2018 - Winner
This forceful and reasoned documentary investigates the causes and nature of a 1980s and 90s epidemic of gay bashings and murders along the foreshores of metropolitan Sydney, especially the clifftop surrounds of iconic Bondi Beach. Technically ‘unsolved’, 30 deaths and countless more assaults were ignored, covered up and — in a few instances — actually perpetrated by a rogue element within the NSW Police Force. Finally the many bereaved and a few survivors get to tell their story.
Deep Water: The Real Story succeeds in balancing new evidence on this socio-criminal phenomenon with intimate, often heart-rending glimpses into the tragic human legacy of these assaults, disappearances and deaths. Decades later, families, partners and friends still grieve the loss of their loved ones. Guilty parties reflect on the contradictory causes and meanings of their actions. More than a case study, the documentary sounds a call for justice in terms both harrowing and oddly lyrical.
Deep Water: The Real Story rises above the limitations of exposé by creating an honest and unsensational account of terrible events. It backs up its arguments through impeccably sourced, intelligently paced and frequently touching sequences. It utilises both passion and restraint in equal measure to achieve a satisfying beauty in its approach to an ugly subject. From conception through realisation, this is a genuinely literary document matching evidentiary rigour with a sure-footed narrative aesthetic.
Image: Alan Rosendale and Paul Simes. Photographer Alina Gozin'a.