Female Filmmakers at Down Under Berlin 2018

Let's get an insight into the 50% of films we have in our program this year, which are made by female filmmakers. Hold on to your skirts ladies and gents, this will be an exciting ride.

In the last few years, the topic of gender diversity (or the lack thereof) in filmmaking has been pulled into the spotlight. Women directors are still a minority in the film world, and whilst the landscape is changing, a recent study covering 1,100 popular films over the last 11 years revealed female directors only make up 4%. That’s why we can’t wait to present our strong line-up: 50% of our 2018 program is made-up of female-directed films. The range of experience is broad, from award-winning student films to a 1982 short film by the one-and-only Jane Campion. But we can tell you with confidence, the quality is excellent across the board.


Highlights include the New Zealand feature Waru, screening on Friday 21st September. Directed by nine female Māori filmmakers, each created a 10-minute segment that were then combined to produce the final film. The connected stories take place during the tangi (funeral) of a small boy, Waru, and bravely look at the complexities of child abuse. Amongst the directors is Ainsley Gardiner who produced Taika Waititi’s Two Cars, One Night, Eagle vs. Shark and BOY, and Chelsea Cohen who produced Waititi’s What We Do in the Shadows.


Offering an “unwriting of Australian national mythology” is Terror Nullius, screening on Saturday 22nd September. This political satire is by the collective Soda_Jerk, who are sisters Dan and Dominique Angeloro. Terror Nullius hit headlines when its patrons, the Ian Potter Cultural Trust, pulled their promotional support, citing it “does not wish to be associated with the marketing or publicity promoting”, and calling it “very controversial” art. The Australian sisters told Guardian Australia, “If ‘very controversial’ is another way of saying that the work is willing to start uncomfortable conversations, then we’ll happily wear it.” The experimental film is creating a wave of excellent reviews around the world.

Our blend of short films over three nights of the festival will showcase a wide range of female creators. Dianna Fuemana’s Sunday Fun Day, which portrays the relationship between a solo mum and her transgender teenager, won the Venice Film Festival Special Jury Award 2017 and will be part of the Battle of the Shorts: Aus vs. NZ - Round 1. Lauren Porteous’ Motel, showing in the same block, won Best Screenplay at Show Me Shorts International Film Festival 2017.

In Battle of the Short: Aus vs. NZ - Round 2 is Skin, co-directed by Australian Emma Blakey, an exquisitely shot fantasy/drama based on the Celtic folklore of Selkies. Released last year, Skin has already won a number of awards including the Platinum Award for Best Short Film & Bronze Award for Best Cinematography at the European Independent Film Awards.

During the festival, we are lucky enough to have a number of the directors in attendance. At Aussie Shorts #1, director Eloise Walker will speak after her comedy/drama Lemons, which reveals a hollow young woman’s final joke with her dead mother. We also have a Q&A with director Meaghan Palmer at Aussie Shorts #1. Meaghan was the recipient of the Australian Director’s Guild Award for best direction on Tasty, which is based on the real-life drug raid of a Melbourne gay nightclub in 1994.

On the 22nd September the NZ Embassy are opening the world premier of Symphony on Skis, with director Carla Braun-Elwert in attendance. The documentary retraces the steps of Carla’s German father, who in 1985 set out on a spectacular ski crossing of New Zealand’s Southern Alps. Thirty years later, Carla retraces his footsteps and discovers an entirely different kind of journey. In commemoration of 125 years since NZ women achieved voting parity, the NZ Embassy will have a reception after which viewers are welcome to join. Additionally, there are exciting plans afoot for this monumental anniversary, with the NZ Film Commission launching a special funding round offering an investment of $1.25 million each for up to two projects where the director and at least one other key creative is a woman.

And this is simply a snapshot of what will be screening - there are so many excellent films by New Zealand and Australian female directors that we are just bursting to show you. See you there!

Rosie Condon is a New Zealander living in Berlin. Freelancing as an art director and set decorator, working in tech, and swimming in lakes takes up her spare time when she’s not running the social media channels for Down Under Berlin.


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