• Cate Shortland's short 'Joy' will be showing during the exhibition (YouTube)Source: YouTube
Australian feminist voices in 90s screen culture will be showcased at a new University of Sydney exhibition.
Bianca Soldani

3 Aug 2016 - 2:47 PM  UPDATED 3 Aug 2016 - 2:47 PM

The Sydney College of Arts at the University of Sydney are celebrating an often under-appreciated decade of Australian feminist screen culture in a new exhibition.

The 1990s will be front and centre at FemFlix, which will showcase the cyberfeminists, queer culture and the experimentation with digital technology that characterised the post-punk era.

A spotlight will be on Australian filmmakers including Janet Merewether, Tracey Moffatt, Antoinette Starkiewicz, Cate Shortland and Samantha Lang (whose The Well was the only female-directed contender for the Palme d'Or at the notoriously male-centric Cannes Film Festival in 1997).

Filmmaker Jane Schneider is co-curating the exhibition and says in a press release that the '90s “was a time when queer aesthetics exploded onto the screen, an exciting new generation of Indigenous filmmakers hit the mainstream, and women were making edgy, experimental work as well as feature films that competed successfully at the Cannes International Film Festival”.

The 1990s saw the birth of what is known as the third wave of feminism which embraced diversity, sex-positivity and a sense of individuality that defied traditional female stereotypes.

It followed on from the first wave in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when women strived to open opportunities for themselves including the right to vote, and the second wave that began in the 1960s and focused among other things, on social equity, sexuality and reproductive rights.

One problematic element of the time is that it was a period of rapidly changing technological advancements, which on one hand allowed women to express their creativity in new ways, but on the other has resulted in many works being incompatible with current technology and thus unplayable.

Dr Jacqueline Millner from the Sydney College of Arts notes, “FemFlix has provided an opportunity to make digital copies of some of these films for the first time, and to unearth rarely-seen films by female voices, presented alongside popular and significant films of 90s feminism.”

The exhibition kicks off on 10 August and will be running until 3 September and include live action shorts, digital interactive works and animation.

In the meantime, Cate Shortland’s feature film Somersault starring Abbie Cornish and Sam Worthington is available to watch at SBS On Demand.


Australia, 2004
Genre: Drama, Romance
Language: English
Director: Cate Shortland
Starring: Lynette Curran, Sam Worthington, Abbie Cornish
What's it about?
At sixteen, Heidi is feeling her way in the world through brief sexual encounters. When she tries it on with her single mother's boyfriend and is sprung, she flees to the snow resort town of Jindabyne. Desperately attempting any connection possible, she meets Joe, the son of a local farmer who is caught up in his own world of confused sexuality. Winner of thirteen Australian Film Institute Awards in 2004.

Somersault Review