Are You Receiving Me: Mark Roberts Previews The Fourth Antenna Documentary Film Festival

 The Fourth Antenna Documentary Film Festival opens in Sydney on Tuesday 14 October and runs through to 19 October.

Antenna, Australia’s Documentary Film Festival, is now into its fourth year. The 2014 festival will bring together documentaries from 20 countries that tackle subject matter that is personal, global, thought-provoking and terrifying –  love and sex for disabled people, youth and unemployment, internet addiction, living with HIV, marriage equality, freedom of information, refugees and asylum seekers, the global financial crisis, the civil war in Syria, the uprising in Ukraine and much more.

The festival kicks off on Tuesday 14 October with a screening of Bugarach, a joint Spanish/German production directed by Sergi Cameron, Ventura Durall and Salvador Sunyer, and based around events leading up to the Mayan doomsday prophecy. Bugarach is a small town in the Pyrenees is rumoured to be the only place in the world that will survive the apocalypse. The film details the town’s reaction to the media circus which attempts to cover the ‘event’ and the masses of people who decide on the village in an attempt to survive the end of the world. Described by Ruth Cross as “a cross between the doomsday prophecies of ‘War of the Worlds’ (and) the absurdity of ‘Waiting for Godot”, Bugarach highlights aspects of the complexity that face the modern audience in attempting to understand the modern documentary.

Bugarach has been described as using “ art-house imagery to tell a slightly fictionalized account of a real event in a small village” (Toyiah Murry It will be interesting to understand just how much of the film is ‘fictionalised’ and to see how ‘art house’ informs the documentary structure.


Of course of major interest to anyone with an interest in Australian Literature or Australian poetry is the Sydney premier screening of Anne Tsoulis’ film on Christopher Barnett, These Heathen Dreams. This film, about expatriate Australian poet Christopher Barnett, should be no stranger to readers of Rochford Street Review ( & and I am looking forward to finally seeing this long overdue recognition of Barnett’s life of work.


Another stand out film would appear to be Nancy D. Kates’ investigation into the life of one of the most interesting thinkers and writers of the 20th century – Regarding Susan Sontag. Kate’s film explores Sontag’s life through archival materials, accounts from friends, family, colleagues, and lovers, as well as her own words, as read by Patricia Clarkson.


Among the retrospective screenings of the festival a highlight would have to be a special screening, followed by a Q & A, of Pat Fiske’s 1985 documentary classic Rocking the Foundations. This film is an historical account of the Green Bans first introduced by the New South Wales Builders Labourers Federation in the 1970s in response to community demand to preserve inner-city parkland. local communities and historic buildings. One of the first women to be accepted as a builders labourer, filmmaker Pat Fiske traces the development a union union whose social and political activities challenged the notion of what a union should be. (

Also included in the program is a retrospective of the Maysles Brothers, considered to be pioneers of the Direct Cinema approach. The festival will screening Salesmen – a pioneering documentary which vividly details the bygone era of the door-to-door salesman is considered one of the best examples of Direct Cinema, Grey Gardens – mother and daughter (Big and Little Edie Beale), high-society dropouts, and reclusive cousins of Jackie Onassis, manage to thrive together amid the decay and disorder of their mansion in East Hampton, New York, making for an eerily ramshackle echo of the American Camelotand, and Gimme Shelter – called the greatest rock film ever made, this landmark documentary follows the Rolling Stones on their notorious 1969 US tour.

There are three completions running through the festival, the SBS Award for Best International Documentary (worth $3,000), Best Australian Documentary (worth $2,000 and Best Australian Short (worth $1,000).

The festival takes place at the Chauvel and Verona Cinemas in Paddington, the Giant Dwarf event space in Redfern and the Australian Film Television and Radio School in Moore Park.

A complete schedule and booking information is available from the Festival website

– Mark Roberts


Mark Roberts is a Sydney based writer and critic. He currently edits Rochford Street Review and P76 Magazine (

Rochford Street Review is looking for people interested in writing on and about film. If you are interested please email us at


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