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AACTA is excited to announce the list of nominees for the 2022 AACTA Award for Best Documentary. Following successful festival runs on the local and international circuits, these six productions represent the most compelling feature-length, non-fiction films made by Australians in the past year. 

The six nominees for Best Documentary are:

  • Ablaze
  • Clean
  • Everybody’s Oma
  • Franklin
  • Ithaka
  • River 

This year’s field of entries include works from established creative teams, as well as filmmakers foraying into the feature-length documentary space. The nominees were determined by voting AACTA Members, Australia’s largest community of screen professionals and fans.

The nominees convey stories of our complex relationships with the environment, biographies of Australians from all walks of life, and the legacy some have left behind. A summary of each documentary is below.


ABLAZE is directed and written by Tiriki Onus, a Yorta Yorta man, opera singer, artist and Head of the Wilin Centre for Indigenous Arts and Cultural Development at the University of Melbourne. The documentary follows the aftermath of Tiriki Onus finding a 70-year-old silent film he believes was made by his grandfather, Bill Onus. Born in 1906, Bill Onus was a civil rights activist, artist, performer and entrepreneur.

ABLAZE was also written and directed by Alec Morgan (HUNT ANGELS (2006), RAISING THE CURTAIN (2012), ASIO MAKES A MOVIE (2018)), and produced by Tom Zubrycki, who has been a figure within the documentary space for over 40 years, and took out the 2000 AFI Award for Best Direction in Documentary for THE DIPLOMAT (2000). Zubrycki has been nominated twice for the AFI Award for Best Documentary, for BILLAL (1996) and STOLEN GENERATIONS (2000). Earlier this year, ABLAZE took out the AWGIE Award for Documentary. ABLAZE is a MIFF Premiere Fund–supported film. 

“It is a fantastic honour for Ablaze to be nominated for best documentary. Our thanks go to all who supported getting the story of the first Indigenous Filmmaker Bill Onus recognised.” - Alec Morgan & Tiriki Onus, writers and directors. 


CLEAN follows the journey of a larger-than-life business owner and the workers at Melbourne's Specialised Trauma Cleaning Services. Making her feature length documentary debut, Sandra Pankhurst, as stated in the documentary, has "lived numerous lives as a childhood abuse, suburban parent, drag queen, sex worker, funeral director, business owner, motivational speaker.” Director Lachlan Mcleod’s production follows her day-to-day in her latest role, running Melbourne's Specialised Trauma Cleaning Services.

CLEAN reunites the creative team behind BIG IN JAPAN (2018), with cinematographer and editor Louis Dai, director and editor Lachlan Mcleod, and producer David Elliot-Jones coming together once more, four years on. The documentary is also produced by the highly decorated Charlotte Wheaton (I SHOULDN’T BE ALIVE (2006-2010), MYSTERY MANHUNT (2012), COLLINGWOOD: FROM THE INSIDE OUT (2019)). This year, CLEAN was nominated for the Grand Jury Award at the SXSW Film Festival. 

“Clean is a tribute to Sandra Pankhurst and her incredible team of trauma cleaners who approach their work with care, compassion and camaraderie. We're thrilled that our film has been nominated amongst such a strong field of Australian documentaries, and can't thank Sandra enough for sharing her story and legacy with us.” – Lachlan McLeod, Director.


During the pandemic, Filmmaker Jason van Genderen captured footage of his family and their relationship with Oma - their Dutch matriarch living with dementia. The home videos (shot mostly on iPhone) attracted millions of viewers online, quickly turning Oma into a viral sensation. The family’s videos have made international news, with snippets appearing on Good Morning America and James Corden’s The Late Show.

Van Genderen has received international accolades for his short films MANKIND IS NO ISLAND. (2008), THE UNSPOKEN (2011) AND DESIGN CRIMES (2010), with EVERYBODY’S OMA marking his debut feature. EVERYBODY’S OMA is produced by Van Genderen, Roslyn Walker (STRANGE FITS OF PASSION (1999), PEACHES (2014), PULSE (2017)) and first-time feature documentary producer Olivia Olley.

“The whole creative team is so thrilled to see our family’s story has resonated so richly, not just with Australian audiences, but with our AACTA industry colleagues as well. We’re so honoured to be nominated amongst such insightful documentaries this year.” - Jason van Genderen, Director.


