2024 9th Edition entries open

Now ranked as the #1 Melbourne Film Festival and Most Anticipated Melbourne Film Festival by Time Out for 2023! Google has ranked as 15th Best Documentary Film Festival in the world! Or the top 20 in the world!

We are very excited to announce that the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival has shown 7 documentaries that are eligible to compete for Best Feature Documentary at the 2024 Oscars - the highest number from any Australian Documentary Film Festival. It’s interesting to note that all of the documentaries selected are also Film Freeway Submissions!!


The festival is effortlessly diverse in a natural and authentic way and has a positive energy and vibe about it, as we are about acceptance. The festival has inspired over 30 people to visit Australia, inspired 5 people to start their own festivals and 6 filmmakers have felt inspired to make their own documentaries because of the festival - that’s leadership! Melbourne Documentary Film Festival authentic commitment to supporting and uplifting marginalized communities has elevated MDFF to be one of the great Australian Film Festivals!

We especially back mavericks, independent and creative thinkers pushing the documentary genre forward. The documentaries we play are simply discussion points to allow critical discussion, debate and independent thinking. It's not to lecture, or virtue signal

Melbourne Documentary Film Festival was only event in the Southern Hemisphere to put on a screening event in solidarity for the SAG/AFTRA strike. Our position on the Middle East situation is release the hostages, and also ceasefire with no civilian, journalist, aid worker or children deaths on either side and peace in the region. Antisemitism and Islamophobia have no place at our festival.

From supporting local and hosting international Filmmakers, helping with World and Australian premieres, to feedback on documentaries, help with DCPs and Masterclasses, it is what we do!

Melbourne’s local doco fest. The Southern Hemisphere’s coolest documentary film festival!

Vivienne Westwood, King Crimson, George Gittoes, Tendechi Trucks, Penelope Spheeris, Jason Mamoa, Rosario Dawson, A-Ha, Eric Roberts, Mel Brooks, Daniel Day-Lewis, Frank Miller, Mike Mignola, Guillermo Del Toro, Robert Fripp, Paton Oswalt, Nichola Meyer, John Hiatt, Jerry Douglas, In Hearts Wake, Paul Mcgann, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Banksy, Octavia Spencer, Liza Minelli, Leon Mackenzie, Marlee Matlin, Declan Kelly, Lyle Lovett, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Tony Barry and that's just the 7th edition.

Melbourne Documentary Film Festival is an indie festival providing support and encouragement and helping propel filmmakers onto Netflix, SBS, ABC or getting their own limited theatrical run at the cinema, through their own talents, hard work and determination!
Melbourne Documentary Film Festival is the in-house documentary film festival for Cinema Nova (Australia’s Best Independent Cinema 2023) the largest independent cinema in the Southern Hemisphere. Join us on the Purple carpet at the Purple Palace, or on the jumbo screen in Federation Square! We give filmmakers great opportunities, what you do with these opportunities is up to you!

Each year we have a stellar line up of documentaries and celebrate with a fun party atmosphere at the cinema with popcorn, choc tops and curated cocktails! Join us on an adventure!

In compliance with Covid Safe Events Victoria for the last 3 years we have had no reported cases of Covid 19 at our documentary events in Melbourne, Australia! We also started trialling bringing out international travellers to Melbourne again in a safe, pragmatic way. We put on a fun, safe event!

One of the most meaningful things about our festival is that 5 filmmakers over the last 7 years have been inspired to create their very first documentary because of our festival.

What we are most proud of is that we play compelling, authentic, genuine and nuanced stories from filmmakers from around the world. We give so many documentary filmmakers a voice and a platform to screen their work in Australia.

Melbourne Documentary Film Festival is respectful of differing points of view, personal beliefs, faiths, perspectives and political opinions but critical on issues and encourages the audience to draw their own conclusions and be independent and critical thinkers. We believe in humanity.

