You’ve heard of the Bechdel test*? Well, here are 11 Australian films, TV series and online shows that not only pass the test, but were written or directed by a woman.
To coincide with International Women’s Day, we’re taking a look at some of the great productions created by and about women.
And through initiatives like Gender Matters’ Brilliant Stories and Brilliant Careers, we look forward to seeing more and more productions like these in the years to come.
THE DRESSMAKER (2015)
This 2015 blockbuster was championed by producer Sue Maslin, who saw the potential in Rosalie Ham’s book and stuck with it on its 15-year journey to the big screen. It was Maslin who took it to director Jocelyn Moorhouse, who then adapted it for the screen with her filmmaker husband PJ Hogan. It stars Kate Winslet as a woman who returns to her tiny gossipy hometown after years away, to reconcile with her ailing mother (Judy Davis) and correct the wrongs of her past.
An original screenplay penned by writer/director Jennifer Kent that was critically praised both here and abroad, The Babadook stars Essie Davis in a commanding performance as a single mother struggling to raise her young son Noah. Still haunted by her husband’s death, in a car crash en route to the hospital to give birth, her world becomes plagued by something else when she and Noah read a creepy pop-up children’s book about the sinister figure The Babadook.
UPPER MIDDLE BOGAN (2013-2014)
Written in part by Robyn Butler who created the comedy series through Gristmill, the production company she founded with her husband Wayne Hope (who together also created The Librarians and Little Lunch). It stars Annie Maynard as Bess, a middle-class doctor who discovers by accident that’s she adopted and posh Margaret (Robyn Nevin) is not her mother. Instead, her birth parents turn out to be part of a drag racing team in the outer suburbs of Melbourne. Screenwriters Alix Beane and Kirsten Fisher also joined the writing team for Season Two. Meanwhile, Butler, an advocate of gender diversity on screens, also penned, produced and starred in last year’s Now Add Honey.
Asher Keddie stars as 30-something obstetrician Nina Proudman in this hit Channel 10 series, which was written by a team including Debra Oswald, Kylie Needham and Margaret Wilson. Oswald co-created the series with Imogen Banks and John Edwards of Endemol Shine (formerly Southern Star Productions). The directing team was also packed with female voices, including Shirley Barrett, Kate Dennis and Sian Davies, who formed part of the team who brought Nina, and her eccentric family, to life onscreen.
KATH & KIM (2002-2005 ABCTV, 2007 Seven Network, 2012 film)
Comediennes Gina Riley and Jane Turner not only created this hit show through Riley Turner Productions, but also co-wrote and starred in the three ABCTV series, the Seven Network season when it was bought in 2007 and a spin-off film Kath & Kimderella. The “unusual, different” show revolved around mother/daughter duo Kath (Turner) and Kim (Riley), who live in suburban Melbourne with their “hunk of spunk” partners, frequently visited by Kim’s “second-best friend” Sharon (Magda Szubanski, who also wrote the series). Riley also performed the show’s opening number “The Joker”.
An idea developed by the show’s star Rebecca Gibney and her husband/producing partner Richard Bell, it was taken to Matchbox Pictures, who set about writing the series with a four-person team including screenwriter Kirsten Fisher. Co-directed by Peter Templeman and Jennifer Leacey (Wonderland series 2), it follows two strangers (Gibney and Geraldine Hakewill) who intervene in a deadly car-jacking and find themselves on the run with a bag full of money. Driven by two female leads, producer Tony Ayres says it passes the Bechdel Test “with flying colours”, saying they’re too busy trying to stay alive than talk about boyfriends.
THE KATERING SHOW (2015-)
Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan co-write this tongue-in-cheek cooking show, whose new season is set to air on ABC iview in April. The online series looks at food trends such as quitting sugar and the Thermomix to much hilarity and has won awards at the Online Video Awards Australia and New York Television Festival. The Kates also star in the hit show, with McLennan playing a celebrity chef and McCartney, who also directs, an anti-foodie intolerant to most foods, but luckily not spirits (alcoholic ones, not ghosts).
PUBERTY BLUES (2012-)
Based on the 1979 book by Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey (which also inspired the 1981 film), this series starred Brenna Harding and Ashleigh Cummings as best friends Sue and Debbie, as they navigate teenage life in 70s coastal Australia. Screenwriters Fiona Seres and Alice Bell co-wrote the series with Tony McNamara, while Emma Freeman shared directing duties with Glendyn Ivin. The series was produced by Imogen Banks and John Edwards.
DANCE ACADEMY (2010-)
Xenia Goodwin stars as Tara Webster, a 15-year-old aspiring ballet dancer who grew up in rural Australia before being accepted into the country’s best dance school. With three seasons under its belt and a strong fan following around the world, this series is set to make the jump to the big screen this year, as Tara and her friend navigate growing up and pushing for their goals. The series was created by Joanna Werner’s Werner Productions and penned by a large writing team including Samantha Strauss, Deborah Parsons and Sarah Lambert, amongst others. The directing team has also included female directors Cherie Nowlan, Catriona McKenzie and Lynn-Maree Danzey.
THE SLAP (2011)
Adapted from Christos Tsiolkas’ by a five-person writing team that included Cate Shortland, Alice Bell and Emily Ballou, the eight-part series was brought to the screen by four directors. One of those, the set-up director who helmed the first two episodes and established the story and characters, was Jessica Hobbs. The series itself followed the repercussions of a father slapping a child at a family BBQ and featured an ensemble cast including female actors Essie Davis, Melissa George, Sophie Lowe and Diana Glenn.
QUEEN OF HEARTS (2004)
Queen of Hearts is written and directed by Danielle MacLean, who has also written for Redfern Now season 1, 8MMM Aboriginal Radio and many other titles, and produced by Charlotte Seymour. This short film stars veteran actor Lillian Crombie as a much-loved nan and Lisa Flanagan as a concerned daughter. With a sick and dying nan, two generations of women try to deal with their impending loss.
* To pass the Bechdel Test, a film must have at least two women having a conversation about something that is not a man