Patchwork Thoughts on Inclusivity:
SAGA Adelaide: WIFF 2019

by Susan Cilento

I find it much easier to go to cinemas by myself. Firstly, I like being organised and early, it stresses me when others are late and, well, this is Australia so my friends are always late. Secondly, I live in dread that once the credits start someone will immediately turn to me and ask what I thought. Can I pronounce an opinion on something I have only just seen? Doesn’t that make me judgemental? The film isn’t even over yet – I’m busy reading the credits!

Go figure, that I signed up again this year to judge films for SAGA Adelaide: Women’s International Film Festival (August 23rd and 24th at Mercury Cinema – it went really well!). We had 2,080 films submitted this year, thus no time to watch a whole film if the first minute had passable subtitles, some clumsy editing, average sound design. This breaks all my rules about looking for the good amongst flaws. Maybe producers can spot potential, but as film judges we need the finished product. This is one of the nice things about having 24 judges on board. I didn’t need to see (let alone like) every film, or be too scared that my opinion counts for something, only to give other people room to commend the films they wanted.

This is one of the ways we learn about each other: Did you like this film? I didn’t get it. I recognise this music because my old piano teacher made me play it. Wasn’t it a little derivative? That was exquisite. I haven’t seen a film from this country before. My grandmother had a stove like this one.

SAGA Adelaide is a community-based film festival in organisation and execution. We see films from all over the world because I want to know more about the people next to me. Our volunteer group, including the speakers and visual artists, are from Iran, Lebanon, Chile, Italy, Colombia, Germany, as well as being Australian and on Kaurna land.

Diversity in art is a confusing and overwhelming area to work in sometimes. We want to embrace the diversity of Australians, which requires reinforcing the otherness of different cultures. I want women with international backgrounds to find us and see a safe space, but if I go to them with my business card and spiel about inclusivity then I mark them as international people. Defining ‘Australia’ as ‘international’ doesn’t seem reconcilable. We are all here, so, who are ‘we’?


Saturday morning (August 24th) started with a Polish film called Carousel by Patrycja Polkowska in our Europe program. We see the periphery of a complicated family drama through a day Kama has with her daughter, Tosia. They go on fare rides, eat fast food, Kama ignores phone calls from Tosia’s father and doesn’t know what to do when Tosia gets a nosebleed. Afterwards, I commented that it was an interesting role-reversal for the drop-beat parent to be an inept mum and the father a responsible fixer. Another woman in our audience explained that, in Polish culture, this is typical – fathers care for children, women are incapable. What was refreshing for me might more properly be called a tired stereotype.

I like to see films alone, but this is much better. Films travel from their birthplace relatively untouched (though there’s always censorship and subtitles to consider), like novels and unlike theatre. Then, it is informed by the way it is exhibited, which curators know, as do audience members when they laugh in a cinema of laughing people instead of giving a slight chuckle in a lounge room of their dinner and a pet guinea pig. Television writers know this, too, when they fill a frame with text that could only be read by pausing their laptop or Chromecast. I know this when people come to our festival simply because we have put women’s films next to each other for a weekend.

We gather at SAGA Adelaide for the films, certainly, but also for each other. I am grateful there were people in the audience that weekend who could teach me something about Polish parenting stereotypes, how women imprisoned for hysteria were given masks to appear smiling, how seventeen years of war in Lebanon can rob its people of hope, how Papua New Guinea culture gives a wry smile to revenge, how meme culture might not be any deeper than its aesthetic, thought I would like to keep talking about that one.

Between now and next year’s festival, I would like to share with you more extensive writing (in this and other places) on the Australian filmmakers we have on board, the volunteers and their work, film exhibition in Adelaide. Hello everyone! I’d like to join the conversation.



SAGA Adelaide: WIFF website.

Susan Cilento is an aspiring art writer and volunteer Chief Administrator at SAGA Adelaide: WIFF

Published Sep 8, 2019. © Susan Cilento 2019.