifying the forgotten by elevating remembrance, examining the individual and celebrating the universal.

Two such gems are part of this year’s Festival line up. For some it will be an education. For aficionados it will be an edification. Link Wray, Mildred Bailey, Charley Patton, Jimi Hendrix, and more make up this stomping tribute to Native American musicians who have heretofore gone unheralded in their cultural contribution to world music.

This Sundance winner kicks off with the thumping riffs of Shawnee guitarist Link Wray’s 1950s classic Rumble; the tune that gives the film it’s irrepressible name and sets its fascinating rhythm. Continue reading SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL DOCOS : TWO OF THE BEST


“ Here lies Raphael: when he was living, nature feared he would defeat her, now that he is dead, she fears her end is near.”

From the team that has produced “The Vatican Museums”, “Florence and the Uffizi Gallery” and “St. Peter’s and the Papal Basilicas of Rome”, we are privileged to see a stunning examination of the life and works of one of the greatest Renaissance artists.

Widely regarded and celebrated as an “enfant prodige” by both his peers and generations to follow, together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael completed the triad of Renaissance Masters.

Raphael’s life and works traced the development from the arts of the Renaissance to Mannerism bringing the figurative arts to unprecedented heights.
He died young, aged 37, on his birthday, and yet managed to leave an unforgettable mark on the artistic world. Continue reading RAPHAEL : LORD OF THE ARTS


A matriarch with a Messiah complex, Anne Hamilton-Byrne was a glamorous yoga teacher whose charismatic aura amassed a cult following and spawned a surrogate family of illegally sourced children, under the auspices of The Santiniketan Park Association.

Rosie Jones’ documentary, THE FAMILY, is an investigation into the cult and the dogged detective work of policeman, Lex De Man, longest serving member of Operation Forest, which sought to prosecute Hamilton-Byrne.

Altogether 28 children spent time under the strict regime of Anne, self proclaimed reincarnation of Jesus Christ, and The Aunties, Anne’s apostles, disciples in strict and restrictive discipline; a core group of 14 believed they were Anne and her husband Bill’s biological children and bore the Hamilton-Byrne name. Continue reading THE FAMILY : A NEW DOCUMENTARY BY ROSIE JONES


Knocking the Who Do You Think You Are? concept out of the ring, THE PANTHER WITHIN is a winning technical and emotional knock-out of a film.

In a tag team bout of several suspenseful rounds, film-maker Edoardo Crismani and his mother Barbara embark on a search to unravel the mystery surrounding Barbara’s father Joe Murray, an indigenous boxing champion who danced and sang vaudeville, and married a blue-eyed blond white woman in 1930s Australia. Astonishing!

On the ropes as far as reliable historical documentation regarding Joe Murray, mother and son journey across the land, from Adelaide to Mildura, Melbourne and Ballarat. They trawl through libraries, meet with researchers, historians and Aboriginal elders, delving into the hidden heritage of the man known as The Black Panther, trying to piece his story together. Continue reading THE PANTHER WITHIN : A STRIKING NEW AUSTRALIAN DOCUMENTARY


What a cast!

Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Sam Neil, Judy Davis, Jackie Weaver, Rachel Griffiths, Geoffrey Rush, Bryan Brown and Eric Bana. To name a few. That’s the incredible line-up amassed for DAVID STRATTON: A CINEMATIC LIFE.

A film critic can sometimes unearth an audience for a film that does not have the vast advertising techniques and budget that ensures a mass audience for a major movie, usually from a studio in Hollywood.

Such an excavator is David Stratton whose exuberance for the wide exhibition of quality films, especially those made in Australia, is extolled in this brilliant exultation of local films, DAVID STRATTON: A CINEMATIC LIFE. Continue reading DAVID STRATTON : A CINEMATIC LIFE


Featured image – Director Ralph Loop at an event for the film.

“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Dante

This is a  fascinating, intense examination of Sandro Botticelli’s (1445- 1510) famous work that jumps from the Vatican to Florence, Berlin, London and the Scottish lowlands.

The film is directed by Ralph Loop, who also has an expert, an Italian historian who knows the city of Florence in the Renaissance period to enthusiastically narrate part of the film. As well there are interviews with the Directors of the various galleries.

The film examines the history of one of Botticelli’s famous works : the illustrations he produced based on Dante’s Divine Comedy and particularly concentrates on The Inferno and his depiction of the nine levels of, and the map of the descent, into Hell, as described by Dante. In contrast, we also see his vision of Paradise. Continue reading BOTTICELLI INFERNO : BOTTICELLI’S PAINTING OF DANTE’S VISION OF HELL


As is the case every year the upcoming Jewish International Film Festival (JIFF) will again be strong in the documentary category with a number of outstanding documentaries.

South African director Saxon Logan’s film SYLVIA : TRACING BLOOD is bound to  attract a lot of interest. Logan’s film  looks at the life and times of the late Sylvia Raphael, whom the Jerusalem Post described as Mossad’s legendary femme fatale.

