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Five Must-See Films at the Antenna Documentary Film Festival 2017

Head to the annual festival for big-screen fireworks, giant faces plastered across French places and an experimental documentary about life.
By Sarah Ward
October 12, 2017

Five Must-See Films at the Antenna Documentary Film Festival 2017

Head to the annual festival for big-screen fireworks, giant faces plastered across French places and an experimental documentary about life.
By Sarah Ward
October 12, 2017

If a Hollywood screenwriter devised a story about an elderly French filmmaker, a younger street artist and their rural travels to plaster eye-catching, over-sized portraits on crumbling buildings, it probably wouldn't get very far. Even for a buddy comedy, the concept seems a little too unlikely, doesn't it? That's the beauty of real life, and of the movies that depict it. The above situation did occur, it has been captured on film, and it drives one of the best documentaries of the year.

From the gorgeous, heartwarming effort that is Face Places, to an exploration of the treatment of rats, to an astonishingly intimate dance documentary, that's what the Antenna Documentary Film Festival is all about: telling truthful tales, including those that seem stranger than fiction. The 2017 program features more than 50 shorts and features, giving Sydney cinephiles plenty to watch between October 10 and 15 — including these five must-sees.


If everyone in the world looked at strangers in the same manner as Belgian-born filmmaker and French New Wave icon Agnes Varda, we'd be living in a much, much happier and kinder society. The almost 90-year-old's empathy, enthusiasm and understanding drives Faces Places in two ways: in the photographs that she takes with street artist JR, and in the film that chronicles their snapping — which is then followed by printing out giant versions of their pics, and plastering them on the walls of rustic, historic buildings. In fact, her attitude towers over the film in the same way her artworks loom over villagers below, and the impact is just as enchanting. Accordingly, love, life, creativity, connection, accepting others and acknowledging that nothing is permanent are all a part of this charming documentary. Oh, and goats as well.


It's human nature to stare at the sky whenever fireworks ascend to the heavens. We hear the popping sound, spy the bright flashes of light and simply can't help ourselves. Set in the tiny town at the heart of Mexico's fireworks industry, Brimstone & Glory captures that feeling more effectively than anyone could've expected. Indeed, the gorgeous and immersive documentary commits the vibrance of watching colourful explosions twinkling above to film as it charts the locale's National Pyrotechnic Festival, explores the lives of those both working and watching, and proves as spellbinding as the substance at its centre.


No big deal, but Photon endeavours to encapsulate everything we know about life and evolution. Actually, the experimental documentary by Polish video artist Norman Leto is a huge deal. Time, space, stars, humans, the big picture, the small details: expect them all, in an effort loosely based by physicist David Deutsch's The Fabric of Reality. Blowing up microscopic images, adding animation and chatting about the universe, it's the surrealist science lesson you didn't take in high school, as well as the out-there nature doco you won't see on the nature channel.


Think Tuscan life sounds like bliss? With its scenic sights and laid-back vibe, it likely comes close; however, no matter where you reside, daily living always has its struggles. So, the inhabitants of the 136-person town of Monticchiello found a way to work through their issues and try to maintain their relaxed atmosphere: each year, they get together, turn their lives into a play and perform it in their piazza. The results of one particular effort, which might be their last, informs Spettacolo — which sees Marwencol's Jeff Malmberg evolve from documenting miniature battlefields as a way to work through anxieties to turning an entire village into a stage production.


Let's talk about sex might've been quite the fitting title for Venus, if it didn't immediately get Salt-N-Pepa's 1991 hit stuck in everyone's head (although we're not sorry about that). Regardless of the documentary's moniker, discussing sexuality is exactly what the women in Mea Glob and Mette Carla Albrechtsen's film do — honestly, intimately and candidly. The filmmakers placed an ad for subjects, received 100 responses and recorded the auditions. Little did they know that those astonishing to-camera chats would become the actual movie.

The Antenna Documentary Film Festival screens at Palace Verona, Chauvel Cinema, Palace Norton St and the Museum of Contemporary Art from October 10 to 15. For the full program, head to the festival website.

Published on October 12, 2017 by Sarah Ward

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