The Melbourne Documentary Film Festival is a popular and beloved institution. We have grown over the last 7 years to be the go-to Australian documentary film festival for Australian, UK, North American, Asia, European and documentary filmmakers worldwide to compete at. At the same time becoming an important and essential Australian film festival, showcasing the world's best and most innovative cutting-edge documentaries. If accepted, you are guaranteed to be part of an incredible, world class line up. The Melbourne Documentary Film Festival is a forerunner event in July before Melbourne's premier event Melbourne International Film Festival which starts in August. Melbourne Documentary Film Festival is Australia's biggest indie doco fest - 150 + documentaries over 31 days. We are currently recruiting for local Melbourne, Australian, and International Feature Documentary, Short Documentary, Documentary Web Series, Video Essays, Documentary Photography, VR and Interactive Documentaries that are looking for Oceania, Asia-Pacific, Australasia, Australia and Melbourne premieres to compete in our Australian Documentary Awards held during our July 2022 festival.

Melbourne Documentary Film Festival is a festival where you and your documentary are the star of our festival! Thousands of people attend each year online, in-cinema and outdoors.

Melbourne Documentary Film Festival has a community feeling about it and genuinely cares about the filmmakers and their documentaries with alumni helping out with judging and masterclasses.

Our Aim:
We aim to support independent documentary filmmaking in Melbourne, Australia and around the globe.

Our Values:
Our four core values are:
1: Giving People a Fair Go - Embracing stories from all walks of life and experiences, through kindness, integrity, compassion, humanity and empathy.
2: Camaraderie - Supporting the local and international documentary industry by uplifting and celebrating filmmakers, events, projects and initiatives.
3: Make it Australian - While we are an international film festival we aim to play 40% - 50% Australian content.
4: Innovation - We aim to support creatives thinking differently about documentary and innovating the genre.

We Support:
Australian, BLM, Indigenous, Women in Film, LGBTIQ, Diversity, Disabled Filmmakers, Equality, Refugees, Environmental Issues and Freedom of Speech.

We Are Against:
Asian Hate, Racism, Islamophobia, Antisemitism, Ageism, Sexism, Bullying, Fascism, Xenophobia, Inequality, Genocide, Satanism and Discrimination.

The overriding message of our festival is one of peace for our interconnected world! We will never ban indie docos or independent journalism from any country in the world, particularly brave and courageous filmmakers trying to expose the truth of what is happening in their respective countries and parts of the world.

Each year we leverage the power of Documentary to give back to our community and have raised thousands of dollars for organizations like Wildlife Victoria, Sea Shepherd, The Glen McGrath Cancer Foundation, Extinction Rebellion, Lost Dogs of Melbourne, Cool Earth, Horse Aid, 3CR, Victorian Firefighters, Foodbank Victoria, Survivors of Suicide and Friends Incorporated and the Ed Asner Centre!
We donate all our interviews to filmmakers and support not only emerging filmmakers but emerging Australian writers & critics too.

Melbourne Documentary Film Festival Has:
- Premiered over 800 + documentaries in Australia
- 9 x Top 100 Film Festival out of the 10,000 Festivals in the World - FilmFreeway
- 4 x Best in the World Documentary Film Festival - Film Daily
- 2 x Best in the Southern Hemisphere Documentary Film Festival - GuideDoc
- In 2020 we created the Southern Hemisphere's biggest online documentary film festival with over 150 documentaries showcased
- 1 x 2022 Australia’s Best Festivals - The Latch
- Australia's first competitive documentary film festival to go online

In short, over the course of the past 7 years, Melbourne Documentary Film Festival has become established as a rare treasure in the crowded and increasingly homogenous festival scene, without remaining in the slipstream.

What We Are Looking For:
Ideally, we want to see your locally and internationally produced Feature, Short, VR documentaries, Video Essays and Documentary Web Series to showcase in our competition in Melbourne, Australia in 2022. All countries, all ages, all abilities, all genres of documentary are encouraged to apply and can be considered.

