Diversity in Australian Film (Annotated Bibliography)

Dunks, G. After Priscilla: The queer screen twenty-one years on [online]. Metro Magazine: Media & Education Magazine, No. 186, 2015: 26-31.

Ellis, K, 2008. Disabling Diversity: The Social Construction of Disability in 1990s Australian National Cinema . 1st ed. Melbourne: VDM Verlag

When talking about diversity disability is often overlooked. Through looking at on screen representations of characters with disabilities it is evident there is a lot of social unease around disability. In the 1990s limited representation of disability in Australian film was not approached as a diversity issue. Quote: “Disability was often presented as a personal tragedy.”

Representation and discussion of disability is often centred on a medical framework rather than a social one. Construction of characters with disabilities often plays on the trope of them wanting to “overcome” or detach themselves from their disability to “fit in” and thus enforces the idea of disability as a “problem” rather than a social construction. (It would be interesting to research varying opinions of the word disability itself.)

Disability is constructed as “other” to ability, a framework also used with race, gender and sexuality. Ellis suggests that disability became politicized in the 1990’s with the 1992 Disability Discrimination Act. The disability rights movement of the time sparked the phrase “see the ability not the disability” which further enforced a hierarchical dichotomy.

Disabled bodies on screen are portrayed as isolated through choices made in cinematography and editing. Characters with disabilities are often tokenised and reduced to metaphors. Films often use characters with disabilities as social commentary aimed to empower other minority or disadvantaged groups, while doing nothing to empower or offer diverse representations of disability.

It is essential that we do not overlook the representation of disability when discussing diversity. It is important to discuss diversity holistically and be clear of the intersections of all types of privilege.

French, L, 2015. Does gender matter?. Lumina, 14, 157 – 165.

In 2012 women only made up 16% of film directors, 29% of producers and 20% of writers in Australia feature films. Female participation is higher in documentary and television. (It would be interesting to research why this is so.) French suggests however that the great success of a few female directors has created the illusion that female directors are not still a minority.

There were no female directed films in Australia between 1933 and 1979. The women’s movement of the 1970’s and the equal opportunity policy born out of this, aided the revival. The Women’s Film Fund was established in 1976. The number of film directors decreased again in the 1990s. French suggests that the assumption that the Australian film industry is more gender diverse than the American one is incorrect. She suggests that this assumption may have made it appear as though a push towards equality wasn’t paramount.

Lack of diversity is caused when people in power to make decisions come from a limited portion of society and thus “draw on a narrow range of experiences.” When this is translated to the screen in turn there will be a limited audience who will relate to these experiences. Therefore French suggests that by having more women in key creative roles there will be more representations of women on screen. French suggests that Australian television audiences are highly supportive of female characters and will become disenchanted if diversity is not increased.

French suggests that female film makers often have specific traits such as an interest in the characters psychology, marginalisation, emotional content and the family and personal realms. I think if we are to discuss this it is vital that we see these traits as not innate but rather a product of the way a women is socialised. French makes note of this.

I disagree with French’s concluding statement that gender no longer matters in the Australian film and television industry. While I understand her sentiment, I think that phrases like that are dangerous, and will be until our patriarchal, cis-centric society is completely overthrown.

Note: Weakness of this article include erasure of non-binary gender identities.

Krausz, P, 2003. Screening Indigenous Australia – An Overview of Indigenous Australia on Film. Australian Screen Education Online, No. 32, Spring 2013, 90 – 95.

Verhoeven, D., 2016. Three ways screen Australia can actually improve diversity in the industry [online] The Conversation Accessed 02/08/2016 http://theconversation.com/three-ways-screen-australia-can-actually-improve-diversity-in-the-industry-51994

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