Castlemaine Documentary Film Festival returns for 2021, going down at the iconic Theatre Royal

Castlemaine Documentary Film Festival returns for 2021, going down at the iconic Theatre Royal

'Bitter Love'
Words by Talia Rinaldo

Coming to the regional Victorian town from Saturday July 24 to Sunday July 25.

The Castlemaine Documentary Film Festival (C-Doc), a huge celebration of the most thought-provoking, passionate and eclectic documentaries, returns after its 2020 festival took place as an online event.

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 at the iconic Theatre Royal in Castlemaine, as well as online, reaching film buffs across the country.

Showcasing eight films, the program boasts an abundance of gripping, thought-provoking non-fiction movies, offering both cautionary and inspirational tales.

What you need to know

  • The Castlemaine Documentary Film Festival returns for 2021
  • The festival will feature eight documentaries, director Q&As and opening and closing night parties
  • Tickets are on sale now

Keep up with the latest film and TV news here.

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 of rollicking and relevant stories brilliantly told. Raise the BarBitter Love, and Faith and Branko are 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 provides 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 is centred 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-LGBTQIA+ persecution in the repressive and closed Russian republic of Chechnya, this harrowing documentary exposes Chechnya’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 that’s both intriguing and confrontational; Laurel Canyon – A Place In Time, a film examining 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 C-Doc program is rich and expansive in content, offering films that put a human face on issues and experiences that might otherwise seem at a distance.

Alongside the screening of these thought-provoking cinema, the festival will also feature provocative and stimulating panel discussions and Q&As 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.

In addition to the excitement on the big screen, there will also be three parties happening across the weekend. Kicking off C-Doc, there’s a free opening night party on Friday July 23, with cocktails, DJs and exciting screen visuals.

Saturday July 24 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 gypsy-jazz band The Django Fretts perform, providing the perfect soundtrack to a night on the dancefloor.

The Castlemaine Documentary Film Festival runs from Saturday July 24 to Sunday July 25. Check out the C-Doc program and grab tickets here.