The Hottest Postcode:
Melbourne, Australia has consistently been voted one of the worlds happiest and most liveable cities. Our competition represents a great opportunity and reason to visit Australia. In 2019 we had 41 guests to our festival from overseas and across Australia. This was made possible through a combination of the festival paying for the filmmakers to attend, filmmakers paying for themselves to attend, consulates, embassies and film commissions paying for filmmakers to attend and people crowd funding to attend. The festival is a great networking opportunity.

The Toughest Competition:
Go head-to-head in Melbourne, Australia and test your mettle with the world’s best, and most prestigious documentary film schools and film festivals such as Tribecca, Sundance, Sydney Film Festival, TIFF, Venice Film Festival, American Documentary Film Festival, Raindance, Slamdance, Sheffield Doc Fest, Hot Docs, New Zealand International Film Festival, Traverse City Film Festival Doc NYC, SXSW, CPH:Dox, IDFA, and many more. You're in it to win it.

Make it Australian: The Melbourne Documentary Film Festival is an encouraging and supportive platform for local filmmakers. We commit to playing at least 45% Australian content in our 2021 fest to support the local industry. Screen Australia, Film Victoria, Create NSW, Screen West, Screen QLD, Screen NT, Screen Tasmania, Documentary Australia Foundation, AIDC, and Goodpitch Australia productions are encouraged to apply. MDFF wants to have the very best Australian competition drawing from local industry and indie talent. SBS, NITV and ABC productions are also eligible to apply to compete, provided that the production submitted contains new material and is effectively a director’s cut.

The Coolest Cinemas:
Melbourne Documentary Film Festival is currently part of the Cinema Nova family of festivals including Transitions Film Festival, Melbourne Queer Festival, Monster Fest. Cinema Nova is one of Australia's best cinemas and is the southern hemispheres largest independent cinema with 16 screens in inner city Melbourne and one of the coolest cocktail bars around. Cinema Nova is the go-to-venue to premiere documentaries down under including exclusive Australian premieres like the Sparks Brothers, Billie Holiday VS USA. All feature, shorts, video essays and documentary web series in competition will be played in DCP on a 4k projector at 24 FPS in Dolby surround sound. The cinema's we will be utilizing for the competition will be 147 to 240 seat capacity. All Q&A's will be conducted by a Film Critics Circle of Australia or Australian Film Critics Association member. We even have curated cocktails at the cinema bar and unmissable parties and networking events.

The Best Festival:
MDFF premieres, screens and showcases more quality local Australian and International documentaries each year than any other documentary only film festival in Australia and gives more talented Indie Filmmakers a chance to compete and screen to a big, receptive audience in Melbourne, Australia. The Melbourne Documentary Film Festival is consistently featured on SBS, ABC, The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian, Time Out, Concrete Playground, and Weekend Notes and had additional short documentaries featured in Federation Square.
The Melbourne Documentary Film Festival presents a unique opportunity and supportive platform to showcase YOUR documentary Down Under in one of the coolest and most liveable cities in the world - Melbourne, Australia. We are looking for exclusive World, Australian or Melbourne premieres. for feature documentaries to showcase in our competition. Let our 45 media partners, and publicist get behind and help promote YOU and YOUR project Down Under and get just the right momentum and exposure behind your project launch in Australia.

In Short:
The Melbourne Documentary Film Festival aims to feature the freshest and most innovative documentaries from around the world, from short docs right through to feature length, award winning films. The Melbourne Documentary Film Festival looks to promote the best quality independent and industry documentaries cinema has to offer.

Melbourne Documentary Film Festival Showcases The Best Entries From the Best Festivals Going Head-To-Head in Melbourne Australia Like:
American Documentary Film Festival, Big Sky Film Festival, Cannes, CPH:DOX, Doxa, Full Frame, Hot Docs, IDA, IDFA, Slamdance, Sundance, SXSW, Sydney Film Festival, The New York Film Festival, RIDM, Harlem International Film Festival, DocAviv, ImagineNative, Shanghai International Film Festival, The Muslim Film Festival, TIFF, Tribecca, Venice, Hot Springs Doc Fest, Telluride Film Festival, Tokyo Docs, AFI Docs, Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival, Rotterdam International Film Festival, Doc N Roll, and the Cork International Film Festival.

