Interview :: Tamara Popper – World of Women’s Cinema Film Festival

February 25th 2014


“In some ways we all take for granted the people who came before us. It was difficult, but I think producing is one of those areas where women have always been in the forefront in Australia… The area where it would be great to improve would be more female directors.”

With the 20th World of Women’s Cinema (WoW) Film Festival just weeks away, Tamara Popper tells me she’s been hit by the WoW tsunami. This is her second year as Festival Director and with Rachel Griffiths (Saving Mr Banks, Burning Man) on board as Festival Patron it’s set to be the biggest festival to date.

As the flagship event of Women in Film and TV (WIFT-NSW), a membership-based organisation that promotes women working in the film industry, the WoW Film Festival plays a huge role in supporting women on and off-screen in a highly male-dominated industry. Popper would know, she has had a lengthy career as an independent producer, working on documentaries for SBS, the ABC and others that have earned AFI nominations and selections into the Cannes International Film Festival.

Pat Lovell

Pat Lovell – Australian Producer (Picnic at Hanging Rock, Gallipoli)

She says, however, that working in the Australian industry is better than other countries.“In some ways we all take for granted the people who came before us. It was difficult, but I think producing is one of those areas where women have always been in the forefront in Australia, going back to Pat Lovell, Margaret Fink and Jan Chapman. The area where it would be great to improve would be more female directors… In fact, per capita Australia has more female directors than any Western country, which is impressive, however there are still so many more male directors.”

The situation is worse in Hollywood, she says. “If you look at the Oscars, Kathryn Bigelow is the only woman who has won an Oscar for Best Director (The Hurtlocker). Plenty of women have picked up the equivalent award with the ACTAAs or, as they used to be known, the AFIs.”

Kathryn Bigelow - Academy Awards

Kathryn Bigelow – Academy Awards

So, how do we move forward? Popper believes we need “more festivals like WoW. We’re not the only festival promoting women filmmakers, however female filmmakers are still underrepresented in film festivals which is quite shocking to hear.”

The benefit of a film festival with an agenda like WoW’s is “seeing the world through the eyes of women”. Jackie Weissman’s Rock ‘n Roll Mamas, which documents the careers and family lives of Kristin Hersh of Throwing Muses, Zia McCabe of The Dandy Warhols, and hip hop artist, Ms.Su’ad, is one of Popper’s top picks. “It’s really interesting to see how these women work in rock ‘n roll, another male dominated area, and be mums, bring up their kids and still do their art, play their music. It’s got a strong message without being didactic, if you know what I mean.”

There are some edgy ones in the mix, too, like Sally Mackenzie’s doco A Woman’s Journey Into Sex, which takes us on a journey around the world exploring whether women need emotional connections to have good sex. “Sally meets all sorts of interesting characters, including ex-Hollywood madame Heidi Fleiss and the guys from Thunder Down Under… it’s a bit of an investigative doco about sex, looking into what people are into.”

A Woman's Journey Into Sex - Sally McKenzie

The festival has attracted key personalities in the Australian industry who are on board to present a range of events aside from the film screenings. Margaret Pomeranz will be conducting an ‘In Conversation’ with Producer/Director Jocelyn Moorhouse (Muriel’s Wedding) and the Powerhouse Museum will host a Writers Forum with Jacquelin Perske (Love My Way) and Louise Fox (Dead Europe), bringing stories from the writing room of the Star Wars live action TV series which these two writers collaborated on.

It’s not all about women, though. “We have a couple of male directors whose films are screening at WoW,” Popper says. “We’re not exclusive like that, but the film must have two women in creative areas. It’s great that we had a few entries by men who obviously see it as viable to be in a women’s film festival, because they collaborate with women.”

This approach opens an important conversation around the festival about the significance of both equality, diversity and inclusion in films, television and the mainstream media in Australia. “Many of our Australian filmmakers are from culturally diverse backgrounds; Indigenous, Chinese, Muslim, and Jewish backgrounds, and often their films carry themes of cultural diversity, which is great.” As Popper describes the various ages, nationalities and successes of the filmmakers involved it’s clear that WoW holds an important place in the industry and will do for many years to come.


WHAT :: World of Women’s Cinema Film Festival
WHERE :: Dendy Cinemas, Powerhouse Museum, AGNSW, Parliament House
WHEN :: March 4th – 14th, 2014




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