Melbourne Documentary Film Festival 2023

Winter is no excuse to hide away under the covers until the warmer weather starts to creep back across the World’s third most livable city, Melbourne. This July you have another reason to venture from your couch, The Melbourne Documentary Festival. But for those that really don’t want to brave a Melbourne winter, the festival is online as well.

In its 8th edition, the festival will tantalise audiences with almost anything and everything the world has to offer. With over 50 documentaries from local Australian film-makers looking at local issues (Luku Ngärra: The Law of the Land) all the way through to international superstars in the film industry (Dream Girl: The Making of Marilyn Monroe). There is easily something for everyone.

But here at Novastream we like to make things as easy as possible for you and here are our top three picks for the festival:

Belly of the Beast, A Torquay story

Just an hour and a half from the centre of Melbourne is a beachside town called, Torquay. You’d be hard done to find a surfer who doesn’t know this spot. And for everyone else who might not know the name, you’ll know of Australia and the World’s biggest surfing brands to come out of this town, Rip Curl and Quicksilver.

The documentary takes you on an almost magical journey from the early days of finding the Torquay beaches. Back then it was mostly farmland and dirt tracks to the beach. Slowly, more and more people would commute from Melbourne and neighbouring areas to enjoy a long summer of sun, surf and some epic parties.

Torquay became the place to be when it came to surfing and the town almost grew overnight. But as with anything that becomes popular, the town changed and sometimes not for the best.

With grainy footage of sun-kissed beaches of the late 50s to the stunning aerial drone imagery of a modern Torquay. The documentary captures everything from the first white settler to surfing and right the way through to the boom of popular surf brands.

Speed is Expensive: Philip Vincent and the Million Dollar Motorcycle’ narrated by Ewan McGregor

There’s a motorbike that changed the industry. Famous people like comedian and talk show host Jay Leno has one. As big as the Vincent bike made its mark on the world, in 1955 Vincent produced its last bike.

The documentary follows the life of bike enthusiast Philip Vincent and his obsession with not only making a visually appealing bike, but the fastest one.

Through the years during and after the war right up to its last days manufacturing these bikes in the factory in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, England. This was one of the few made locally. So much so it was hard to keep up with demand.

But with financing becoming harder and harder the company went into receivership. And despite all the accolades Vincent acquired, the Vincent motorbike was no longer. This in turn created a greater passion and demand for the bike to those who wanted a piece of history.

With some great interviews with Philip Vincent’s family and footage from Vincent’s heyday, including the famous salt flat speed trials. Hollywood A-lister and bike enthusiast, Ewan McGregor beautifully narrates the story.

The Burnt Half

This documentary is one for all Australians to watch, and for a lot of people, it will still be fresh in their minds. The Burnt Half is the aftermath of the horrific bushfires that destroyed half of South Australia’s Kangaroo Island.

Just as the burnt bushes and trees start to show some signs of life, Documentary filmmaker Stephen de Villiers follows the lives of community members who have ultimately lost everything but the clothes they were wearing.

For the farmers who lost livestock and millions of dollars worth of farming equipment, the story got worse for them. Due to the global pandemic, international and state border closures meant this island, which survives mostly on Tourism, delayed any efforts at moving on.

The interviews with the community are both inspiring and heartbreaking. The visual story of phone footage from people defending their properties or firefighters driving on roads surrounded by red hot smouldering embers shows just how bad it really was. It is, however, the imagery of the decimated landscape and the hundreds of livestock and wild animals dead that truly breaks your heart.

The Melbourne Documentary Festival even more excitingly offers Masterclasses. To everyone wanting more in-depth knowledge about the making of a documentary and its content, this is for you. This year the festival will host AI and Documentary Filmmaking, Filming in a Developing Country, Micro Budgeting and Filmmaking and lastly, Iconic Being the Subject of a Documentary with Arthur Agee. The best part, these are free.

At Cinema Nova, Opening Night (July 21st) will showcase Dig Deeper. Directed by Mark Street, four divergent Aboriginal artists use their personal stories and historical injustice as a driving force to break through and create internationally recognised urban art.

Closing night (July 30th) at Cinema Nova will close with The Trust Fall: Julian Assange directed by Kym Stanton.

For full details and to book tickets head to or

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