Antenna Documentary Film Festival 2024 is the 12th edition of this Sydney-based documentary film festival and it’s on now until 19 February 2024. Among the 35 feature films programmed at this year’s festival, six are from France. Prepare to go on a discovery of a French artist’s quest for artistic recognition, an actress’ return to Palestine 30 years after moving away to launch her career, a lost documentary about the Kuna people of Panama, people living in a digital landscape where reality and unreality are blurred, the troubles and compassion found in an overloaded Parisian psych ward and women’s experiences with their bodies through the guise of a gynaecological office.
Director: Lea Glob
Countries: Denmark, France, Poland
Hailed as one of last year’s cinematic triumphs, Apolonia, Apolonia takes viewers on an extraordinary 13-year journey alongside painter Apolonia Sokol and filmmaker Lea Glob. This deeply personal documentary not only paints a unique portrait of an artist’s life but also captures the blossoming friendship between two women navigating pivotal moments in their lives.
Glob’s passionate gaze guides us through a treasure trove of accumulated footage, revealing Sokol’s raw energy, vulnerabilities, and unwavering pursuit of artistic recognition. We witness her hopes, frustrations, and triumphs in a world often resistant to her vision.
A dramatic turning point arrives when Sokol forms a close friendship with the Ukrainian artist and activist Oksana Shachko. This bond adds a powerful layer to the narrative, exploring themes of female solidarity and artistic expression in the face of societal challenges.
More than just a biographical film, Apolonia, Apolonia offers a raw and intimate look at the complexities of self-discovery, creative struggle, and the enduring power of female connection.
Director: Lina Soulem
Countries: France, Belgium, Qatar, Palestine
At 23, Palestinian actress Hiam Abbass (known for Lemon Tree, Blade Runner 2049, and Succession) made a daring choice: she left her family in the village of Deir Hanna to chase her acting dreams in France. Decades later, her daughter, filmmaker Lina Soualem, returns with her mother to journey through fading memories and vanished landscapes shared by four generations of courageous Palestinian women.
Bye Bye Tiberias weaves together pre-1948 archival footage, home videos, and intimate verité observations. Witness the lively yet poignant interactions between Abbass and her sisters, unveiling a portrait that transcends individual stories.
What begins as an exploration of one woman’s bravery evolves into a powerful contemplation of a family fractured by the Nakba, the Palestinian displacement of 1948. This poignant family saga delves into themes of hope, loss, and grief, showcasing the enduring bonds that defy distance and ideology. It exposes the stark reality of borders and celebrates the unwavering resilience of the Palestinian people.
Prepare to be captivated by a rich tapestry of personal struggles and universal emotions in Bye Bye Tiberias, a testament to the enduring power of family and the human spirit.
Co-presented with the Palestinian Film Festival
Director: Andrés Peyrot
Countries : France, Switzerland, Panama
Imagine a film promised, but never delivered. This is the reality for the Kuna people of Panama, who entrusted French filmmaker Pierre Dominique Gaisseau with documenting their lives in 1975. He lived with them, filmed their sacred ceremonies, and vanished, leaving behind a broken promise and a legend passed down generations.
Half a century later, filmmaker Andrés Peyrot uncovers a hidden copy of the long-lost film in Paris. His documentary, God Is a Woman goes beyond mere rediscovery. It paints a vivid portrait of the Kuna culture, showcasing their vibrant traditions and deep connection to nature.
More than just a historical treasure hunt, God Is a Woman sparks introspection. It raises crucial questions about representation, ownership, and the ethics of documentary filmmaking. Is it okay to capture a culture for personal gain, without ensuring their right to their own story? It also highlights the power of seeing yourself on the big screen.
Director: Ekiem Barbier, Guilhem Causse and Quentin L’helgoualc’h
Deep within the digital landscape lies Knit’s Island, a sprawling 250 square kilometre virtual world where communities gather to simulate survival scenarios. For 963 hours, filmmakers delve into this digital society, capturing its inhabitants through the lens of their avatars. Using traditional documentary techniques, they blur the lines between virtual and real, revealing lives intertwined with both escape and unease.
For some, Knit’s Island is a refuge from daily reality, a playground for exploration and fantasy. For others, it becomes a breeding ground for unsettling premonitions and disturbing desires as they prepare for a virtual apocalypse.
This immersive film becomes a daring exploration of our increasingly virtualized world. It raises stark questions about the boundaries between escapism and reality, and the potential impact of the metaverse on the human psyche. Knit’s Island isn’t just a game; it’s a portal into the uncharted depths of our digital future, leaving audiences to ponder the limits and possibilities of what lies beyond the screen.
Director: Nicolas Peduzzi
Chaotic Paris hospital. Tight budgets. Exhausted staff. Sound familiar? On the Edge takes you beyond the cliché with immersive handheld camerawork, delving into the daily trenches of the psychiatric ward.
Meet Jamal, a young psychiatrist navigating the storm with unwavering empathy and a humanist touch. He believes good relationships are the bedrock of mental health, both individually and socially. His weapon? Patient listening and heartfelt advice.
But can idealism survive the harsh realities of a crumbling system? On the Edge walks this tightrope, balancing optimism with gritty realism. It’s a vital report from the trenches of psychiatry, a call to action for care, both personal and systemic.
Director: Claire Simon
Acclaimed documentarian Claire Simon returns with a masterpiece, Our Body, that resonates deeply with her established fans and welcomes newcomers alike. This culmination of her career-long exploration of institutions delves into the unique experiences women have within them.
Set in a Parisian public gynaecological ward, the film offers a tender and insightful portrait of womanhood. Simon captures intimate doctor-patient encounters with honesty and empathy, tackling sensitive topics like fertility, abortion, gender affirmation, and beyond. From the miracle of childbirth to the fragility of life’s end, Our Body navigates a spectrum of emotions with grace and respect.
A testament to Simon’s artistic integrity, the film takes an unexpected turn when she herself becomes a patient. Yet, she treats her own journey with no more weight than any other, creating a truly inclusive and relatable experience.
Prepare to be moved by this “tremendously telling” documentary, as Simon unveils the complexities and wonders of the female experience through the lens of a single institution.
KEY INFO FOR ANTENNA DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL 2024
WHAT: Antenna Documentary Film Festival 2024, the 12th edition of the festival
WHERE: Dendy Newtown, The Ritz cinema Randwick and Sydney Opera House
WHEN: 9-19 February 2024
HOW: Peruse the program and purchase tickets via the links above
HOW MUCH: Ticket prices are as follows:
Senior/ Full Time Student: $18.50
The more you see, the more you save! Buy a Multi-Pass and book up to four tickets per session at the best value price.
5 Film Pass – $105 (Save $15),
10 Film Pass – $185 (Save $55),
20 Film Pass – $300 (Save $180)
What’s your favourite documentary?
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