FRANKLIN tells the story of Australia’s most significant environmental battle to save the remote Tasmanian Franklin River from being dammed by a hydroelectric project in the 1980s. Director and writer Kasimir Burgess (THE LEUNIG FRAGMENTS (2019), FELL (2014)) employs archival footage of key players Bob Brown and Uncle Jim Everret to illuminate the determination of those behind the ‘Franklin Campaign’. FRANKLIN is brought to viewers through the eyes of eighth-generation Tasmanian and environmentalist Oliver Cassidy, who is retracing his late father’s attendance of the blockade.

FRANKLIN is produced by Chris Kamen, who has 17 years’ experience in the film industry, however this represents the most ambitious project he is embarked upon to date. FRANKLIN is also written by Claire Smith (VITAMANIA (2018), ASK THE DOCTOR (2017) and Natasha Pincus, who as well as being an award-winning short film creator, has won two consecutive ARIA Awards for Gotye ft. Kimbra’s Somebody That I Used to Know music video in 2011, and Missy Higgin’s Everybody’s Waiting music video in 2012. FRANKLIN is a MIFF Premiere Fund–supported film.

“We are absolutely thrilled to be nominated for Best Documentary at the AACTAs! Franklin is a people-powered film, some ten years in the making, and dedicated to all those who took action to save that precious river 40 years ago. As younger filmmakers, we feel privileged and grateful to be bringing the inspiring story of the Franklin campaign to a new generation — which is more important now than ever.” - Chris Kamen, Producer


Filmed over two years across the UK, Europe and the US, ITHAKA follows 76-year-old retired builder, John Shipton, who campaigns to save his son, Julian Assange. Assange remains a remand prisoner at U.K.'s maximum security Belmarsh Prison as he appeals an extradition order to the U.S. where he could face 175 years in prison for his role in the release of classified U.S. diplomatic files.

ITHAKA is written and directed by Ben Lawrence, whose documentary GHOSTHUNTER received three AACTA Award nominations and the AACTA Award for Best Editing in 2018, as well as three AACTA Award nominations for drama film HEARTS AND BONES in 2019. ITHAKA is produced by Adrian Devant (I AM THE SUN (2020), EL AMOR DE SÍSIFO (2015)) and Julian Assange’s brother, Gabriel Shipton. Earlier this year, ITHAKA was nominated for Best Australian Documentary at Sydney Film Festival. 

“Ithaka is a beautifully crafted portrait of the people at the center of a world-wide struggle to protect our most basic democratic rights - to know what our governments do in our name. The nomination from AACTA and its members is a strong signal to all the supporters who have been fighting for Julian’s freedom for years, that we are not alone, and one day soon Julian will be free!” – Gabriel Shipton, producer.


Narrated by actor Willem Dafoe, RIVER explores the tumultuous and complex relationship between humans and rivers and is the sequel to twice nominated and three-time AACTA Award Winning Documentary MOUNTAIN (2017). RIVER reunites the award-winning creative team behind MOUNTAIN, including highly decorated director, writer and producer Jennifer Peedom, producer Jo-Anne McGowan, composer Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, cinematographer Renan Ozturk, narrator Willem Dafoe and writer Robert Macfarlane. MOUNTAIN claims the title as the most successful non-IMAX Australian documentary.

RIVER is co-written and directed by Joseph Nizeti, and produced by Jo-Anne McGowan, Jennifer Peedom and John Smithson. McGowan and Peedom share two AACTA Award nominations, for their 2017 documentary AUSTRALIA IN COLOUR (2019) and MOUNTAIN (2017). Peedom also won the AFI Award for Best Documentary Under One Hour for SOLO (2008)

“We’re honoured to be nominated for the AACTA Award for Best Documentary after what has been a trying few years for the industry and a reminder of the importance and power of Australian cinema. River was made during lockdown and emerged from a remarkable collaboration between many talented artists… this is a film that explores a concept very close to our hearts, the vital and intricate relationship between humans and nature.” – Jennifer Peedom, Director.

Round 2 Viewing and Voting will begin in October. Round 2 determines the winner of the 2022 AACTA Award for Best Documentary.

“This year’s six nominees for Best Documentary range from human-centred stories following the lives of Australian figures, to informative productions that allow for greater understanding of the world we live in. After receiving a high volume of competitive entries, we are proud to have a line-up of nominees that delve into moving real life stories and issues. We can be reminded that Australia is responsible for producing some of the best documentaries available globally.” - AACTA Awards and Industry Development Manager, Ivan Vukusic.

For a full list of nominees, publicity stills and further information, click here.


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