Kylie Boltin gives the rundown of the Australian International Documentary Conference, which has just wrapped in Adelaide.
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24 Feb 2009 - 8:16 PM  UPDATED 6 Nov 2012 - 11:30 PM

Each year for three days in February, the Australian documentary community gathers at an expensive hotel to listen to speakers discuss their craft, broadcasters talk of their forthcoming slates and attempt innovative ways to finance their projects.

Returning to Adelaide, the 2009 AIDC used location to its advantage with a number of local tie-ins. The rapid-fire, key note address was delivered by Adelaide thinker in residence, Dr Genevieve Bell — an anthropologist with both an academic and industry background who assured us that technology changes faster than society and that the future has the past embedded in it. She believes we can learn about cultural differences by the way that people use technology and she wants to know all our stories.

With the Adelaide Film Festival (AFF) scheduling some incredibly accomplished filmmakers, AIDC attendees were treated to a series of Master Classes including New York based, Skylight Pictures' filmmakers, Pamela Yates and Paco de Onís whose most recent feature documentary, The Reckoning — the battle for the International Criminal Court (ICC) has it's Australian premiere at AFF. Skylight Pictures produce human rights documentaries to promote social change. At a Master Class moderated by Canadian producer/director/documedia activist, Peter Wintonick, the filmmakers spoke of their extensive body of work spanning 25 years, including Yates' first feature as director, When the Mountains Tremble (1983) featuring Nobel Peace Laureate, Rigoberta Menchú and it's forthcoming sequel, Granito — currently in development and slated for 2010.

For The Reckoning, the Skylight filmmakers extend their role as 'socially relevant media producers' with the website: International Justice Central. The innovative, interactive site is designed as a resource to generate awareness and “press political leaders to fulfil the mandate of the ICC (and regional courts).” It was one of a number of successfully concepts pitched at the 2008 BritDoc 'Good Pitch'. You can get involved with the IJCentral network via the site or follow them on twitter.

The theme of social 'out-reach' was echoed by fellow veteran filmmaker, Peter Gilbert part of the Chicago 'Kartemquin' film collective and filmmaking team behind the feature documentary, Hoop Dreams. For Gilbert outreach is a 'deal-breaker' with broadcasters. “We want people to be able to use the films in communities around the country and use them for their own purposes,” he says. “Schools can use them, community groups can use them, organizations that have to deal with some of the issues in the film. Take our new film, At Death House Door, that deals with the death penalty in the United States. All fifty states are using the film in different ways. The anti-death penalty organizations are doing public screenings. It's been shown in Washington D.C in front of Congress. The film is out there – it's more than just something you make for yourself but it's something that goes out to a much broader audience.”

Closer to home, Australian documentary filmmaker Bob Connolly won the annual Stanley Hawes Award, which as of 2009 has been renamed the AIDC Stanley Hawes Award. First established in 1997, the award and it's accompanying cheque for $5000 is for outstanding contribution to the Australian documentary sector and was created to honour Australian documentary producer Stanley Hawes, the first Producer-in-Chief of the Australian National Film Board (1946-1969).

Connolly accepted the accolade on behalf of both himself and his late filmmaking partner and wife, Robin Anderson. Connolly and Anderson together co-directed, wrote and produced the AFI award winning 'Highlands Trilogy' that includes the Oscar nominated documentary feature, First Contact (1983), Joe Leahy\'s Neighbours (1989) and Black Harvest (1992) as well as the longitudinal feature docs, Rats in the Ranks (1996) and Facing the Music(2001).

Previous winners include David Bradbury (2008), Mike Gissing (2007), John Hughes (2006), the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (2005), Robin Hughes (2004) and Stewart Young (2003).