Melbourne Documentary Film Festival Showcases Top Submissions from Top Organisations:
ESPN, Time Magazine, HBO, The Atlantic, Story Hive, Loading Docs, Australian Cultural Fund, Environmental Victoria, Creative Victoria, Regional Arts Victoria, Australia Rise Fund, BFI, Kartequinn, AIDC, Media Stockade, Madman Entertainment, Shark Island Institute, National Geographic, Screen Australia, Film Victoria, Screen West, Screen Tasmania, Screen Ireland, Doc Society, CBC, BBC, NL Film Fonds, NFB, IDA, Documentary Australia Foundation, Wild Angle Tasmania, AIDC and NITV.

Melbourne Documentary Film Festival Has Seen Massive Ongoing Success and Distribution For Filmmakers:
Netflix, Apple +, Amazon, Stan, SBS, ABC, NITV, Waterbear, The New York Times, The New Yorker, MTV Films, Foxtel, Redbull TV, National Geographic, iWonder, Docplay, The Guardian Documentary Channel, Films for Change, Rialto Channel.

Melbourne Documentary Film Festival Has Been Featured In:
Channel 9, Channel 10, The Project, ABC, SBS, NITV, The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Triple RRR, PBS, Time Out, Broadsheet, Concrete Playground, 3CR, Kiss FM, 60 Minutes, Film Daily, Weekend Notes, IF Magazine, Vimooz, The Australian, Movie Metropolis, Screen Hub, Arts Hub, The Daily Telegraph, Radio National, 3WBC, Plenty Valley FM, 2SER, Filmink, Flicks, and The Conversation.

Melbourne Documentary Film Festival Has Showcased Project From Top Australian Talent:
Warwick Thornton, Jack Thompson, Bruce Beresford, Rachel Griffiths, Olivia Newton-John, Cate Blanchett, Tommy Emmanuel, Jack Charles, Kutcha Edwards, Tom Zubrycki, Ivan Gaal, Nick Torrens, Helen Gaynor, George Gittoes, Tony Barry, Anthony Loewenstein, & Pat Fiske.

Previous Masterclass Topics Include:
History of New Zealand documentary a personal journey with Costa Botes, Asian documentary with Nick Torrens, VOD and distributions with Beama Films, crowdfunding for documentary with Pozible, Self-Distribution with Fanforce, Making the Great Australian Music Documentary, Making a Personal Documentary, Making LGBTIQ and Aboriginal Documentaries, Experimental Documentary, Documentary Filmmakers and Mental Health, Mobile Phone Filmmaking for Documentary Filmmaking.

Melbourne Documentary Film Festival Has Had Submissions & Projects Involving Some of the World's Top Directors & Big Stars Like:
Quentin Tarantino, Peter Medak, Leon Vitali, Werner Herzog, Oliver Stone, Leonardo Di Caprio, Bruce Beresford, John Carpenter, Richard Linklater, Orson Welles, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Kevin Smith, Lawrence Kasdan, Milos Forman, Morgan Freeman, Julian Assange, Robert Hawk, James Cameron, Warwick Thornton, Ewan MacGregor, David Lynch, Russell Brand, Evan Funke, Skye Fitzgerald, Banksy, Costa Botes, Stanley Kubrick, Andrei Tarkovsky, Errol Morris, Robert Duvall, Matthew Broderick, Horton Foote, Ed Asner, Pierce Brosnan, Alex Winter, Rodney Ascher, Martin Sheen, Wendell Pierce, Cat Stevens, Ronnie Wood, Nicholas Meyer, Zachary Quinto, Herbert Golder, Paul Saltzman, Phil Knight, Phillip Glass, Ryan O’Neil, Matthew Modine, Bill Gates, Jonas Mekas, Anthony Hopkins, Tommy Wiseau, Uwe Boll, Robert Davi, Mark Borchardt, Piero Vivarelli, Barbara Kopple, Judith Ehrlich, Anjelica Huston, Michelle Rodriguez, Susan Sarandon, Anne Rapp, Sharon Stone, Alicia Vikander, Lydia Lunch, Cynthia Nixon and Joan Baez.

