We’re living in the golden age of documentaries and the world’s best are coming to Melbourne next month

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We’re living in the golden age of documentaries and the world’s best are coming to Melbourne next month

Words by Coco Veldkamp

Melbourne’s ACMI is set to host the highly anticipated Australian International Documentary Conference (AIDC) from March 3rd to 6th, 2024.

The event promises an exhilarating exploration of the documentary landscape, featuring a vibrant line-up of 70 stimulating speakers. Among them are luminaries such as the Oscar-nominated Mstyslav Chernov (UA), Kaouther Ben Hania (TNSA), and industry powerhouses Rachel Perkins (AU), R.J. Cutler, and Trevor Smith (USA), to name a few.

AIDC 2024: Frontlines

  • Conference 3-6 March, ACMI, Melbourne / Naarm
  • International Marketplace 7-8 March, Online
  • aidc.com.au

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Whether you are an industry insider or simply an enthusiast – this inspiring event is for you. Under this year’s thematic umbrella ‘Frontlines: Shaping the Future of Documentary & Factual’, AIDC 2024 will delve deep into the essence of non-fiction storytelling, exploring its pivotal role in informing, instigating, and catalysing change.

Natasha Gadd, the CEO and Creative Director of AIDC explains: “In a time of radical change – where the rise of each dawn poses new challenges and possibilities in the pursuit of truth and courageous and authentic representations of the world around us – documentary and factual storytelling has never been more vital.

“At AIDC 2024 we are framing the frontlines of our sector as both a site of progress and resistance where we shape what’s to come and defend what has come before”.

The Spotlight Speaker lineup

  • Mstyslav Chernov: Standing Ground
  • The Cutting Edge with This Machine’s R.J. Cutler and Trevor Smith
  • Rachel Perkins: Truth to Power
  • The Future of Factual with Shaminder Nahal
  • Reconstructing Memory with Kaouther Ben Hania
  • The Art of Composing for Documentary with Nainita Desai
  • Editing the Extraordinary with A Still Small Voice’s Luke Lorentzen and Ashleigh McArthur

The extensive, diverse, and considered line-up holds true to this theme. Notably, several extraordinary Spotlight Speakers will take the stage.

R.J. Cutler and Trevor Smith

Leading the Spotlight speaker line-up are long-time producing partners R.J. Cutler and Trevor Smith, the creative minds behind unforgettable documentaries like The September Issue, Big Vape: The Rise & Fall of Juul, Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry, Listen to Me Marlon, and The World According to Dick Cheney. The pair will provide invaluable insight into what makes a documentary captivating and why.

Rachel Perkins

Writer, director and producer, Rachel Perkins, one of Australia’s most significant storytellers and founder of Blackfella Films, is also running a Spotlight session. Perkins is responsible for the landmark documentary series First Australians and The Australian Wars.

Mstyslav Chernov

Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, filmmaker and war correspondent Mstyslav Chernov will take the stage to discuss her multi-award-winning and dual 2024 Oscar-nominated documentary 20 Days in Mariupol. The documentary features Chernov’s unnerving on-the-ground footage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Kaouther Ben Hania

Kaouther Ben Hania will offer an in-depth exploration of her approach while directing her new bold documentary, Four Daughters. Four Daughters explores the story of Tunisian woman Olfa Hamrouni, whose two eldest daughters were radicalised by Islamic extremists and left to fight alongside the Islamic State in Libya. The documentary has been nominated for Best Documentary Feature Film at the 2024 Academy Awards, making Ben Hania the first female Arabic filmmaker to earn two Oscar nominations.

Panels and screenings

Beyond the spotlight sessions, the conference will host a myriad of panels, initiatives, and screenings, each exploring critical sub-themes such as ‘Edge of Reality’, ‘Courage and Conviction’, and ‘Depth of Field’. These discussions promise to illuminate the evolving landscape of factual storytelling, from cutting-edge technologies to frontline narratives and inclusivity.

Public screenings under the Documented program will include 20 Days in Mariupol, and the Berlin Film Festival award-winner Marungka tjalatjunu (Dipped in Black), featuring an extended Q&A with creators Derik Lynch and Matthew Thorne.

Industry networking

For industry insiders and enthusiasts alike, AIDC 2024 also offers unparalleled networking opportunities. The conference promises participation from an array of decision makers including Amazon Prime Video, Stan, Hulu, ESPN, National Geographic, Channel 4, BBC Storyville, PBS, CBC, ABC, SBS and NITV. On top of that, there will be distributors and producer-distributors for some of the most captivating documentaries and releases, including Time Studios, Red Bull Studios, Sandbox Films, Abacus Media Rights, MetFilm Sales and many others.

