Attention movie buffs: this is one film festival you need to snag tickets to.
The Castlemaine Documentary Film Festival, which is a huge celebration of the most thought-provoking, passionate and eclectic documentaries, returns after its 2020 festival was transformed into an online event during Victoria’s lockdowns.
One of the best of its kind in regional Victoria, the annual festival builds upon the experimentation of last year, presenting a hybrid program of screenings in the intimate, real world at the iconic Theatre Royal in Castlemaine, as well as online, reaching film buffs across the country.
Showcasing eight carefully curated films, the program boasts an abundance of gripping, thought-provoking non-fiction movies, offering both cautionary and inspirational tales.
The key takeaways
- The Castlemaine Documentary Film Festival returns for 2021
- The festival will feature eight documentaries, director Q&A’s and opening and closing night parties
- Tickets are on sale now
If you’re looking for Australian excellence, a highlight of the entire festival is My Name Is Gulpilil, a documentary that sees David Gulpilil take centre stage to tell his incredible life story. The great Australian actor is a mesmerising, electrifying presence, and in leaping off the big screen he changed Australian screen representation forever. Integral to the telling of so many legendary screen stories, Gulpilil, now terminally ill, generously shares his own story, boldly taking viewers on the journey of his most extraordinary, culture-clashing life. An unforgettable film, David Gulpilil shows what a survivor he is, and how he came to be the living legend we know him to be. This is a must.
If being among the first to see worldly cinema is your guilty pleasure, the program also includes three brilliant Australian premieres designed to help satisfy the wanderlust of the past year, with a rich array or rollicking and relevant stories brilliantly told. Raise the Bar, Bitter Love, and Faith and Branko — stories that resonate with the wide-ranging concerns of our community and include memorable characters who speak from unique points of view.
If you’re after a music documentary, Faith and Branko provide a portrait of a personal and professional marriage between two wildly different musicians. It’s an intimate story, and one that follows a relationship tested by the realisation of their differences and that music may be all they have in common.
Providing a hopeful ode to the power of human contact, something which everyone can resonate with thanks to the past 18 months, Bitter Love by veteran Polish director Jerzy Sladkowski documents a varied cast of elderly passengers as they drift down the Volga River. Everyone on board is yearning for something in their lives: happiness, love, companionship – and the lucky ones find what they are looking for. It’s a fun, charming and insightful film, which is guaranteed to conquer a heart or two.
For a solid dose of female empowerment, Guðjón Ragnarsson’s Raise the Bar is all about an Icelandic all-girl basketball team and their uncompromising coach. Following the story of 8–13-year-old girls who wanted to change the paradigm in women’s basketball in Iceland and break down cultural barriers, the doco circles around Iceland’s readiness to embrace, or even acknowledge, the girls’ bid for emancipation, equality and agency.
There will also be the powerful and eye-opening film, Welcome to Chechnya, from Academy Award-nominated director David France (How to Survive a Plague, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson). Following a group of activists risking their lives to confront the ongoing anti-LGBTQ persecution in the repressive and closed Russian republic of Chechnya, this harrowing documentary exposes Chehnya’s underreported atrocities while highlighting a group of people who are confronting brutality head-on.
You’ll also see screenings of China’s 3 Dreams, an absorbing documentary about the changing face of China is both intriguing and confrontational; Laurel Canyon – A Place In Time, a film that examines the mythical musical world of Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles; and Maxima, which tells the incredible story of 2016 environmental Goldman Environmental Prize winner Máxima Acuña and her family, who own a small, remote plot in the Peruvian Highlands.
The entire program is rich and expansive in content – illuminating, surprising, fearless explorations of the human experience. They are films that put a human face on issues and experiences that might otherwise seem at a distance.
“This year’s program has been designed to help satisfy the wanderlust of the past year – with rollicking and relevant stories brilliantly told,” says Festival Director Claire Jager.
“Stories to transport audiences to exotic places on our planet, inhabited by strikingly different people living their diverse lives – some shocking, some heart-warming and funny, some courageous – all compassionate.”
Alongside the screening of these thought-provoking cinema, the festival will also feature provocative and stimulating panel discussions and Q&A’s after each film, as well as two Australian directors, Molly Reynolds (My Name is Gulpilil) and Nick Torrens (China’s 3 Dreams), as festival guests. This will give audiences the opportunity to hear directly from the filmmakers about how these films were made, the force of will and resolve it takes to complete one of these creative marathons – some of them years in the making, and why neither of their films would be possible to make now, albeit for different reasons.
In addition to the excitement on the big screen, festival-goers can celebrate the arrival of superior cinema with three huge parties across the weekend. Kicking off the festival, there’s a free opening night party on Friday night, July 23, with cocktails, DJs and exciting screen visuals.
Saturday night features an exciting ticketed event dubbed Theatre Daze – An Aquarian Exposition: Peace, Love & Music. Kicking off from 9:30pm at the Theatre Royal, this party will feature MAINfm DJs, projections, dancers and prizes.
Wrapping up the festivities, the closing night party will be a must. Also taking to the Theatre Royal, the free event will see a live Gyspy-Jazz band with The Django Fetts, providing the perfect soundtrack to a night on the dancefloor.
Whether you’re interested in being entertained, educated or inspired, the C-DOC crew has got you covered this year.
The Castlemaine Documentary Film Festival runs from Saturday, July 24 to Sunday, July 25. To view C-Doc’s program and to purchase tickets, head here.