In the nineties, The Go-Betweens’ Lindy Morrison made the documentary, Australian Women In Rock & Pop Music- Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves. Fast forward to 2018 and the film Her Sound, Her Story documents many of the same issues that are still relevant. Gender disparity in the music industry is a pervasive issue with Play Your Gender from Canada and Breaking The Mould are two other films that examine this problem. Her Sound, Her Story is ultimately a fascinating and entertaining look at these important topics and will continue the conversations while there is still the need for progress.
This film is directed by Claudia Sangiorgi Dallimore and is produced by photographer, Michelle Grace Hunder. The idea actually began when the latter was taking stills photographs for the book, Rise about those in Australian hip-hop. When Hunder realised that there were just ten women in a book spanning in excess of a hundred artists, she knew she wanted to learn more about women’s experiences with the Australian music industry. The pair met Zan Rowe who is interviewed here along with fellow music journalist, Kathy McCabe and the project culminated in some 80 interviews plus a photography series and concert.
There are far too many talking heads to mention here but here is a good sample. There is: Clare Bowditch, Missy Higgins, Katie Noonan, Ella Hooper, Kate Ceberano, Tina Arena, Montaigne, Thelma Plum, Vika and Linda Bull, Stonefield, Mama Kin, Mia Dyson, Julia Stone, Kasey Chambers, Emma Donovan and Jen Cloher, to name a few. There are lots of themes that emerge, from the ageism that is rife in a youth-obsessed industry to how motherhood is placed under the microscope in interviews, yet fatherhood is not really discussed.
Indigenous artists talk about their experiences with racism. Simona Castricum talks about how the industry felt they’d have difficulty marketing her because she’s a Trans artist while Mojo Juju remembers being told that her queerness was too confronting. There are so many stories of women being undermined by men at their places of work and in one harrowing scene we see Dallas Frasca talks about how she was assaulted before going on-stage one night.
There are some very serious topics that are tackled here. The interviewees are incredibly honest and candid in sharing their experiences and thoughts. The editing is quite fast-paced so the camera never really lingers on any one contributor for very long, instead the filmmakers allow for an over-arching story to develop. One gets the sense that this documentary could actually have been a ten-hour television series and still would have scratched the surface in terms of the topics it has to address.
Animation is used to break-up the interviews and present some sobering facts. This documentary does present some commentary on topics that are difficult to watch, but there are also some moments of levity here, whether it is the ridiculousness of male-dominated festival line-ups presented as a weather forecast where it’s raining men or the Amateur Hour skit that tackled reverse sexism in guitar shops. The latter is absolute gold even though sadly, Laura Imbruglia is not interviewed for this documentary. In fact, while there are many women interviewed by the filmmakers, there are some noteworthy omissions including many more artists who aren’t emerging acts like Morrison and her fellow Go-Betweens member, Amanda Brown, among others.
Her Sound, Her Story is a sobering and inspirational look at women in Australian music. It offers a soap box for some strong ladies to describe the systemic issues in this field and they’re often ones that you feel are relevant to other male-dominated institutions and boys’ clubs. Her Sound, Her Story opens up this dialogue by inviting us into an intimate discussion on this important topic at a time where one hopes there will be progress rather than mere lip service. Fingers crossed the future (of music) really is female.
Review Score: FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Her Sound, Her Story plays at Melbourne’s Cinema Nova. It will also have a national run in the future. For more information please visit: www.hersoundherstory.com/