My Inspiring MIFF experience: Film festivals are springboards for documentaries

By Sze Man Tiffany Sit

Honestly, I am not a person who is passionate about political debates or public issues. Therefore, after participating in the screening and events of the documentary “Undermined: Tales from The Kimberley”, which is a film about the social and political issues of the development in the KimberleyI started to understand that film festivals may be the most important springboards for documentaries.


According to one of the readings, film festivals and their employees can act as ‘gate-keepers’ which are able to control the accessibility, culture and taste of films (Stringer). However, film festivals can also act as a ‘springboard’ for films because film festivals are usually able to provide more media exposure and networking opportunity for the film itself as well as its creators. The Melbourne International Film Festival is a major festival with leading positions as marketplace and media event, but it also supports identity groups and promotes a range of specific goals and ideologies. For example, this documentary “Undermined: Tales from The Kimberley” is sponsored by the MIFF Premiere Fund, which helped to deliver a powerful and important film that tells a sad story of the 200 Indigenous communities facing against the development on their homelands. The screenings and events of this documentary during the MIFF provided a platform for people to discuss for whose benefit is a development of this scale and what is the path to social justice.


MIFF also supported this documentary with the opportunity to have the world premiere screening at MIFF, MIFF travelling showcase, a Q&A session and a stage for the activist/musician Albert Wiggan to perform his music which is related to the issue. These film festival screenings and events provided cultural legitimization, prestige and media attention for this documentary. Moreover, MIFF provided a social environment for this film and its makers to create a shared experience with the society. For example, the film’s director, producer and Albert Wiggan (one of the main characters) can interact with the film festival participants including the audience, film distributors and other filmmakers.



The Welcome to Country at the World Premiere



Q&A with the film’s director, producer and Albert Wiggan (one of the main characters)



Albert Wiggan, an activist and musician (one of the main characters)


After experienced the screening and event of this documentary, I understood that film festival is one of the most influential exhibition context for films (De Valck 27). Especially with the presence of Albert Wiggan, who is an activist, musician and one of the main characters of this documentary. His musical performance and speech during the event evoked resonance and enhanced the impact of the documentary to another level among the audience. The Q&A session allowed the audience to create a shared experience with the filmmakers, the characters and each other. MIFF organized these screenings and events that are relevant to the society and offered a social environment where we can feel like part of the community (Elsaesser 89). Moreover, I felt that it was very meaningful when the audience could express their support and empower the filmmakers and the characters directly through every interaction and applause.




De Valck, Marijke, et al. Film Festivals: History, Theory, Method, Practice. Routledge, 2016.


Stringer, Julian. “Global cities and the International Film Festival Economy.” Cinema and the city: film and urban societies in a global context, Blackwell Publishers, 2001, pp.134-144.


Elsaesser, Thomas. Film festival networks: the new topographies of cinema in Europe. Amsterdam University Press, 2005.








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