Five years in the making, the enlightening feature documentary, Brazen Hussies, chronicling the Australian Women’s Liberation Movement, is now screening in selected cinemas nationally – following the film’s world premiere at Brisbane International Film Festival in October and screenings at Antenna Selects (Sydney), and Adelaide Film Festival.
Brazen Hussies introduces contemporary audiences to the Australian second wave feminists, who declared war on ‘male chauvinism’, traditional sex roles and demanded that women be set free from the ‘chains of femininity’.
This feature documentary traces how the Australian Women’s Liberation Movement was born amidst the tumultuous politics of the 1960s, influenced by the anti-war, anti-imperialist, and civil rights movements worldwide. The film combines a treasure trove of startling archive footage with interviews from key activists from around Australia.
Brazen Hussies is written and directed by Catherine Dwyer, produced by Philippa Campey and Andrea Foxworthy, and executive produced by Sue Maslin (The Dressmaker). The team were joined by an accomplished list of key creatives including award-winning editor Rosie Jones; composer and former member of cherished independent band The Go-Betweens, Amanda Brown; sound designer Emma Bortignon and animator Juliet Miranda Rowe.
“I was concerned that this history was being lost. It was a period of such profound social and political change, that changed the lives and opportunities for all women,” said Writer/director Catherine Dwyer. “It was important to me that this story be told by the women who were actually there.”
“I made the film for those women, but I also made it for people my age and younger because it’s so important that we learn where we came from, and we learn how change is made.”
In the process of documenting this near-forgotten chapter of Australian social and political history, the filmmaking team gathered over 4,000 photographs, journals, artworks, and posters and over 800 news clips, documentaries and dramatic films.
More than 25 women were interviewed for Brazen Hussies, including Elizabeth Reid, the world’s first Advisor on Women’s Affairs to a head of government (Gough Whitlam); Merle Thornton, known for her 1965 chain-in at Brisbane’s Regatta Hotel to protest the exclusion of women from public bars; and Alva Geikie, who in 1969 chained herself to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in an equal pay protest with Zelda D’Aprano and Thelma Solomon.
Also featured is the trailblazing Aunt Pat O’Shane who was the first Aboriginal barrister in Australia; Eva Cox, Austrian-born Australian writer, feminist, sociologist, social commentator and activist; and best-selling Australian author and journalist Anne Summers.
“I am enormously proud of the work that Catherine Dwyer, Philippa Campey and Andrea Foxworthy together with editor Rosie Jones have done to tell this complex and inspiring story to a new generation and give voice to many of the women, the “brazen hussies” – who led the way with the second wave feminist movement,” says Executive Producer Sue Maslin.
Image: March for Liberation – International Women’s Day March (Sydney, 1975) – photo by Anne Roberts, courtesy Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales