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REVIEW: Goddess. Power. Glamour. Rebellion - celebrating women in film

ACMI’s latest exhibit celebrating women through 120 years of moving image history.

Image supplied by ACMI


The exhibit begins with bright pink surroundings and a sign that reads “Goddess”, preparing you for what is to come. Heading down the stairs, you are engulfed in walls of silver and sparkles - the perfect representation of glamour and “femininity”.



Photo by Jemma van Zaanen

Turning the corner, the iconic Marilyn Monroe song “Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend” is being played on a loop with various women imitating the instantly recognisable ensemble. From Blake Lively to Margot Robbie to Chantelle Winnie, the hot pink dress is on full display.


This dress opens the exhibit with a proclamation of loud femininity that demands to take up space. For Monroe’s famous song in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, she was originally going to wear a risque showgirl outfit, but after it was discovered she had posed nude in a magazine pre-fame, designer Travilla was ordered to change it.


So it became the dress we all know today, and today it symbolises loud femininity - through its hot pink colour to its huge bows - it demands to be noticed. It has been imitated again and again throughout film history.


The projection and costume invite the viewer to reflect on what makes a “goddess” or icon on screen and how the portrayal of women in film has changed over the years.


ACMI describes Goddess as celebrating “women and gender-transcending superstars who shaped their own roles, took creative control and fought a system that tried to exploit them.” Choosing Monroe as the opener is a stellar choice.



Photo by Jemma van Zaanen

Throughout the exhibit, you are surrounded by hot pink walls, plush couches and dim lighting that embody the standard perception of ‘classic femininity’ regularly accepted by society.


A variety of trailblazers, icons and talented women from across the globe are showcased. From inspiring stories of Dorothy Dandridge, the first African American woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, to Meena Kumari, who is known as one of the greatest actresses of Indian cinema.


The exhibit continues with multi-sensory projections, photos, artworks, costumes and magazines. They work together to tell the stories of groundbreaking achievements of women who have paved the way in film.





Photos by Jemma van Zaanen

Towards the end of the exhibition, iconic film scenes from projectors play on a loop. Scenes of women delivering classic lines play one after the other, celebrating a historical collection of talent.


The immersive audio on play brews a theme of reflection that demands we have more appreciation for women in film, the roles they have had in shaping the industry, and the ways in which we can expect to see it mould and change. Additionally, costumes from films Thelma & Louise and Promising Young Woman take the forefront, combining as a powerful display.



Photo by Jemma van Zaanen

Feeling empowered and excited about the future of women on screen, the visitor is farewelled with a series of projected goodbyes from famous women spanning generations of film.


Goddess. Power. Glamour. Rebellion walks us through the historical years of women in film, demanding that we recognise their incredible creativity and fearlessness that have shaped the industry and made it what it is today.


The exhibit is on daily until October 1 at ACMI. For further information, visit acmi.net.au

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