The Melbourne Documentary Film Festival is back for its eighth year for both films in the cinema and streaming at home. 

The online aspect of the festival is streaming now, while the films showing in Melbourne at Cinema Nova will begin on July 21st.

I’ve checked out a few films so far, some available to stream now and a few available to watch at Cinema Nova later this month. Here are five picks I’ve watched and five movies from the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival 2023 that I want to watch.

Top 5 Films I’ve Watched So Far

Cover Your Ears

From Ice-T and Public Enemy to Twisted Sister and AC/DC and all the likes in between, right through to the ongoing court case between Young Thug and other members of YSL Records, this new documentary focuses on how to censor music and art itself has and always continues to be a relevant part of our society. 

I really enjoyed the interviews in this doco, even if a lot of the subject matter I’d seen covered in other films before. However, it’s framed here as something we could repeat if not careful, and not as a crazy time in music history.

Energy: A Documentary about Damo Suzuki

I’d never heard of either Damo Suzuki, his Network, or the band Can, for which he was most known. However, this was a deeply moving documentary about a man who has been facing cancer for most of his life and doesn’t let it stop him from doing what he loves. 

Suzuki’s music isn’t mainstream, he’s never tried to be, but you get the sense that he has always touched people with his music throughout his life, and until he can no longer get up and sing, he won’t stop standing up to reach for the mic.

Musk Vs Bezos: The New Star Wars

This documentary focuses on the rivalry between Elon Musk with SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin as they kick off a new-age space race. As someone with a normal amount of interest in what’s beyond the stars, it’s interesting to see and hear what people think is driving this rivalry and how it may all come down to childhood dreams. At the end of the film, there’s a subtle question about whom this space race will end up helping, other than each of the billionaires’ egos, but hopefully, we’ll learn some things along the way.  

Surviving Sunset An Actor’s Hollywood Journey

Shaun Anthony Robinson takes a journey to Hollywood to discover what it takes to become a big-time Hollywood actor. And how different that can be for someone travelling from outside the country. What’s a green card?! 

Although very amateurish, there’s an overall sense of goodwill with Surviving Sunset, and getting to hear from so many working actors, rather than mega-stars, is a nice change of pace for actor-documentaries. 

The Girl in the Picture

Everyone has seen the famous picture that Nick Ut took of a young naked girl running away from a napalm bomb strike. It’s a striking image of horror, with the other children in the picture looking around for help, and the girl, the clothes burned from her body, screaming for help. 

The Girl in the Picture features interviews with the photographer, the girl and other journalists there who were there on that day, delving into the war, what it felt like on the day, and what’s happened to the girl since. 

Top 5 Films I Want To Check Out

At 23000 Feet

“What does it take to reach the top of the world? A question everyone once in their life always thinks. After creating the first world record of fastest climb on Black Peak Mountain which is at an altitude of 6387 meters in 6 days, Kovid Mittal is all set to climb 23000 feet mountain, his last chapter before he climbs Mount Everest, but will he be able to climb this 23000 feet monster despite his little to no experience?

A Journey of young boy battling his own emotions & demons in hope that one day he shall climb Mount Everest.”

Eat Bitter

“Against the backdrop of civil war in the poverty-stricken Central African Republic, a Chinese construction manager and a local African laborer work on opposite ends of the sand supply chain to build a bank. Attempted suicide, failed coup, shutdown of sand market… as deadlines loom, unexpected twists threaten their jobs, relationships, and plans for a better life.”

My Friend Freddie

“Jonathan (age 25) embarks on the adventure of a lifetime where a game of dice controls his life choices. When chance decides that during a charter week he will share a room with “Freddie” (65 years old), an unlikely friendship begins between two completely different men.

A shared dream emerges, but due to vastly different expectations of what the dream should lead to, the friendship is put to test and challenge both men’s ways of living and thinking.

My Friend Freddie is a naked, punk and heartbreaking road movie in true Jack Kerouac spirit. About the innermost longing in man’s search for meaning and love.”

Rainbow Video

“Inspired by Tom Roston’s oral history I LOST IT AT THE VIDEO STORE, this playful feature length documentary uses a deep local focus to show how VHS changed art forever. As the video shop era fades to black, RAINBOW VIDEO delves into the eclectic personal collections and practices of some of Melbourne’s most renowned contemporary media artists. Through lively interviews and site studies of many legendary, now defunct video shops, RAINBOW VIDEO uncovers a secret history of a brief but impactful era.

For those of us who grew up in the 80s-we were the video generation. Born into the video shop era, our youths passed along with it. And although it was a mass pop-cultural phenomenon, artists, filmmakers and weirdos of all stripes also flocked to these places on a Friday night, and worked in them (or wished they did).

Artists and programmers such as Philip Brophy, Ian Haig, Cassandra Tytler, Xanthe Dobbie, Jean Lizza, Diego Ramirez and Spiro Economopoulos delve into their own libraries, and back catalogues, to talk about how they used video shops: as a direct source of material, as an informal, accessible art school, and as a social space to trade in cultural capital. Against a backdrop of 30 years of constantly shifting technology, RAINBOW VIDEO explores a twin history of indie video shops and libraries in Melbourne, and the underground artists that used them, proving video shops weren’t just a plot point on the historical chart of film distribution, but a crucial period of transition, whose impacts live on”


“There are 3.1 million public school teachers in the US Education system. Most are under paid, under appreciated, and misunderstood. As a result there has been a mass exodus from the profession, creating a shortage that that has dire consequences. In this raw and emotional documentary, we follow Nkanga Nsa on her inspiring journey to become a teacher in the nation’s 3rd largest public school system, Chicago Public Schools.

It begins with resident teaching at The Curtis School of Excellence. Located on the south side of Chicago, Curtis is a beacon of hope to a community that faces persistent violence and crippling poverty every day.

Nkanga will join the ranks of a cohort of teachers that are changing the narrative about what it means to be a teacher in an underserved community. She’ll spend a full school year training under the guidance of her mentor teacher, Chelsea Bennett, while pursuing a Master’s Degree and balancing the responsibilities of being a mother.”

Check out the entire catalogue of films streaming online here and the films you can book to watch at Cinema Nova here. In the comment section below, let me know what you plan to check out at Melbourne Documentary Film Festival 2023.