The film has a  gob-smacking –  one can’t quite get one’s head around it – quality to it. Here was the story of a a beautiful young woman, who came from a good home, born in Cape Town, South Africa to an Afrikaner mother and a Jewish father, who was recruited by Mossad, taking over from Israeli spy Eli Cohen, following his public hanging in Damascus in My 1965, and became one of the their best and most cold and calculating spies, infiltrating the highest ranks within the Palestinian Liberation Office( (PLO). She worked for Mossad under the alias of Patricia Roxborough and assumed the role of international press photographer so that she could get easy access across borders. Continue reading SYLVIA : TRACING BLOOD


Natasha Lawrence, Sascha Ettinger Epstein (director), Kylene Anderson, Jenny Neighbour (producer).
Natasha Lawrence, Sascha Ettinger Epstein (director), Kylene Anderson, Jenny Neighbour (producer).

Natasha Lawrence and Kylene Anderson are two indigenous women who have a dream to make it to the Arnolds – an amateur bodybuilding competition being held in Australia for the first time.

The determined women struggle with diets, exercises and inner demons in their roller coaster efforts to achieve their Arnie inspired goal.

Director Sascha Epstein is building quite a portfolio of work.. Her documentary Painting With Light In A Dark World screened at Sydney Film Festival 2003. Other films include Playing In The Shadows which screened at the SFF in 2008 and Change of Heart which screened in SFF in 2005.
Director Sascha Epstein is building quite a portfolio of work.. Her documentary Painting With Light In A Dark World screened at Sydney Film Festival (SFF) 2003. Other films include Playing In The Shadows which screened at the SFF in 2008 and Change of Heart which screened in SFF in 2005.

Filmmaker Sascha Ettinger Epstein filmed the Sydney duo over two years, making for a warm, affecting and entertaining documentary.


An Yvonne Rainer work simply called 'Butts'.
An Yvonne Rainer work simply called ‘Butts’.

Screening as part of the Mardi Gras Film Festival this is a fascinating and informative documentary  examining the life and complex works of Yvonne Rainer.

Dance fans and those interested in the history of film and performance art especially pertaining to New York artistic life from the 160’s to now will be enthralled. Feelings Are Facts is also the title of Rainer’s book published back in 2006.

Rainer- perhaps most famous for her “NO “ manifesto- is an American dancer, choreographer, writer and film maker- her work across these assorted fields is often defined as ‘Minimalist’ and regarded as challenging, experimental and confronting, and seen as pushing the boundaries of what can be defined as  Art.

Over the course of her career, Rainer has choreographed over forty works. She is perceived as having revolutionised modern dance, created what later became known as performance art, and changed the basic principles of experimental filmmaking- all during a time when women were largely ignored in the art world. Continue reading FEELINGS ARE FACTS: THE LIFE OF YVONNE RAINER



Rodney Ascher’s infamous Room 237 explored the possible hidden meanings within Stanley Kubrick’s treatment of The Shining. While each theory examined in the film became crazier and crazier, there was at least a commitment to analyse the ideas via extended footage from the film. Although never pushing back against the testimony, its documentation of its subjects was worthy of a documentary.

With THE NIGHTMARE, Rodney Ascher interviews eight sufferers of sleep paralysis. Without a formal source to reference (and without even attempting to bring one in), Ascher decides to recreate each sufferer’s account through poorly staged dramatisations. These dramatisations reveal Ascher’s severe short supply of cinematic vision and are unfortunately not the worst aspect of the film. Continue reading THE NIGHTMARE

Lynne’s Picks For 2014

Carlos Acosta and Natalia Osipova in the Royal Ballet's revival of GISELLE
Carlos Acosta and Natalia Osipova in the Royal Ballet’s revival of GISELLE

Dance: The Royal Ballet screening of Giselle with Natalia Osipova (she is amazing) and the Royal Ballet screening of A Winter’s Tale with Edward Watson  (he is incredible). Scattered Rhymes by Rafael Bonachela for Sydney Dance (part of their Louder Than Words double bill) and the Australian Ballet in Chroma and Manon. Also the Ballet Boyz .

Continue reading Lynne’s Picks For 2014

The Green Prince

Mosab Hassan Youssef and Gonan Ben Yitzhak in Nadav Schirman's documentary THE GREEN PRINCE
Mosab Hassan Youssef and Gonan Ben Yitzhak play themselves in Nadav Schirman’s documentary THE GREEN PRINCE based on Yousef’s stunning memoir SON OF HAMAS

THE GREEN PRINCE is Shakespearean in its gripping portrayal of humanity’s eternal themes – family, love, identity, trust, hope and betrayal – a staggering achievement for a documentary which is essentially a two-hander.

Directed by Nadav Schirman, THE GREEN PRINCE tells the tale of how Shin Bet operative Gonen Ben Yitzhak recruited the young son of a Hamas founder, Mosab Hassan Yousef, to spy on his own father.

Mosab on camera is so wide-eyed and sincere that he comes across as almost an innocent even after all that has happened, while the bull-necked Gonen comes across as entirely manipulative before becoming fatherly towards his charge. Continue reading The Green Prince