Woman Ansara, Martha

Cinematographer and Documentary filmmaker

Written by Amanda McCormack, National Film and Sound Archive

Born in the United States in 1942 and migrating to Sydney in 1969, Martha Ansara was one of the first women in Australia to work as a cinematographer. On arrival in Sydney she became involved with the Sydney Filmmakers Co-operative. Keen to work as a cinematographer, in 1975 Ansara was accepted in to the Australian Film, Television and Radio school. Passionate about social issues, following graduation in 1978, she filmed and co-produced My Survival as an Aboriginal (1979) which highlighted the plight of Indigenous Australians. This would be the first of many films concentrating on social and justice issues. Ansara was an active member of the anti-Vietnam War movement and made one of the first documentaries to be shot by a Westerner in Vietnam; Changing the Needle (1982) followed by Pursuit of Happiness (1987).

As a pioneer in a male dominated industry, Ansara was heavily involved in developing female film makers as a member of the Sydney Women's Film Group and the Women's Fund of the Australian Film Commission. In 1999, she received a great honour when she was invited to screen her documentaries at the Creteil International Women's Film Festival in France.

Ansara is a long term supporter of the National Film and Sound Archive and is a full member of the Australian Cinematographer's Association. She is the recipient of many awards including the Australian Film Institute's Byron Kennedy Award in 1987 and the Women's Electoral Lobby Edna Ryan Award. Ansara continues to be an advocate for all cinematographers and recently wrote the book Shadowcatchers: A History of Cinematography in Australia.

Published Resources


  • Freiburg, F., Don't Shoot Darling: Women's Independent Filmmaking in Australia, Greenhouse Publications, 1987, 180-181 pp. Details

Online Resources

See also