Melbourne International Documentary Film Festival: Five music docos not to miss in 2019

Now in its 4th year, The Melbourne International Documentary Film Festival has quickly become one of the most anticipated festival on the city’s calendar, boasting World Premieres, Australian Premieres and one off chances for Victorians to see critically acclaimed documentaries on the big screen. Today we’re looking at five of the music focused docos set to hit the festival, that we reckon you can’t miss.

Terry Pendergrass: If You Don’t Know Me

This documentary explores the rise of Teddy Pendergrass, the first male African American artist to record five consecutive platinum albums against the backdrop of 1960s America, and his comeback after a life-changing accident. The film has already screened at Doc NYC, and this MDFF screening will serve as its Australian premiere. Directed by Olivia Lichtenstein, don’t miss the film at Cinema Nova on 21st July at 8.45pm.


Another Australian Premiere comes in the form of Boom, a documentary about one of rock ‘n’ roll’s wildest and most influential bands, The Sonics. Directed by Seattle filmmaker Jordan Albertsen, the film features all five original members of the band tell their true story of how it all went down, from beginning to end.

Boom promises to takes a deep dive, exploring how a relatively unknown band from the Pacific Northwest became a worldwide phenomenon 50-years after their heyday, and in doing so, shaped music for decades to come (whether it was apparent at the time or not). The film features interviews with homegrown heroes and breakthrough artists alike, Pearl Jam, The Sex Pistols, Heart, Mudhoney, and many, many more.

The film will screen at the Backlot Cinemas on July 29th at 8:45 pm.

Tommy Emmanuel: The Endless Road

Jeremy Dylan’s much anticipated film about Australian guitar icon Tommy Emmanuel will be having its Australian Premiere at MDFF.

The film detail’s Emmanuel’s journey from being named Australia’s youngest guitar prodigy to the world’s most acclaimed acoustic guitarist.

Revelations about the father he idolized send Tommy into a decades-long battle with addiction, which threatens to derail his family and career, even as he drives himself to become one of the world’s most compelling performers. 
The film also tells the touching story of the relationship between Tommy and his hero, mentor and surrogate father figure, the legendary Chet Atkins.

Told through intimate backstage footage, explosive concert performances, rare archival material and unfiltered interviews with Tommy’s closest friends and family (as well as stars from Joe Satriani to Jason Isbell to Monty Python’s Eric Idle), the film examines the scars of childhood trauma, breaking cycles of self-destruction and the ambitious rise of a man determined to bring happiness to all corners of the globe with his music, even as his own life was in danger of toppling.

It’ll screen at Cinema Nova on 26th July at 8.45pm.

Waiting: The Van Duren Story

Screening just before the Tommy Emmanuel documentary will be the brilliant documentary Waiting, which we reviewed earlier this year HERE, as part of the Gold Coast Film Festival. Now the story of Memphis musician Van Duren, made by newbie Australian filmmakers Wade Jackson and Greg Carey, will enjoy its Melbourne Premiere on 26th July at 6.15pm.

In the 1970s, Memphis musician Van Duren was tipped to be the next Paul McCartney but instead faded into obscurity. Years later, two Australian friends come across his record and set out to discover what went wrong.

Woodstock At Fifty

And finally we have a special event, with the world premiere of a new cut of the multi-award winning documentary A Venue for the End of the World, featuring extended interviews with original Woodstock performers, crew and high-profile commentators. This very special event will feature a live Q&A with famed Woodstock announcer & lighting designer Chip Monck. The screening comes on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. I wonder if they can tell us whether or not this Woodstock 50th Anniversary festival will happen or not?

Directed by Aidan Prewitt, don’t miss it at Cinema Nova on July 24th at 6:15 pm.

For tickets and more details about the event, which is being held between Cinema Nova and Backlot in Melbourne from July 19th to the 30th, head to

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.