6 bite-sized film reviews from this year’s online Doc Edge Festival

The Doc Edge Festival is the only competitive documentary genre festival in Australasia – and this month, in its 15th year,  the festival will go online for the first time from 12th June – 5th July. 

As well as our editor Ingrid Grenar chatting with Doc Edge co-founder Alex Lee during lockdown for our podcast, we also had the chance to preview some of this year’s programme. As always, the festival offers a wide range of international and local films to expand your horizons and open up discussion. Our reviewers Stewart Sowman-Lund and Mike Hales have sampled a few of the 82 films that’ll be available to view in the comfort of your own home. So, have a read of their mini reviews including two five star recommendations, then explore the programme for yourself at festival.dodedge.nz.

Stewart Sowman-Lund reviews:

#UNFIT: A Psychological Thriller

There have been many questions asked over the four years of Donald Trump’s presidency about whether the former TV host is fit for the role of leader of the Free World. In UNFIT, director Dan Parland seeks to answer that question – and does so with some success. Featuring a series of interviews with medical experts, psychologists and commentators (including some who have worked inside Trump’s own White House) UNFIT paints a terrifying picture about the most powerful man in the world. Funded partially through a Kickstarter campaign, the film looks and sounds exquisite, with animated sequences providing a backdrop to select interviews, accompanied by excellent score. However, I wonder whether the Kickstarter’s claim that the film would not politically motivated is really accurate. It is certainly hard to see how the 90-minute film isn’t intended to not only question Trump’s sanity, but his politics as well.

4 stars

Screening times:

  • Mon 15 Jun, 11am
  • Sat 20 Jun, 9pm
  • Sat 4 Jul, 5pm

Who Let the Dogs Out

Everyone knows Who Let the Dogs Out – unarguably one of the most annoying, yet memorable, songs of the past 20 years. But as this film sets out to explore, the history of the song is a lot more complex than anyone could imagine. Ben Sisto has dedicated years to the song, tracing its history far beyond the 2000 version by the Baha Men that filled school halls at discos throughout the noughties. It all stemmed from an incorrect citation on the song’s Wikipedia page, revealing a gap in the song’s origins. It’s a fascinating story – but one which I feel is let down by how it’s presented in documentary format. The film runs at a brief 60-minute runtime, meaning we don’t spend enough time with each interviewee and perhaps too much time with Sisto himself. That being said, the story is peculiarly gripping in a sort of David Farrier-esque way, as the song’s bizarre history is unfurled.

Screening times:

  • Fri 19 Jun, 10pm
  • Fri 26 Jun, 1pm

I Want to Give My Brain to Richard Faull

Brentley Ford had a life-changing moment 30 years ago when he was given a brain to hold at the Richard Faull’s Centre of Brain Research. From then on the Waiheke Island local has made it his mission to make sure his brain is donated to Sir Richard Faull when he passes away. But the logistics of living on the Island, away from Auckland City, means he’s had to think of every possible way he can make sure his brain makes it to Richard Faull in time. This short character study is an engaging and thoroughly entertaining watch, as we spend time following Brentley through his day to day life. As viewers, we are gifted an unfiltered insight into an interesting, eccentric, everyday Kiwi, who would have remained entirely anonymous were it not for this 45-minute film. It’s an uplifting, funny, and at times awkwardly uncomfortable watch. 

Screening times:

Mike Hales reviews:

Cryptopia: Bitcoin, Blockchains and the Future of the Internet 

A massive undertaking is promised by the title of this documentary, but rather than try and layout the future for three massive lanes of the information superhighway, what is developed is a blow by blow account of how each came to be – with some fascinating interviews along the way. Torsten Hoffmann tries his very best to make these very esoteric and technical subjects accessible and while I enjoyed my time with him on this journey, I didn’t feel much the wiser for having watched and somewhat sadder for what might have been. Informative, illuminating but ultimately this doco sinks under its own weight.

3 stars

Screening times:

  • Sat 20 Jun, 11am
  • Mon 29 Jun, 7pm

Confucian Dream

A very personal tale of a Chinese woman struggling to keep her son’s feet grounded in traditional Confuscian teaching, while society and her husband are embracing the near future a little too readily. The clash between modern-day materialism and the moral foundations she is trying to lay down for her son blow up, threatening to rupture her family. While her husband can barely lift his face from his phone, her son struggles to understand why his world is appearing to fall apart.

Some tough struggles do give way to a revelation that provides answers for the mother and resets the family that is still living on the faultline between traditional Chinese society values and a society raving at breakneck speed into an uncertain future.

A moving watch and despite being set in a culture that is foreign to many, the central themes are global and thought-provoking.

4 small stars

Screening times:


A moving triptych combining multiple screens and a mediative, ambient soundtrack by Boreal Taiga, Elementa is a circular journey from the ice pack to the land and back. Brilliantly simple, this is an absorbing journey that inspires awe, sadness and leaves you feeling like you’ve been nudged into action. 

Richard Sidney has travelled to all seven continents over five years to compile this vision, and it is a treat on the eyes and ears that almost acts as a meditation session. I certainly felt transported and fascinated. Perfectly shot and edited with real care, Elementa does what great film can do at its best and provide a feast for the eyes but also tickle the grey matter behind your eyes. It works as a moving picture frame on the world but when combined with the soundtrack, you will find yourself drawn in and come away with so much more than a voyeur’s virtual travelogue.

5 stars

Screening times:

The Doc Edge documentary Film Festival runs from the 12th June until 5th July following a scheduled programme online only.