When the philanthropist met the filmmaker

I’ve been learning a little bit about Documentary Australia Foundation (DAF), an organisation bringing together philanthropic grantmakers, charities and filmmakers.  I love the concept, perhaps because I love the power of documentaries. Storytelling appeals to my Irish nature.

Documentaries today are helping to educate and advocate.  Yes, they can be controversial, but that’s why documentaries and philanthropy are potentially a really good fit. Like or loath, the water cooler power of films such as An Inconvenient Truth, Bowling for Columbine or Autism the Musical cannot be denied.

A really great example here in Australia is the Choir of Hard Knocks.  Established as a choir consisting of homeless and socially disadvantaged people from around Melbourne, the group came to public prominence as part of a five-part ABC documentary series in 2007. The choir, with the help of the series, brought the issue of homelessness into Australian homes, helping people to better understand how it can happen and the need for greater services and housing for those doing it rough.

All this thinking about documentaries and the power of the philanthropy/filmmaker partnership led me to an inevitable question – could a documentary about philanthropy increase the numbers of people giving in Australia?  Better yet, could a documentary about philanthropic partnerships and approaches improve the way the sector works?

In 2009 a number of US funders supported Kate Robinson in creating Saving Philanthropy a documentary profiling diverse organisations doing great, measurable and impactful work with the support of philanthropy. While I haven’t seen the full film, the trailer gives you a glimpse of some of the issues and questions that could get philanthropy in Australia talking. Check out a clip below.

Would Australian philanthropy be willing to open itself up in a similar way?  I can imagine that there are a number of philanthropists and trusts and foundations who would be willing and able.  All we need now are the funds….perhaps it’s time for a chat with the good folks of Documentary Australia Foundation!

For the record, the documentary that sits at the top of my top ten list is Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father. What about yours?

You can follow Caitriona Fay on Twitter via @cat_fay