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BeDevil, courtesy of Women Make Movies

Pioneering Women in Australian Cinema

Thursday, Jul 21 - Sunday, Aug 14

In 1979, Gillian Armstrong premiered her debut fiction feature, My Brilliant Career, at the Cannes Film Festival. Incredibly, it was the first Australian feature directed by a woman since those made by the McDonagh sisters in the early 1930s. The foundations for this breakthrough had been laid throughout the 1970s thanks to the giddy rush of the Australian New Wave cinema, the progressive Whitlam government (1972–75), the country’s thunderous Women’s Liberation movement, and the creation of the nation’s first major film school (AFTRS). In the 1980s and 1990s, women slowly but surely set themselves up behind the camera; this series pays tribute to that generation of filmmakers and is the first of its kind presented in the United States. Pioneering Women in Australian Cinema encompasses comedy, musical, romance, and horror, as well as more underrepresented essayistic, autobiographical, documentary, and experimental styles into a revised cinematic historiography. The series seeks to highlight the contributions of queer, feminist, migrant, and Indigenous women filmmakers and their stories, which are focused on class, work, education, friendship, and—as always for such a geographically isolated country—dreams.

This series originated in the smaller program “Pioneering Women,” curated for the Melbourne International Film Festival by Michelle Carey and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas. More information on the films and several others of the era can be found at Alexandra Heller- Nicholas’s Generation Starstruck website.