Melbourne Documentary Film Festival Showcases The Best Music Docos from Men at Work, Tommy Emmanuel, Placebo, Grace Jones, The Sonics, Agnostic Front, George Michael, Todd Rundgren, Van Duran, Big Star, Terry Pendergrass, Ronnie Wood, The Matches, the Velvet Underground, Strange Tenants, Head Like a Hole, The Swans, The Beatles, Jonny Greenwood, Cat Stevens, The Stereophonics, Kelly Jones and Beverley Glenn-Copeland.

The Melbourne Documentary Film Festival presents a great opportunity and bucket-list opportunity for the often overlooked or underrated Australian premiere. Our team looks forward to bringing you a diverse, challenging slate of documentaries that will entertain, educate and inform you. This is the festival you want to get into. So it's time to test your mettle as a documentary filmmaker and let’s make some Melbourne film history together and join us in Melbourne, Australia in 2024 to attend Australia's preeminent documentary film festival!!!

We are also very humble and grateful to all the filmmakers, venues, media partners, sponsors, presenters, guests and audiences that have supported and embraced the festival over the years! We could not achieved all this without you. Thank you!! Thank you for your kindness!

We sincerely want to help out all our filmmakers as best that we can.

The Melbourne Documentary Film Festival is a competitive film festival and has 22 award categories, known as the Australian Documentary Awards, which are open to filmmakers worldwide which you can enter, they include:

Pool A

Short Awards
Supreme Jury Prize Short Documentary
Best International Short Documentary, Video Essay or Webseries
Best Australian Short Documentary, Video Essay or Webseries
Best Melbourne Short Documentary, Video Essay or Webseries
Best VR / Interactive Documentary
Best Short Director – International
Best Short Director - Australia

Pool B
Feature Awards
Supreme Jury Prize Feature Documentary
Best International Documentary
Best Australian Documentary
Best Melbourne Documentary
Audience Choice - Feature
Best Music Documentary
Wild Card
Best Environmental Documentary
Best Emerging Director - Australia
Best Director - Australia
Best Director – International

Pool C
Documentary Photography Awards
Supreme Jury Prize Documentary Photograph
Best International Documentary Photograph
Best Australian Documentary Photograph
Best Documentary Photographer

Supreme Jury Prize Award (Feature) - $1,500
Best Australian Short Documentary - $1,000
Best International Short Documentary - $1,000
Supreme Jury Prize Award - Photography - $500
Best Director - $500
Other prizes TBA June 2023


CALL FOR MASTERCLASS SUBMISSIONS AND REGISTRATION OF INTEREST FOR 2022 MASTERCLASSES Melbourne Documentary Film Festival is now calling for expression of interest from Documentary practitioners and general interest from documentary filmmakers in being a part of our online Masterclass series commencing July 2022. Please email info@mdff.org.au by 30th June 2024 for more information and to register.
Please note The Melbourne Documentary Film Festival supports MIFF but is independent and not part of this organization.

