We are thrilled to announce the Senses of Cinema-Monash Essay Prize awarded to the best published work in 2019 by an Australian contributor. This prize has been established in partnership with Monash University to support and showcase critical, informed writing on film and related media, build professional opportunities for film scholars, writers and critics, and contribute actively towards a vibrant film culture.
The judging panel of this year’s prize includes our editor Daniel Fairfax who is also an assistant professor in film studies at the Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, Lesley Chow, film critic and associate editor of Bright Lights film journal, and Claire Perkins, a senior lecturer in film & screen studies at Monash University. We are very grateful to the panel for their deliberation and expertise in awarding the prize this year.
And now, for the announcement! The winner is… Amanda Barbour for her festival report on the 16th Tricky Women/Tricky Realities Film Festival (held in Vienna in March 2019) published in Issue 91. Well done Amanda on a fabulous, considered piece of writing that makes such an important contribution to film scholarship. The judges would also like to give a special acknowledgment to Adrian Danks, with his Cinémathèque annotation Hear That Lonesome Whippoorwill: Terence Davies’ The Neon Bible (1995) and Annabelle Brady-Brown with Nasty laugh Milla, beautiful Milla, a contribution to the March 2019 dossier on Valérie Massadian. Congratulations to all three!
It may seem strange that our award should go to a festival report, and even more so that the report in question does not cover a globally renowned festival such as Cannes or Venice, but a more obscure festival treating a historically undervalued aspect of film production. But with her overview of the 16th Tricky Women/Tricky Realities Film Festival (held in Vienna in March 2019), Amanda Barbour’s “Tricky Women/Tricky Realities and the Body Politic” truly elevated the format by using her report to probe complex theoretical questions relating to cinema, society and identity. Tricky Women/Tricky Realities claims to be the only festival in the world dedicated exclusively to animation made by women, trans- and intergender filmmakers. In this, it casts a light on marginalised cinema in two senses: animation, which has traditionally struggled to gain the same level of cultural capital as live-action cinema, and the work of filmmakers who do not fit the conventional image of the cisgendered male auteur-figure. For Barbour, the festival is thus an important site for querying gendered ethics, since it is an arena for multiple forms of “transgression against the powers-that-be,” and the festival’s magic comes from the “collective catharsis in exchanging the laws of physics with the laws of the imagination, opening our minds to new ways of being and understanding our past, present and future.” This is grounded, as Barbour notes in a conclusion imbued with inspiring futurism, in “the shared experience of challenging patriarchal power.”
In reading her text, all of the jury members were dazzled at her ability to ground her discussion in an intense engagement with the films shown at the festival (which included both contemporary and historical works) and their often technically complex production processes, while also using them as springboards to entertain thoughts about the film industry as a whole and the system of gender oppression that underpins it. While she is not afraid to delve into theoretically complex terrain, including psychoanalysis and Frankfurt School critical theory, her article is thankfully free of academic jargon and the dry, uninspired writing it often fosters. Quite the opposite: the reader can feel Barbour’s passion for her subject, which is palpably conveyed by the exhilarating quality of her writing.
Barbour is thus a more than deserving recipient of this year’s award, but we should also note that the field of Australian-authored articles published in Senses of Cinema this year was a particularly strong one, and selecting her piece as the winner was an extremely tough decision. In this light, we would like to make special mentions of Adrian Danks, with his Cinémathèque annotation “Hear That Lonesome Whippoorwill: Terence Davies’ The Neon Bible (1995)” and Annabelle Brady-Brown with “Nasty laugh Milla, beautiful Milla”, a contribution to the March 2019 dossier on Valérie Massadian. Both pieces are distinguished for their spirited defence of films that may otherwise escape our attention – a critically neglected entry in a revered director’s œuvre in the first case, and the second feature film by a rising auteur in the latter – as well as by the compelling beauty of their writing. We are thus proud to highlight the work of all three writers.