Feminism & Film: Culture & Collaboration

Powerful collaborations between non-Indigenous and Aboriginal filmmakers and communities, as a prelude to Aboriginal produced work that burst onto screens from the 1990s.

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

Two Laws
Australia | 1981 | 70 mins | In English, Mara, Gurdandji, Garrawa and Yanula with English subtitles
Borroloola Aboriginal Community with Carolyn Strachan, Alessandro Cavadini
The Borroloola people of the Northern Territory use their storytelling practices to share their history of colonial law and Aboriginal law; dispossession and land rights.

The narrative of Two Laws challenges the conventions of documentary, and occurs more like a conversation. It is loosely constructed and provides the space for stories to occur, rather than being confined to a strict linear structure. Two Laws in this respect is very organic and, at the time that it was made, belongs to an era of 'making films that would express rather than merely observe Aboriginal culture’. – Film Quarterly

Two Laws is a film so substantial in achievement that it makes breathless praise undignified. – Meaghan Morris, The Financial Review, 1982

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Indigenous & First Nations, Sydney Women Retrospective, Women, Retrospective/Restoration, Politics & Economics