Jeni Thornley

Presented by the Melbourne Cinémathèque & ACMI

Contested Histories: The Documentaries of Jeni Thornley

Film program


Wed 30 Oct 2024

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Documentary filmmaker, writer and film valuer Jeni Thornley’s (1948–) poetic, often essayistic documentaries are landmarks in Australian independent and feminist cinema, and provide an extraordinary record of society, politics, activism, changing perspectives and modes of filmmaking over a 50-year period, as in her hybrid documentary, To the Other Shore (1998), a diary film about motherhood. Thornley’s filmmaking is often collagist in form and nature. For example, the key film she co-directed with Megan McMurchy, Margot Nash and Margot Oliver, For Love or Money: A History of Women and Work in Australia (1983), brings together a vast arsenal of historical images and sounds to construct a women’s history against the grain of the nation’s archive. Thornley also probes her own film work – and that of others – to create new connections, suggest new absences and forge new histories.

Thornley’s rising sense of awareness reframes previous artefacts within new contexts, communicating a restlessness that highlights the evolving and contested nature and power of the archive as well as the stories it can tell. For instance, in Island Home Country (2008) she uses a wide variety of sources to explore her own white heritage lived on the stolen Aboriginal lands of Tasmania: “It’s as if we grew up behind a hedge, keeping history out.” This program brings together several of Thornley’s key works and reflects a deeply thoughtful and often painstaking process of exploring the ethics of image making, place and identity, as well as making work on stolen land. It includes her first solo work as a filmmaker, the multigenerational Maidens (1978), a landmark in feminist filmmaking, Island Home Country, and her beautiful, farewell “poem”, Memory Film: A Filmmaker’s Diary (2023).

Program to be introduced by the filmmaker.


Cinema 1, Level 2
ACMI, Fed Square

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Films in this program (Wed 30 Oct 2024)

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About 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.

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