Funding and financing

The conference also presents a gateway to funding and financing, with the attendance of a variety of leading documentary development funds and foundations, including the International Documentary Association (IDA), Impact Partners, Catapult Film Fund, and the International Emerging Film Talent Association (IEFTA).

And, thanks to a suite of incredible industry initiatives and partnerships, including pitch partners Screen Australia, Shark Island Foundation and The Post Lounge; Awards partners AFTRS; and Leading Lights industry donors, AIDC will unlock over $275,000 in project development, awards, prizes and development opportunities.

More AIDC program highlights

Brave New World: Documentary and Artificial Intelligence

With the rise of AI we are at an irrevocable turning point. Join a stellar panel of industry representatives – including Another Body co-director Sophie Compton – as they probe the power and perils of AI in the nonfiction sector.

Embodied Realities in VR

Immersive artist Ben Joseph Andrews delves into his innovative experiential practice, exploring the ways XR technologies act as a reflexive lens through which to understand and express his own experiences of disabled embodiment.

Dispatches from the Frontlines: Filmmaker Safety and Wellbeing

Documenting the complexities of real world experiences places an enormous toll on nonfiction creators. This session explores the associated risks and, importantly, the strategies and support structures for how to mitigate them.

Sonic Boom: Crafting an Audio Documentary with Marc Fennell

Marc Fennell leads a vibrant panel of podcasters who are innovating in the audio nonfiction space, and finding new ways to tell stories that captivate listeners.

All Aboard: Access and Inclusion with Bus Stop Films

An exploration of inclusive filmmaking in practice, helmed by Bus Stop Films CEO Tracey Corbin-Matchett OAM, and featuring the teams behind Rewards for the Tribe and This is Going to be Big.

Breaking Tropes: Trauma to Triumph in Non-Fiction

How can we work to tackle tropes in nonfiction – particularly around darker subject matter – to allow pride and defiance to shine? Pat Abboud leads this timely conversation with fellow genre bending storytellers.

Turn up the Volume: The Rise of the Music Biography

In this electric session, creators of music documentaries making noise on the global stage share insights into crafting the biggest hits of the last year, including EGO, Finding the Voice and OneFour.

You Can(’t) Clear That! A Deep Dive into Archive Clearances

A panel of leading archive experts answer all your burning questions about clearances, copyright and fair use for your documentary and factual projects.

Pathways to Audience: The Current Landscape of Documentary Distribution

Experts from Film Art Media, Madman Entertainment, Sundance Film Festival and Autlook Film Sales provide insights into pathways to audience for the ever-evolving landscape of documentary distribution.

The French Connection: Australia x France

A panel of esteemed French buyers representing Sunnyside of the Doc, ARTE G.E.I.E and Mediwan provide a platform for Australian producers to learn how to collaborate with the French market.

Global Connect: Meet the Internationals

Hear from some of AIDC’s international guest decision-makers, as they reveal what they are looking for from Australian projects and how to cut through a crowded landscape to reach global audiences.

The Collaborative Dynamics of International Co-Production

As part of AIDC’s French Focus, this session delves into the collaborative dynamics of co-productions with leading production companies SAM Content and ZED.

State of Play: Policy and Advocacy

The Australian documentary sector is at a crossroads, with new streaming platform regulation coming into play in 2024. With increasing challenges to financing documentaries and securing commissions, AIDC look at the current policy and advocacy work being done to ensure the sustainability of documentary production.

First Nations Co-Creation, Collaboration and Truth-telling

A stellar panel representing diverse First Nations perspectives – including GARUWA co-founders and collaborators – explore the ways in which the wider documentary sector can learn from First Nations knowledges.

“We are thrilled to announce such a world-class program of speakers, sessions and screenings for the 2024 program, all of which are guaranteed to challenge, celebrate and inspire,” Gadd continued.

“Joined by an incredible line-up of local and international decision makers as part of the industry program, AIDC 2024 is set to drive new creative and business outcomes, and pave the way for the sustainability, recovery and growth of our industry.”

ACMI Director & CEO Seb Chan added: “We can’t wait to welcome AIDC delegates back to Australia’s museum of screen culture! As a hub for connecting people, communities, technology and ideas, ACMI is proud to be the continuing home for non-fiction storytellers to come together to discuss the future of documentary and factual. Our state-of-the-art facilities and technical expertise will be showcased across four days of the conference, backed by a film program of extraordinary non-fiction stories at ACMI cinemas.”

Don’t miss out on this extraordinary event. Explore the range of passes available on the AIDC website here.