The 65th Sydney Film Festival reached over 170,000 people and screened films from 66 countries – continuing to showcase the incredible power of stories and films.  Documentary Australia is proud to have supported the Award for Best Australian Documentary for the fifth year running.

In a joint statement from the jury, the selection was described as “a fascinating range of stories, creative perspectives and critical issues”.


Best Australian Documentary Award Winner

Ghosthunter is a feature documentary that shows that sometimes the most terrifying ghosts are our own.

Ghosthunter is the story of a western Sydney security guard and part-time ghost hunter who has spent two decades searching for his absent father. As a survivor of trauma, he seeks to reconcile his fractured memories and piece together his past. When his search converges with a police investigation, a family secret is exposed — forcing him to confront a brutal past in order to reclaim his future.

“We were impressed by the humanity brought to this complex and dark subject matter as well as the suspenseful storytelling approach that had us on the edge of our seats.” – 2018 Sydney Film Festival Documentary Award Jury


Best Australian Documentary Nominees


Backtrack Boys

By Catherine Scott

This observational documentary, filmed over two years, follows boys in a youth program that Bernie runs from a shed on the outskirts of Armidale, a rural town in Australia. On the road, the boys find their voice, make great friendships and the dogs become national champions. But as the boy’s sleep under the stars at night the trauma is never too far away. With their survival and futures at stake they must constantly step up, push themselves, support each other and some days can be hard. This inspiring coming of age story reveals the challenges and triumphs these boys face as they try to find their place in the world, and the dogs that help tame their wild ways.



China Love

By Olivia Martin-McGuire

China Love takes us on a billion-dollar ride of fantasy exploring contemporary China through the window of the pre-wedding photography industry. The film is a feature length observational documentary which follows Chinese and Australian participants as they navigate love, weddings and family in the lead up to the most important ritual of Chinese society – getting married.



Dying to Live

By Richard Todd

Dying to Live reveals that more can be done in Australia to improve organ and tissue donor registration numbers, to prevent immense suffering for those awaiting organs, while other Australians inspire us with their compassionate, life-saving gift.

Deep beneath the complex world of organ and tissue transplantation are the heart-wrenching stories of real people awaiting life-saving organs in Australia. Why must they wait for so long? Are changes in policy required – or shifts in perception? Or is it as simple as signing up and having the conversation with loved ones? Why do we avoid the topic of death? What does it take to support a desperate family member running out of time as they hope for a stranger’s generosity? How difficult is it to consider the death of a loved one as a chance at life for someone else? And how much love and understanding does it take to make the compassionate decision to register as a physical philanthropist?



Finke: There and Back

By Dylan River

For the riders, the spectators and the town of Alice Springs, the Finke Desert Race is more than a race. Finke: There and Back delves below the surface to uncover what makes them tick, what drives them to put their lives on the line when they strap their helmets on. Paraplegic Isaac Elliott is attempting to complete the race that he started a decade earlier. Scruff Hamill, who lives in a shed full of bikes in Sydney, makes the trip to tick off a bucket list event. Meanwhile, the factory race teams at the head of the field fight for pride and to be named ‘King of the Desert.’



I Used to be Normal

By Jessica Leski

From the Beatles, to the Backstreet Boys, to Take That, and One Direction, I Used to be Normal: A Boyband Fangril Story, will take you back to the fun, fantasy and feelings of your teenage years. Filmes over four years and spanning three generations, this intimate coming of age story follows a diverse group of women who have had their lives dramatically changed by their boyband obsession. These four women must navigate the challenges of relationships, family, sexuality, and faith, while constantly grappling with all the problems and contradictions that are part of being in love with a boyband.



In the Land of Wolves

By Grace McKenzie

Filmmaker Grace McKenzie came across the village of Argokhi by bicycle. So intrigued by the inhabitants and their history, she returns again and again to document life across the seasons. We meet Jimmy, a subsistence farmer who is deaf. His family are of mixed Ossetian and Georgian origins. Jimmy’s mother arranged his marriage. It failed and Jimmy returned to inherit his grandmother’s turkeys. Their neighbour Sveta, who knew nothing of farming now has a vineyard, and Frenchman Jean-Jacques brings change. In the Land of Wolves is a poetic symphony of the Georgian village of Argokhi.




By Kim Beamish

A punt glides over Merimbula Lake on the NSW South Coast, with passionate young oyster farmer Dom at the helm. It’s a romantic picture of tranquil beauty and a life close to nature. But Dom and fellow locals swear the water’s getting warmer and the storms more severe. The Sydney rock oyster takes three years to mature and is highly vulnerable to pollution, diseases and changes in water temperature and salinity.

Oyster follows Dom and his wife Pip at home, their work shed, and on the water, to see what it’s like to raise two energetic young boys, while you’re working long hours to keep a few million oysters alive.




By Travis Beard⁩‭

Rockabul follows Afghanistan’s first rock band District Unknown.

In the war torn capital of Afghanistan, Kabul, where Rock music is forbidden by Islam. The band put themselves in the firing line to challenge freedom of expression, youth identity and conflict with culture. We get a glimpse into the lives of young people living in the aftermath of absolute destruction and chaos, that is Afghanistan. A glimpse into the underground expat party scene, at odds with a conservative and fundamentalist society. A glimpse into the fire that ignites a young band to play music together and connect with other youth.



Teach a Man to Fish

By Grant Leigh Saunders

Despite his success as a filmmaker and musician, Grant Leigh Saunders feels there is something missing in his life. As a fair-skinned Aboriginal man, with a Norwegian wife and two young “Koori-Wegian” kids, Grant is struggling with his identity. He latches onto an opportunity to quit everything to go fishing with his father. He convinces his father to pass on the family trade in his home country on the beautiful Manning River of Taree in central New South Wales. He soon learns that there is more to learn about life than just fishing. A dramatic family history, fishing, politics, singing, laughter and tears, this fishing yarn has it all, told by some very colourful characters.


To view previous winners of the Documentary Australia’s Award for Best Australia Documentary click here.