Filmmaker Barbara Hammer holding a camera up to each eye
Stories & Ideas

Fri 29 Jul 2022

Queering the Archive: the cinema of Barbara Hammer

Film Melbourne Cinémathèque Retrospective
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Melbourne Cinémathèque

Australia's longest-running film society

Notes for the 26 Oct – 2 Nov 2022 Melbourne Cinémathèque program.

Over a career spanning 50 years and more than 80 moving-image works, American filmmaker and visual artist Barbara Hammer (1939–2019) initiated a new kind of cinema made from a distinctively female and lesbian perspective, challenging the assumptions of mainstream culture and opening a discourse for marginalised groups in society. Her personal and experimental films sought to inspire social change and make largely invisible bodies, images and histories seen. After coming out as lesbian in the 1970s, Hammer took off on a motorcycle with a Super 8 camera and created the groundbreaking Dyketactics, one of the first films to show uncompromising lesbian sexuality.

Hammer proceeded to experiment with a variety of avant-garde media and multimodal styles to deconstruct heteronormative cinema and create unique works on a variety of topics that are unapologetically honest, undeniably political and beautifully life-affirming. As So Mayer claims, “Hammer defined lesbian cinema almost single-handed…. Her generosity of spirit, intellect and embodiment lives on in the films she made that changed the landscape not only of cinema, but of our queer lives and histories.” This tribute includes a broad range of Hammer’s eclectic shorts and features from across her career dealing with diverse themes including the lesbian experience (Dyketactics, Superdyke, Women I Love), lesbian histories (Nitrate Kisses, The Female Closet, History Lessons, Audience), concepts of time and space (Bent Time, Maya Deren’s Sink), endangered species and artistic forms (Endangered), and ageing and death (A Horse is Not a Metaphor).


Queering the Archive: the cinema of Barbara Hammer

Nitrate Kisses (1992) – Wed 26 Oct, 7pm
Superdykes! The early films of Barbara Hammer (1974–76) – Wed 26 Oct, 8.35pm
History Lessons (2000) – Wed 26 Oct, 9.25pm
Projecting Light and Bending Time: Barbara Hammer in the 1980s (1982–83) – Wed 2 Nov, 7pm
The Female Closet (1998) – Wed 2 Nov, 8.05pm

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Melbourne Cinémathèque

Australia's longest-running film society, Melbourne Cinémathèque screens significant works of international cinema in the medium they were created, the way they would have originally screened.

Melbourne Cinémathèque is self-administered, volunteer-run, not-for-profit and membership-driven. 

Learn more | View the 2022 program | See membership options