The 2024 event will be a hybrid event in-cinema and online

These rules (the “Rules”) apply to all submissions to The Melbourne Documentary Film Festival Inc (“MDFF”). By submitting your film (the “Film”) for consideration for inclusion in the festival operated by MDFF (the “Festival”), you (the “Applicant” or “You”) hereby agree to be bound by these Rules.
1. Submission
1.1 MDFF will consider each submission received (a “Submission”) against the Eligibility Criteria (defined below).
1.2 A Film which does not meet the Eligibility Criteria as of the date of screening will not be screened.
1.3 MDFF may, at its absolute discretion, decide to accept a submission which meets the Eligibility Criteria, but is not obliged to screen any particular Film at the Festival even if the Film meets the Eligibility Criteria. MDFF reserves the right to change a decision to screen a Film at its discretion.
1.4 A decision made by MDFF to accept or refuse to screen a Film is final. Under no circumstances will MDFF refund any submission fees paid. Please ensure you check all dates, currency conversions and associated costs before submitting your documentary there will be no refund. Due to the amount of submission received individual feedback is not possible, but we can suggest registering for our next Documentary Open Mic by emailing info@mdff.org.au
1.5 Successful applicants will be contacted in late May or early June 2024.
1.6 Successful applicants will be forwarded a copy of the MDFF Screening Agreement. Submissions from successful applicants who do not agree to the MDFF Screening Agreement will not be screened.
1.8 You acknowledge that MDFF does not pay screening fees to applicants.
2. Eligibility
2.1 A Submission is eligible if all of the following conditions are met:
a. The Submission is received before the due date of 31st May 2024
b. Documentaries that commenced production from no earlier than 1st January 2013;
c. The Film has never been, and will not be before 12 July 2020, released on DVD, freely available online or theatrically released other than on Fanforce (however, the Festival may at its discretion accept Films which have been theatrically released or previously screened at other festivals) exceptions to this are Video Essays, Documentary Web Series and some Short documentaries, ABC, SBS, NITV feature documentaries which must contain new material;
d. The Film is in English or contains English subtitles; and
e. The Submission accompanied by the applicable submission fee
(the “Eligibility Criteria”).
f. We reserve the right to put all or some of the festival online if it is not safe to screen in Cinema as stipulated by organizations like Covid Safe Events, City of Melbourne or Vic Health
2.2 MDFF prefers that Films be submitted for assessment for our competition via FilmFreeway or secure YouTube or Vimeo screeners
3. Return of Materials
3.1 Materials submitted will not be returned. We strongly recommend that you do not submit original materials.
4. Warranty
4.1 By submitting your Film, you warrant that:
a. You are free to submit the Film to the Festival;
b. The Film meets the Eligibility Criteria; and
c. You have obtained all necessary clearances in respect of the Film and the Film does not infringe the rights (including without limitation copyright) of any third party.
5: Specs:
Feature, Short, Video Essay, will be played in DCP at 24FPS (not 25 FPS)
360 / VR Docs
-360 microscopic
-4k resolution, 2 by 1 aspect.

-Stereo-Attached to the .mp4 video
-Spatial- Separate file Audio.tbe (41khz only) Video in this case to have no audio attached.
6. Filmmakers can only enter the same documentary no more than two times to our festival over different seasons and editions and filmmakers only need to select just one category or the most appropriate to submit to our festival not multiple sections/categories.
Good luck filmmakers!

Overall Rating
  • Joshinder chaggar

    MDFF was such a fantastic experience. I am so enriched by the films I watched. The buzz was so fantastic. And it was really special to have my short doc screened as well. Thankyou so much. Especially for organizing the interviews and the PR. Stellar experience!

    August 2023
  • Donna McRae

    This was a great festival - really fantastic communication and everything about it was great. Thankyou for including Our Ghostly Crew in your lineup.

    August 2023
  • Ellie None

    Fantastic festival with a fantastic turnout! Was very thankful to have been included and we look forward to next year!

    August 2023
  • Helen Newman

    Thank you to Melbourne Documentary Film Festival for having Solstice as part of your 2023 line up. What a wonderful, welcoming festival. We were supported, given interview opportunities, and encouraged. It was so good to be included in Melbourne's most anticipated Film Festival. What and honour!

    August 2023
  • Tim Kirk

    I was unable to attend but the festival treated me incredibly well. Great communication and kept me up to date. Great job

    August 2023