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Post-production   /  Jeni Thornley

‘memory film: a filmmaker’s diary’

An immersive, poetic diary film about transformation and ‘the personal is political’.


Impact areas






  • DIRECTOR JENI THORNLEY Editor Lindi Harrison

  • PRODUCER C0 PRODUCER: TOM ZUBRYCKI; Consultant Producer Megan McMurchy



‘memory film: a filmmaker’s diary’ is an immersive poetic documentary based on Jeni Thornley’s Super8 archive (1974-2003) filmed during the decades of her political and personal filmmaking, while producing ‘Maidens’, ‘To the Other Shore’, ‘Island Home Country’ and the collaborative feature ‘For Love or Money’. Documenting the activism of three decades amidst the intense sexual politics of radical feminism and social change, ‘memory film’ tells the inner story of a journey of liberation – gender fluidity, utopian feminism, love and its tribulations, the pleasure and pain of motherhood, violence against women, the desire for a world free of war and colonizing, and ultimately mortality and impermanence.

The impulse for "memory film" comes from the “Japanese death poets” who write poems about the transience of life. Householders write poems as a gift to their children – a legacy of beauty and insight gathered over years – a “farewell poem to life.”

The film journeys several pathways of liberation, including psychotherapy and spirituality as companions to political activism. Accompanied by a unique music score, with no speaking voices, the film offers a reflective experience into radical politics, social change and the dynamic interplay between the personal and the political.

Support this project

28.00% funded
  • $25,000.00

  • $7,000.00

  • 19

Minimum amount is $ Maximum amount is $





Herath Herath $970.00
Cathy Rytmeister $500.00
Catherine Dwyer $30.00
Kerstin Knopf $100.00
Ray Argall $200.00
Lauren Carroll Harris $50.00
Martha Ansara $200.00
Helen Grace $200.00
Susan Locke $50.00
Anonymous $500.00
Anonymous $250.00
Hel Carter $200.00
Mark Parry $50.00
Karen Pearlman $100.00
Anonymous $500.00
Megan McMurchy $1,000.00
Felicity Collins $1,000.00
Sally Jackson $100.00

Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

'memory film' offers an immersive experience of change, both personal and political. From liberatory feminism, to the organized movements for equality and human rights, to an inner journey – the crisis of self, gender, motherhood, war, family life and spirituality and mortality. Women and girls are deeply affected by society’s expectations of them – ‘memory film’ suggests a ‘space of possibility’ providing insights into the process of change and how to consolidate a more unified self amidst conflicting demands.


What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

memory film’ suggests a ‘space of possibility’ – an immersive experience of change, both personal and political, opening up diverse pathways of liberation through feminism, therapy and spiritual practice. The film functions as a guide, providing ‘lived experience’ of a journey of liberation across historical eras of social change for women. Viewers may experience a shift from inner conflicts to a clearer sense of self, gaining a sense of ethics and empowerment for life and its challenges.


What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?

Short Term: Through a journey into ‘the personal is political’ viewers develop an understanding of their situation and societal expectations. Identifying with the lived experience embodied in this personal film archive, which illustrates ways of working through complex social, family and relationship issues, ‘memory film’ offers a unique ‘space of possibility’; this can assist in the development of an ethical and psychological frame for personal and social change.

Medium Term: Develop political and community based actions which help transform personal situations as well as contributing to wider social change; connections then develop with a wide range of people and linked organisations; isolation is lessened, optimism grows and practical solutions emerge.

The Long Term impact: Better understanding of social change and personal transformation and the capacity to actively improve conditions around women's and men's lives.


How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?

‘memory film’ is an experiential, lyrical film. Its outcomes are internal, embodied and cathartic – expressing cinema’s power, not in an ‘issue’ based approach, but with a poetic sensibility via images and music, as in silent cinema.
The preferred exhibition is an immersive gallery space, like ACMI, curating the film alongside its companion films ‘Maidens’, ‘To the Other Shore’, ‘Island Home Country’ and the collaborative feature ‘For Love or Money’. These earlier films use footage from the Super8 Archive which reflects the different eras and issues of each film; they screen on smaller monitors, in a linked space, as audiences move in and out and engage with the films at their own pace. This creative, interactive, gallery viewing experience contexts film both historically and as an art cinema practice and will be supported by discussion groups and seminars, handouts, website, study guide and collaborative social media sites which also support the film’s wide non theatrical distribution


How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?

1. The National Film and Sound Archive purchased and digitized the historical Super8 Collection. A collaborative relationship will be developed for the film’s exhibition and distribution supporting NFSA’s mission: ‘a living archive for everyone, relevant, engaged and accessible.’

2. My reciprocal relationship with UTS (Communication FASS – Visiting Scholar) provides access to Media Lab, creative collaborations with staff and students and access to local and international academic networks. The ‘memory film’ project and companion book chapter are my current publications; tertiary networks will offer specific distribution and exhibition pathways.

3. Social connections are being developed with ‘issues based’ organisations, women’s and maternal health organisations, psychotherapy and art therapy organisations, feminist groups, community organisations, meditation, mindfulness, Buddhist and recovery groups, local history groups, reconciliation and anti-nuclear organisations.

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?

The experience of viewing ‘memory film’ will initially inspire an internal process rather than a specific ‘call to action’. The film may trigger insights into the viewer’s own story and into women’s ‘inner’ stories more widely; viewers may try and seek out a therapist, a recovery group, or learn to manage feelings and thoughts through mindfulness practices, spirituality or through creativity and metaphor; they might want to express their own ‘lived experience’ and so research their own family history, dig out their own photographs and home movies and develop creative projects.

To further these aspirations they might contact relevant support groups, community groups and community-led solutions, view other related films, multi-platform media sources, access websites, archives – all leading to the development of imagination, courage, greater social connectedness, changes to their own situation and above all dignity.

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

• The response to the theatrical, intertextual screenings in an immersive gallery context
• Favourable film reviews and awards
• Attendance numbers at screenings and seminar panels in film festivals, cinemas and community special interest groups and multi media and online platforms
• Extent of exposure of the film’s ideas via print and online social media
• Invitations to international and local film festivals
• Community screenings across Australia
• Evaluating the percentage of audience accessing resources and support services via the film’s website and social networking sites
• The sweep of non- theatrical distribution – ie streaming to educational, archival and film culture organisations and DVD sales
• The number of community screenings held by stakeholders
• National broadcast TV release linked to social media sites where we can track engagement
• The extent of sharing by viewers lived experience who, by connecting to the film, have developed more capacity to transform their liv