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Feminism & Film: Sydney Women Filmmakers, 1970s & 1980s

Date: 6 June 2017

The Sydney Film Festival opens tomorrow, 7 June and runs until 18 June. This year, there is a strand of the festival dedicated to the city’s feminist filmmakers of the 1970s and 80s.

Feminism & Film honours the diverse influences and intentions of women who made the films for discussion, committed to the serious undertakings, collaborated on stories of country and culture, and worked for love — but not always money.

Highlights of this strand include:

My Survival as an Aboriginal
Australia | 1979 | 50 mins | In English
Director: Essie Coffey | Cinematographer: Martha Ansara
Respected Murruwurri activist Essie Coffey invites filmmakers and audiences into her family and community of Brewarrina in North West NSW to fight for country and culture.

Winner of Best Documentary, Greater Union Awards and Rouben Mamoulian Prize for Best Short Film at Sydney Film Festival, 1979

My Survival as an Aboriginal was … one of the first Australian films where an Indigenous Australian was directly involved in deciding how she and her community would be represented, and is also the first documentary directed by an Indigenous woman … Essie Coffey’s passion for her culture and her stoic dedication to her people is tangible in this film. As a charismatic, dedicated woman, she invites the audience into her community. And while she brings to the fore the hardships endured by her community, she is continually focused on the power and richness of traditional knowledge and skills, and the power of her cultural connection to land. In this, Coffey not only raises issues of the impact of colonisation on Indigenous peoples, but also offers a solution by way of continuing cultural practice. – Romaine Moreton


For Love or Money: a history of women and work in Australia
Australia | 1983 | 107 mins | In English
Megan McMurchy, Margot Nash, Margot Oliver, Jeni Thornley
High point in an era of feminist documentary filmmaking, lovingly woven together from women’s personal stories, archival collections and excerpts from Australia’s film history.

Winner of Best Feature Documentary, Incontro Internazionale del Cinema delle Donne, Florence, 1984
Winner of United Nations Media Peace Prize, 1985

For Love or Money was one of a new genre of historical documentaries, where young filmmakers took command of the archive and used its images (both those that had helped determine national histories and those that had been denied a contribution to these histories) to attempt to reformulate – or at least refocus – collective memories. – Adrienne Parr, Australian Screen Online

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