Vivid Festival 2018 and Other Delights

The Vivid Festival, which lights up the streets of Sydney over June, is a big feature for this month’s visual sociology for June-July 2018. We marvel at the wonder of an enchanted Cinderella-esque Sociology of Trolleys. We meet a cool watermelon and other creatures along the way. The highlight of the past two months is Dark Emu. Guess who had front row tickets to this vanguard work by Bangarra Dance Theatre?

Dark Emu

Based on Bruce Pascoe’s wonderful and important research into Australia’s pre-history – the agrarian and aquaculture innovation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people prior to invasion is the focus of this beautiful dance performance.

“This work cultivates a physical and visceral response to Uncle Bruce Pascoe’s book and our deep Australian knowledge. Whether we embrace it or not, we are this country – we are of the land, the water, the stars & the dark in between. As Australians awaken from a kind of collective amnesia, these are stories, ideas and practices we should all be able to access, learn from and respect… I feel like Australia is ready…. Dark Emu is a sense that we are part of something greater.” – Yolande Brown, co-choreographer.

“We’re told every day that the world is falling apart around us, but maybe if we just gripped onto something that was there before all this, it would ground us a little. Dark Emu reminds us to take a breath and cling to our piece of land.” – Daniel Riley, co-choreographer.

You must experience this work. The choreography and music are stellar. The dancers carry large props to phenomenal effect – from large rocks, to wood that is rearranged into shelter for the women and later fences to entramp them. A dizzying sequence centres on blow flies representing the contempt of the colonisers for the traditional custodians and their land, which they tried to destroy.

Played in Sydney until 14 July then touring nationally.

Continue reading Vivid Festival 2018 and Other Delights

Thelma: Film Review

Let me tell you about Thelma, screening at the Scandinavian Film Festival. A young woman, the titular Thelma, has led a sheltered and conservative Christian upbringing in the country. She rocks up to university having never really partied, including no alcohol or drugs, and without experience with dating. While she has a strong bond with her parents, especially her dad – with whom she shares all her deepest thoughts – she is very lonely in her new environment. That is until she meets the vivacious Anja.

As it turns out, Thelma starts to be attracted to Anja, who promptly breaks up with her boyfriend. It seems Anja begins to fall in love with Thelma too. Thelma struggles with self loathing and tries to deny her sexuality and at the same begins to have inexplicable seizures that baffle doctors. Around this time, I was thinking: if I have to watch another ‘internalised homophobia’ horror (oh, forgot to mention it’s promoted as a horror), I’m going to throw my popcorn at the screen. (Except not really as someone would have to clean it up.) But the film goes in an unexpected direction. Continue reading Thelma: Film Review

The Ranger: Film Review

The Ranger is a hark back to 80s horror films. A group of young punks run into trouble during a concert and retreat to an abandoned holiday cabin, inexplicably located deep in an isolated area of a national park. Will they be okay? Highly unlikely. The film was very silly, with plenty of hammy humour and over the top gore. It was fun. 6/10.
It was preceded by a short, The Shopper, directed by Dev Patel and story by Aussie Leigh Whannell. Another slasher flick with dark humour about a seemingly bored housewife who has an emotionally abusive husband. But maybe not for long. Also 6/10.

What Keeps You Alive: Film Review

I have a rule of faith when it comes to film festivals – I don’t watch trailers or read reviews. I read the program and decide to see movies based on the blurb. I make an effort to see movies written or directed by women first and foremost (documentaries or dramas especially), or about minority groups and women in general in the second instance. Third, I try my hardest to see horrors because they’re rarely released in Australian cinemas. ‘What Keeps You Alive’ hits two of three: a movie about two (White) women and a horror flick. Directed by Colin Minihan (of Grave Encounters, which I disliked) was not what I expected. What I knew about the plot: Jules and Jackie are celebrating their one year anniversary in an isolated cabin in the woods. It is a horror. That’s it! The leap of faith paid off. It was so strong! Great characters. Lots of bad decisions but cleverness too. I won’t say more. Slick 7/10.

