AFTER spending close to three decades making documentaries, family has brought filmmaker Geoffrey Smith to Castlemaine.
Smith is the mastermind behind the Castlemaine Documentary Film Festival, which is featuring a number of award-winning and impressive features.
“The community was very appreciative last year and was packed for opening night,” he said.
Smith’s 2009 documentary Presumed Guilty won an Emmy for Outstanding Investigative Journalism (long form) and will open the festival on August 26 and include a Q&A session with Smith and former police commissioner Christine Nixon.
Presumed Guilty follows two young Mexican lawyers struggling to free Toñio, a young man picked up off the street in Mexico and charged with a crime he didn’t commit.
It was shot over three years with unprecedented camera access to the Mexican court and prison systems.
But according to Smith, it was luck that he ended up involved with the project.
“I was in Mexico trying to make a film and the two lawyers who had shot most of the material were just making a visual record,” he said.
“They realised it was a strong story and needed someone to look at the footage. The access was so unprecedented and the result is a film that changed Mexico.”
Smith began filmmaking while working at the BBC in the 1980s.
One of his experiences found him in Haiti during the 1987 elections. While filming at a voting centre, Smith witnessed a massacre and was shot twice in the process.
Smith would go on to recover and make a film about tracking down the men who had shot him.
“We saw men leaving voting station and knew what had happened, 23 people had been massacred with machetes and guns. You don't get over that,” Smith said.
“A couple of (the men) came back smiling and emptied machine guns down the street. I got a bullet through leg and across the shoulder.
“It screwed my head up and I walked into the BBC office and said ‘I'm going to find the man that shot me’.
“The journey was incredibly cathartic, it was the most important thing for me. I discovered the camera was a cathartic tool, even in telling own story. It was a painful but powerful journey of healing myself.”
Smith is also well-known for his major documentary The English Surgeon, which followed Henry Marsh and his colleague Igor Petrovich Kurilets and their struggles with moral, ethical and professional issues in the Ukrainian medical system.
The Castlemaine Documentary Film Festival is on from August 26-28. To view the full program visit www.cdocff.com.au.