While people in the northern hemisphere suffered from record low temperatures, 800 others were lucky enough to be Down Under for the sixth biennial Australian International Documentary Festival (February 17 to 20). It wasn’t all fun in the sun, however (according to organizers, the rain took care of that) – delegates were in Byron Bay to talk docs.
One attendee, award-winning Aussie doc-maker Steven Bradbury, commented, ‘There was a general sense of gloom about our future prospects, but a great sense of camaraderie amongst filmmakers as the Titanic heads for the iceberg.’
Jane Roscoe, head of the Centre for Screen Studies and Research at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, delivered the inaugural Robin Anderson State of the Art keynote address, in which she gave an overview of Australia’s doc industry. Roscoe pointed out that the title change at the Australian Broadcast Corporation from head of documentary to head of factual reflects the current reality (no pun intended) of programming decisions.
‘The ABC is now under [pressure] to deliver public service imperatives in a broadcast context ruled by commercial [ones],’ she said. On a more conciliatory note, Roscoe then praised the ABC for continuing to commission factual programming and docs in initiatives similar to one announced at the AIDC.
Sandra Levy, ABC’s head of television, unveiled to conference attendees that the pubcaster is launching two new doc strands: ‘Untold History’ (4 to 6 x 1-hour) and ‘Family’ (6 x 30 minutes). ABC plans to air the two slots during primetime in early 2004.
This year’s AIDC also included a pitch session, the Pitch ‘n’ Punt, jointly sponsored by pubcasters abc and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The winning project, Shanghai Bride, was a joint project pitched by Melanie Ansley of Melbourne, Australia, and Po-Ping Au Yeung of Vancouver, Canada. The ABC and the CBC anted up the prize of AUS$20,000 (US$12,300) to go toward the project’s development.