(Postscript: Now on Netflix) 

A Vigilante: Film Review

TW VAW: ‘A Vigilante’ at the Sydney Film Festival is an affecting film about a woman who has survived intimate partner violence and now rescues women and children from violence. Written and directed by an Australian woman, Sarah Daggar-Nickson, it is a bleak but visually arresting story. Sadie (excellent Olivia Munn) lives a solitary existence and accepts little payment for her services. Most of the violence occurs offscreen or it is retold by survivors – the latter is devastating. The group counseling scenes where women share their stories of leaving violence are painful to watch, but told with great love, respect and care. These are common tales but society turns away from this reality. It was heartening that financial abuse was part of the story, as this is one of the many complex reasons women cannot simply leave. The scenes of violence showing Sadie’s husband are harrowing and triggering because the dialogue and cruelty are vivid. As a story of empowerment, it is difficult to reconcile: most women cannot turn to violence to escape violence. In a superhero origin story perhaps the narrative might be seen as an origin story. But the film is not that. It is presented as a hyper real revenge tale. As a feminist statement, however, this ultimately feeds into the cultural expectation that women need to save themselves or be saved, when the fact is that violence against women and children is a structural issue requiring massive social changes. Regardless, the story treats survivors with compassion. I’m ambivalent about its aim and resolution. I’m glad I saw this and you should also watch it. Then read up on the tireless work of survivors, case workers, shelters, and advocates for whom violence and its aftermath is a daily reality. 7/10

The Heroes We Deserve

A handmade market, existential sociology of trolleys, new superheros for the ages – Blackie Blackie Brown and El Jalapeño – plus lots more for the visual sociology of May 2018!

Finders Keepers

Gorgeous afternoon at the Finders Keepers market! Bought lots of handmade goodies from these women makers. 5 May

Continue reading The Heroes We Deserve

Sydney Writers Festival: “My Feminism Will Be Intersectional Or It Will Be Bullshit”

The Sydney Writers Festival had wonderful speakers for the panel, “My Feminism Will Be Intersectional Or It Will Be Bullshit”. This panel doubled as a podcast recording for Pretty For an Aboriginal, facilitated by host Nakkiah Lui (her podcast co-host Miranda Tapsell was in Darwin starring in a new film!). Guests were novellist Zinzi Clemmons, author Aminatou Sow, poet Cleo Wade and editor and author Glory Edim.

Below is a highlights summary of the discussion, and the subsequent input from sociologist and author Flavia Dzodan, whose work, as it turns out, was stolen for the title and impetus of the panel. Continue reading Sydney Writers Festival: “My Feminism Will Be Intersectional Or It Will Be Bullshit”

Dialogue of the Titans

I attended Dialogue of the Titans with Prof Megan Davis and former High Court Justice Michael Kirby. Hosted by the University of New South Wales Pro Vice Chancellor Indigenous. “A dialogue between two extraordinary human rights defenders on holding a United Nations Human Rights Mandate.” An excellent event looking at the work of the United Nations as well as the practicalities (terrible travel conditions for all volunteers, which especially restrict members from developing nations).

There was also discussion of why Australia does not have a bill of rights (terrible). Plus why it’s a problem that Australia rejected the Uluru Statement, the outcome of consultation led by, and with, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people around Australia, which recommended a voice to parliament. Most nations with Indigenous populations have a version of this mechanism that ensures Indigenous people can comment on laws before they’re passed.

More on my Twitter

Night Shift

In the March-April 2018 edition of visual sociology, I travel to Auckland, Brisbane and Melbourne, and a whole lot by night. Plus, the sociology of trolleys is good to us.

Auckland, New Zealand

Last weekend, I gave a talk on “Ending Sexual Harassment in Science, Technology and Maths (STEM) and Academia,” at Kiwi Foo, in Auckland, New Zealand. The discussion was really wonderful, with many thoughful stories shared about experiences of harassment and how to take collective action. In particular, we talked about how men can be better allies to women and femmes. Kiwi Foo is a weekend getaway, with 180 participants who either stay on site camping or in dorms, or nearby the camp grounds. It is an “unconference” where the schedule of talks are not pre-determined by organisers. Instead, everyone comes together on Friday night and puts forward sessions and people can combine their sessions together if they are closely aligned in topic. The sessions are less about the presenter talking – no PowerPoint slides – just setting the scene and then facilitating discussion. The other talks were wonderful and gave me much food for thought. 10 March 2018

Q&A

I was in the audience for Q&A last week. It was really fun! They have live music for audience members, who are free to float around for an hour until it’s time to film. We also stayed almost an extra half an hour for extra filming which goes online. The panel discussed how trashy politics has increasingly become as well as, worryingly, taking away citizenship from dual citizens who travel to conflict afflicted areas. 11 March

Melbourne

Eleven. 28 March 2018

What are you looking at? Mass, Ron Muek. 31 March

Continue reading Night Shift