Doco Viewing at the 2010 SFF

SFF 2010The 41 feature-length documentaries screening at this year’s Sydney Film Festival demonstrate the range and diversity of the form, from rockumentaries to war stories, from Australia to Zimbabwe. The line-up includes world premiere screenings of Australian productions as well as award winners from festivals around the world.

Here’s a quick guide to what’s on offer:

Award Winners

Audience Award winner Berlinale 2010, Budrus, also selected for Tribeca and Hot Docs; winner First Appearance Award at IDFA, Colony; César winner for Best Documentary Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno; winner Best Feature-length Documentary at IDFA, Last Train Home; Academy Award nominated The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, directed by festival guest Judith Ehrlich; Grand Jury Prize winner at Sundance, Restrepo; Special Mention Berlinale 2010 for New Zealand doco, This Way of Life screening with Sundance winner Quadrangle; Waste Land – winner Amnesty Int. Prize, Panorama Award award at Berlin and Audience Award at Sundance.

Leading Documentarians

Frederick Wiseman (now in his 80th year) continues his focus on cultural institutions in La Danse – The Paris Opera Ballet; Nicolas Philibert’s Nenette, a fascinating spin on the notion of watching and being watched; Julien Temple’s blistering doco on cult R&B band, Dr Feelgood, Oil City Confidential; Christian (War Photographer) Frei’s Sundance winner (Best Director, Documentary) Space Tourists.

Kids Docs

The festival’s first babes in arms screening and the opening film of the recent Hot Docs festival, Babies; for ages five and over, the beautifully shot story of a tiny loggerhead’s voyage across the oceans, Turtle: The Incredible Journey.


Banksy makes his documentary debut with Exit Through the Gift Shop (selling fast); standup comedian and festival guest, Ahmed Ahmed, takes a group of US comedians to the Middle East in Just Like Us; actor (Entourage) Adrian Grenier’s documentary debut Teenage Paparazzo follows a 13 year-old photographer.


Beautiful Darling, focussing on 60s NY celeb Candy Darling, packed with clips and interviews (screens with Ira Sach’s short doc Last Address); octagenarian photojournalist Bill Cunningham still peddling the streets of the Big Apple in Bill Cunningham New York; from the director of festival hit Screaming Men (Mika Ronkainen), comes Freetime Machos; Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould directed by Peter Raymont and Michelle Hozer, features never-before-seen archive footage; Jean-Michael Basquiat: The Radiant Child directed by his close friend Tamra Davis; Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work directed by Ricky Stern and Anne Sundberg (The Devil Came on Horseback); Lemmy, a funny and revealing portrait of the legendary frontman of Motorhead; also, screening at the Playhouse, Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae; Truffaut and Godard’s relationship and its impact on French cinema in Two in the Wave.

FOXTEL Australian Documentary Prize

Nine films compete for the $10,000 prize: Cane Toads: The Conquest directed by Mark Lewis; Drive, directed by Bronwyn Purvis and Telen Rodwell for Big hART; two from producers Polly Staniford, Tony Ayres and Michael McMahon at Big and Little Films, Eye (directed by Andy Conny and Donna McCrum) and Mind (directed by Emma Crimmings); John Hughes’ Indonesia Calling: Joris Ivens in Australia; New Beijing: Reinventing a City directed by Georgia Wallace-Crabbe and produced by Gregory Miller; Juliet Lamont’s The Snowman, produced by Rachel Landers and Dylan Blowen; Strange Birds in Paradise directed by Charlie Hill-Smith and produced by Jamie Nicolai and John Cherry; director-producer Michael Cordell’s Three Boys Dreaming.


Christophe Nick’s documentary which stirred up the French press, The Game of Life; GasLand, winner of Special Jury Prize at Sundance, screens with IDFA competitor The Shutdown ; Mugabe and the White African, winner of the British Independent Film Award for Best Documentary; The Oath, cinematography award winners at Sundance, directed by Laura Poitras (My Country My Country) – screens with Hot Docs short doco winner Tussilago; Hot Docs and IDFA selection, The RainbowWarriors of Waiheke Island – 25 years after the sinking of the Greenpeace vessel ­ – screens with Plastic Bag, narrated by Werner Herzog.

Daily Doc Pick

Wed 2 June: Beautiful Darling 6pm Event Cinemas George St

Thu 3 June: Gasland 6.30pm Event Cinemas George St

Fri 4 June: The Rainbow Warriors of Waiheke Island 2.30pm State Theatre

Sat 5 June: La Danse 1.35pm State Theatre

Sun 6 June: The Oath 2.15pm Dendy OQ followed by 4.30pm Last Train Home

Mon 7 June: Space Tourists 4.45pm Dendy OQ

Tue 8 June: Colony 5.00pm State Theatre

Wed 9 June: This Way of Life 12pm State Theatre

Thu 10 June: The Most Dangerous Man in America 2.05pm State Theatre

Fri 11 June: Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould 2.30pm Dendy OQ

Sat 12 June: Bill Cunningham New York 12pm Event Cinemas George St

Sun 13 June: The Game of Death 5pm Event Cinemas George St

Sun 14 June: Mugabe and the White African 12pm Dendy OQ

Tickets are now on sale for all sessions at this year’s festival. Tickets can be purchased online at, via the SFF2010 iPhone App or by phone on (02) 9690 5390. To keep up-to-date with all the latest news from the festival sign up to our eNews (via the website) or visit our blog at