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Antenna Documentary Festival 2013, comprising over 30 unique documentaries, will screen next month in Sydney and for the first time in Melbourne, will open with The Network – the hopes and perils of launching a TV station in Afghanistan. The program also includes The House I Live in, Eugene Jarecki’s powerful film about the terrible damage caused by the 40 year war on drugs, as well as a tribute to the late Australian documentarian, Dennis O’Rourke.

In the Opening film, The Network, Eva Orner artfully observes the hope and excitement as a television station is built from scratch as Afghan migrants return to participate in what they hope will be the country’s rebirth. But an underlying fear is never far away. Will the changes, such as the emergence of a feminist movement, last once the foreigners depart Afghanistan? The constant dangers the TV station covers, such as urban warfare and suicide bombings, suggest that this is very far from certain.

The House I Live In* (USA, 2012) is a dense, multi-layered exploration of the tragically ineffectual 'war on drugs' policy. In a confronting portrait of the American justice system, Director Eugene Jarecki begins with the personal and quickly expands to the political, interweaving stories of the raw frontline experiences of law enforcement, drug dealers in crack neighbourhoods, activists whose families have been devastated and inmates serving life sentences. It unwraps a massive and complex socio-economic problem (through the specifics of the US to the universal) that is beyond the dumb simplicities of the ‘drugs are bad’ minset. The ‘war on drugs’ has neither reduced drug trafficking nor usage but has led to a swollen jail population at enormous financial and social costs. This important film has the potential to change the way people think about this issue, with its rational and powerful investigation. Will anyone have the courage to make that change?

"tragicomic family portrait chronicles the eccentric lives of his relatives"

With aspirations to be a filmmaker, Shawney, the neurotic adult son of a strip club owner, turns the camera on his sleazy family business in The Manor (Canada 2013). This fascinating tragicomic family portrait chronicles the eccentric lives of his relatives - obese dad, anorectic mum, gigolo brother - as well as the catty everyday dramas of the insalubrious working girls. The unique access Shawney's intimate perspective affords leaves little to the imagination and his colourful cast of characters is a true reminder that truth is far stranger than fiction.

A highlight of the International Screening is the Australian Premiere of Fire in the Blood (India, 2012), a sobering film about profit and compassion, and administers large doses of hope and despair. Director Dylan Mohan Gray explores the work behind bringing affordable treatments for HIV/AIDS to the world's developing countries. The primary focus on the brave few who fought for justice and fairness shapes the film into a story not about business and law, but humans and humanity.

Another highlight is Maidentrip* (USA, 2013) which profiles an individual's raw determination in striving for one of the greatest goals imaginable. Filmmaker Jillian Schlesinger follows 14 year old Laura Dekker on a two-year voyage aiming to become the youngest teenager to sail around the world solo. At sea, Laura turns to the camera for company, laying her experience bare with frank video diary entries. The film is a fresh and inspiring coming-of-age story.

Also exploring life at sea, Leviathan* (USA, 2012) follows a fishing trawler in the North Atlantic and strays far from the norms of documentary. With sparse dialogue, endlessly unexpected camera angles, and not a trace of narrative, it's highly challenging, highly rewarding and totally immersive. The brutality of the trawler's mission is enforced as great quantities of marine life are chopped and hacked, and the unwanted by-products get flushed back to sea. The Film provides an unblinking examination of life and death in the ocean.

Completing a trio of seafaring docos, Daniel Dencik’s Expedition to the End of the World (Denmark, 2013) takes us to the fjords of Northeast Greenland – joining a zoologist, a geographer, a geochemist, a marine biologist, an artist and a photographer – in an ever surprising voyage. Not least surprising is the soundtrack, which goes from orchestral to heavy metal…The rocks here are the oldest in the world. The lady marine biologist’s T shirt is another surprise; it says ‘F*** everything and become a pirate’, which fits the film’s often humorous tone. It also boasts some fabulous images – and naked swimming. Thought provoking, too, as when the photographer decalres that to him, “the whole world is a crime scene”.

"celebrate music and culture from around the world"

For music lovers, Antenna presents for the first time the International Music Docs strand, a selection of films that celebrate music and culture from around the world. 

Brothers Hypnotic *(USA/ Netherlands, 2013) charts the story of eight brothers (sons of anti-establishment jazz legend, Phil Cohran) who form the inspiring band, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. The film follows the brothers trying to make their own way in the music world. While playing in the streets of New York City, collaborating with Mos Def, or wowing a jazz festival-they find the values their father bred into them constantly tested. They must decide whether his principles are really their own.

In The Punk Singer* (USA, 2013) filmmaker Sini Anderson illuminates an intimate and fascinating picture of Kathleen Hanna, lead singer of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, who became synonymous with the female activist movement and one of her generation's most outspoken feminist icons.

The Network (2013)

Viramundo (Switzerland/France, 2013) invites the audience to join Brazilian music legend Gilberto Gil on a musical journey across the globe. Gil visits indigenous communities in Australia, South Africa and the Amazon, talks with them, plays music with them, and discusses the experience of being colonised.

As part of the Australian Competition, Dark Matter of Love *(Australia/UK, 2013) follows Masha, an 11-year-old from a bleak orphanage in Russia, as she prepares for a new life, having been adopted by the Diaz family from America. Director Sarah McCarthy examines the importance of the love of a family, guiding us through an emotional rollercoaster. A Q&A with Director Sarah MacCarthy will follow the screening. 

Also featured in the Australian competition is Fallout (Australia, 2013) which tells the story of Nevil Shute, an acclaimed Australian writer. His book On The Beach is considered one of the most significant anti-war novels of the 20th century. It was written after the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and anticipates the impact of global nuclear proliferation. The film also follows the process of turning the book into a post-apocalyptic Hollywood drama directed by Stanley Kramer and starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire and Anthony Perkins. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Director Lawrence Johnston. 

*Only screening in Sydney

Published September 19, 2013

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The House I Live In


Wednesday 2nd to Monday 7th October, 2013 
Chauvel Cinema, Corner of Oatley and Oxford St Paddington
Art Gallery of NSW, Art Gallery Rd, The Domain, Sydney

Thursday 17th to 20th October, 2013 
ACMI, Federation Square/Flinders St, Melbourne

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