DOCEDGE: Keeping you on the edge of your own seat

Written by Adam Bryce

For the first time in the history of New Zealand’s premier documentary film festival, Doc Edge will make a solely online appearance. Pull up a seat, whip out a wine and get comfy.

Roll up, folk, tickets are on sale for 2020’s Doc Edge Film Festival which runs from 12 June to 5 July.

The line-up, comprising of 83 of the world’s best documentary feature films and shorts, is a virtual smorgasbord of emerging and established talent from the world of documentary film making.

Check out INDEX’s highly recommendeds below:

Ruahine: Stories in her Skin

Following Lisa Taouma’s Marks of Mana, director Hiona Henare’s beautifully lyrical and intimate documentary closes in even more tightly on the art and meaning of tatau.

For Māori women receiving their traditional moko kauae (chin tattoos), they are visually asserting their birthright and identity while celebrating the mana (spiritual power) of their whakapapa (ancestry). In Māori tradition, the head is considered the most tapu (sacred) part of the human body, making the practice of moko kauae highly prestigious and exclusive to Māori women.

Maddy the Model

At New York Fashion Week in 2015, a young woman called Madeleine Stuart took to the catwalk and brought down the house. Something amazing and unheard of had happened. Not because Maddy was thinner, taller or had higher heels than the other models. Because she was the opposite of all those stereotypes. Maddy was shorter and happier than everyone else. She strutted down the catwalk, did her pivot and high-fived the front-row celebs on her way back.

Why? Because that’s how Maddy greets life — how she works, lives and makes friends wherever she goes. She has Down’s syndrome and Maddy the Model is a film about a campaign for inclusion. Director Jane Magnusson filmed Maddy for four years, from Brisbane to China, to Uganda and New York, and back again.

Shadow Flowers

Ryun-hee Kim was a North Korean housewife, seeking treatment for liver disease but the healthcare system didn’t have the capacity to treat her. She travelled to China to seek better treatment, started working at a restaurant to make money and met a broker. He offered to smuggle her into South Korea, telling her she could make even more money there before returning home.

So, in 2011, Ryun-hee ended up in South Korea. While escaping from the North to the South has never been easy, Ryun-hee’s attempts to return to North Korea turned out to be a lot more difficult. After years of bureaucratic wrangling, Ryun-hee became a citizen with a South Korean passport — but also with a travel ban that the South Korean government extends every month.


Diana Neille and Richard Poplak’s story of weaponised communication focuses on the infamous Lord Tim Bell and his associates, known for their controversial geopolitical spin-doctoring.

Bell started his career in advertising with Saatchi & Saatchi and had an affinity for difficult briefs and “people with problems”, as he liked to call them. He crafted campaigns for unpopular politicians, dictators, disgraced companies and celebrities, in the same way he created product branding — by being concise and brutal.

Using a fascinating blend of archival footage and interviews with Bell and the people who worked with, for or against him, filmmakers Neille and Poplak conduct an impressively thorough investigation into the politicisation of modern communication.

Ruahine: Stories In Her Skin directed by Hiona Henare.

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