This program highlights the ground-breaking work undertaken by first- and second-generation migrant women directors in Australia in the 1970s and 1980s. Although women worked in a range of capacities in fiction, documentary and experimental cinema during this era, there were only two full feature films directed by women in Australia in the 1970s. The first of these, four years prior to Gillian Armstrong’s celebrated My Brilliant Career (1979), was The Golden Cage (1975), a drama reflecting on the Turkish migrant experience shot on 16mm by Russell Boyd and directed by filmmaker, opera singer, actor and theatre manager, Ayten Kuyululu (1930–2019). Kuyululu migrated to Australia with her family in 1971, sang for a time in the Australian Opera, ran the Australian Turkish People’s Playhouse with her husband, and directed two uncompromising films reflecting critically on the Turkish diaspora. Kuyululu’s two films screen with Sophia Turkiewicz’s (1946–) award-winning first feature, Silver City (1984), a drama following the journey of Nina, a Polish woman who arrives in Australia in 1949, and her experience of a migrant camp on the outskirts of Sydney. Turkiewicz has made a career working in television, but has also completed three films examining the lives and experiences of Poland migrants in Australia, including her AFTRS graduating film, Letters from Poland (1978), and her extraordinary documentary Once My Mother (2013).
7:00pm THE GOLDEN CAGE
Ayten Kuyululu (1975) 70 mins – Unclassified 15+
Although My Brilliant Career is generally considered to be the first fiction feature directed by a woman in Australia since the early 1930s, Kuyululu’s bracing migrant drama preceded it by four years. Shot on 16mm on a low budget by the great Russell Boyd and screened at the 1975 Women’s International Film Festival, it is an uncompromising account of the cultural, social and religious difficulties faced by two Turkish migrants.
Preceded by A Handful of Dust Ayten Kuyululu (1974) 42 mins – Unclassified 15+. Largely set in Sydney’s industrial suburbs, Ayten stars with her husband Ilhan in the tale of a middle-aged woman drawn into a blood vendetta.
Prints courtesy of the National Film and Sound Archive, Australia.
The Golden Cage: Ayten Kuyululu and Australian Cinema
by Adrian Danks
9:10pm SILVER CITY
Sophia Turkiewicz (1984) 98 mins – PG
Judged “one of the best [Australian] films of the 80s” by David Stratton, Turkiewicz’s deeply affecting drama of the challenges of migration and resettlement focuses on the experiences of Nina (a truly radiant Gosia Dobrowolska, herself a recent arrival to Australia) in and around Silver City, a migrant camp on the outskirts of Sydney. Tracing the star-crossed affair between Nina and Julian (Ivar Kants), this exquisitely composed period film is shot in ’scope by John Seale, produced by Joan Long and benefits from a beautifully structured script by Turkiewicz and Thomas Keneally.
35mm print courtesy of the National Film and Sound Archive, Australia.
Silver City (Sophia Turkiewicz, 1984)
by Grace Boschetti