This collection celebrates women and feminism in New Zealand — the first country in the world to give all women the vote. We shine the light on a line of female achievers: suffrage pioneers, educators, unionists, politicians, writers, musicians, mothers and feminist warriors — from Kate Sheppard to Sonja Davies to Shona Laing. In her backgrounder, TV veteran and journalism tutor Allison Webber writes how the collection helps us understand and honour our past, asks why feminism gets a bad rap, and considers the challenges faced by feminism in connecting past and present.
Australian feminist author Germaine Greer tells Kim Hill that “it’s time to get angry again”. She’s angry that female health treatments for breast and cervical cancers are forms of control that are actually out of control. Greer opines that women are over-medicated, in fear of their bodies and deeply insecure about the way they look. She talks about the grassroots feminist revolution that never happened, and the totemic feminist text – her “lucky book” – The Female Eunuch.
Created by Fiona Samuel, The Marching Girls follows a Taita social marching team who decide to have a crack at the North Island champs. In the first episode of this feminist-Flashdance-in-formation 80s classic, young whippersnapper Leonie tries to modernise the girls' routine by getting them to march to the heavy metal tunes of Ironlung ("they're really big in Australia!"). This proves too much for Mahara (Patupatu Ripley), who's got enough on her plate with her new role as hesitant union spokesperson for her fellow workers down at the factory.
Rosemary (Annie Whittle) is a photographer, mother and middle-distance runner. A project photographing the rare yellow-eyed penguin sends her to a remote Otago cottage. Despite menacing happenings, she refuses to be intimidated. Then events escalate, sending her running for help in the race of her life. Bird-watching, stranger danger and feminist film theory line up for a time trial in Melanie Read's first movie, for which 20 of the 29-strong production crew were women. Marathon champ Allison Roe — who trained Whittle off-screen — makes a brief cameo.
In the 1970s, New Zealand artist Allie Eagle identified herself as a lesbian separatist and radical feminist. Her often uncompromising work included pro-abortion painting This Woman Died I Care, which was inspired by a photograph of a woman who died from an illegal abortion. In the 1980s, Eagle became a christian. Made in 2004, Briar March's first, feature-length documentary sees Eagle reflecting on her past with a more moderate outlook — she now has mixed feelings about her earlier stance on abortion.
Written by future Gloss creator Rosemary McLeod, this Television One sitcom satirised late 70s gender politics. It was filmed before a studio audience at Avalon Studios. In this episode, Ginette McDonald’s lippy feminist withholds the joy of sex from her hippy hubbie, and Bruno Lawrence (sporting a magnificent anti-comb over) is the unreformed motorhead neighbour whose hangover cure is beer and cornflakes. Lawrence’s larrikin performance in the show was spotted by director Roger Donaldson, who cast Bruno in his breakout lead role in a movie: Al Shaw in Smash Palace.
The Marching Girls is the seven-part story of a Taita social marching team who decide to have a crack at the North Island Championships. This pioneering series was conceived by actor-writer Fiona Samuel out of frustration over the dearth of challenging female roles: she declared that it was about time the Kiwi "alienated macho dickhead" shared some screen time with women. Synth-rock soundtracks, ghetto blasters, Holden Kingswood taxis and chain-smoking abound in this feminist-Flashdance-in-formation 80s classic.
Mystery and menace abound in this debut film from Alison Maclean (Crush, The Rehearsal). Made when Maclean was an Elam art student, the experimental short plays with gender and racial stereotypes by constantly thwarting narrative expectations. What there is of a plot consists of a woman emerging from the sea and a 'centrepiece' pursuit leading to a confrontation between two characters: a man and a woman. Scripted, shot and edited by Maclean, it marked the beginning of a fertile collaboration between Maclean and producer Bridget Ikin.
This short, written and directed by Christine Parker (Channelling Baby) takes an allegorical look at the creative process. A writer (Rima Te Wiata) has a korero with a trickster spirit guide Hinekaro (voiced by Rena Owen), and conjures worlds from the words she inks on a page. In her imaginative struggles she’s visited by a ruru owl and her younger self, and other creatures are brought strikingly to life via special effects (beetles from a book, an eel hiding in a toilet bowl). Hinekaro was adapted from a 1991 short story by Booker Prize-winner Keri Hulme.
This edition of the 1970s current affairs show sees reporter Joe Coté investigating women in politics. A potted history of the trailblazers — from suffragist Kate Sheppard to Māori MP Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan (first to have a baby while in office) — leads to wide-ranging conversations with contemporary women in politics. Future Christchurch mayor Vicki Buck (here a 19-year-old council candidate) and others from across the spectrum, talk about ongoing struggles for equality: education, empowerment, abortion, childcare support, and the ‘old boys’ network.