Ties that bind : the psyche of feminist filmmaking : Sydney, 1969-1989

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The purpose of my research for this thesis has been to investigate the psychic and emotional history of the milieu of independent, feminist filmmaking that began to form within the Women's Liberation Movement in Sydney in 1969. My interest in the psyche of the milieu has been twofold: to explore the possibility of writing an interior or subjective history, not of an individual but of a political milieu; and to grapple with the trajectory of the utopian, activist politics of the 1970s into the 1980s. I began my research by reading over five hundred funding applications from the files of the Women's Film Fund - an extensive archival record of the interaction between the funding femocracy and aspiring filmmakers. The building blocks of the thesis derived from interviews with founding members of the Sydney Women's Film Group (SWFG) and the Feminist Film Workers (FFW), and with former managers and Advisory Panel members of the Women's Film Fund. I consulted the SWFG and FFW records held (uncatalogued) by the National Film and Sound Archive, and I was given access to papers from the personal files of some of the filmmakers. I also viewed the body of films associated with the women's collections at the former Sydney Filmmakers Co-operative and the Women's Film Fund. From 1969-89 there were three major reconfigurations in the psyche of the milieu. The 1960s liberationist ethos - characterised by energy, excitement and eros - was transformed into an ethic of duty, discipline and sacrifice in the late 1970s. In the 1980s, feminist activism reached a limit point which turned the milieu's attention to the psychic foundations of its own origins and to the question of what had been sacrificed in the formation of the feminist activist. This question haunts the films of the 1980s through the insistent figure of the maternal. The ties that bound this milieu to a luminous vision of the future had their origins in a deeply shadowed image of the immediate past. This psychic reality is a point of origin and return as the milieu continues to remake itself through the cinema, into the 1990s.
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