A World-Premiere Exhibition About Women Across Film History Will Take Over Melbourne's ACMI in 2023

Curated by ACMI, 'Goddess' shines a spotlight on femininity on-screen, featuring 150-plus original objects, artworks, props and sketches.
Sarah Ward
Published on December 13, 2022

As the country that gave the world Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie, to name just a few world-famous Aussie actresses owning the silver screen in recent years, Australia is no stranger to celebrating formidable women in cinema. It tracks, then, that the country's national centre devoted to moving pictures — aka the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne — has curated a world-premiere exhibition dedicated to femininity across film history.

Girls to the front at this six-month-long showcase, with Goddess declaring its affection for ladies of the screen right there in its name. Displaying from Wednesday, April 5–Sunday, October 1, it's both a massive and a landmark exhibition. More than 150 original objects, artworks, props and sketches will grace the Federation Square venue's walls and halls, all championing oh-so-many talented women and their impact upon cinema.

Britt Romstad, 2022, photo by Phoebe Powell. Costume: Kitty (Elaine Crombie) costume, Kiki and Kitty, Australia, 2017, designed by Amelia Gebler, courtesy of Jetty Distribution Pty Limited. Backdrop: Marilyn Monroe on the set of Some Like It Hot, photo by Don Ornitz, © Globe Photos / ZUMAPRESS.com. Image courtesy of ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo.

That lineup includes costumes that've never been displayed before, various cinematic treasures, large-scale projections and other interactive experiences. While exploring the female footprint upon film is an immensely worthy subject, Goddess will also chart how representations of femininity have changed over the years — not just in different eras, but in different places, too — and inspire a rethink of plenty of cinema's memorable female characters.

Silent-era sirens, classic Hollywood heroines, unforgettable femme fatales and villains, Bollywood stars, women in China and Japan's cinematic histories: they're all being given the spotlight. Goddess will also dive into provocative on-screen moments from Hollywood's silent days through to today that've not only left an imprint, but also played a part in defining (and altering) what's considered the feminine ideal. Expect an interrogation of how women on-screen have helped to redefine fashion expectations, sparked a boundary-breaking genre and spearheaded the #MeToo movement — and to spend time thinking about how screen culture has shaped societal views of gender.

Blonde Venus, 1932, Marlene Dietrich. Image courtesy of PARAMOUNT PICTURES / Ronald Grant Archive / Alamy Stock Photo.

ACMI hasn't revealed the full slate of women highlighted, or films, or items that'll be on display, but the details revealed so far are impressive. Think: Marlene Dietrich in 1930's Morocco, Pam Grier's spectacular Blaxploitation career, Tilda Swinton in 1992's Orlando and the aforementioned Robbie via 2020's Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). Plus, Mae West's sky-high heels from 1934's Belle of the Nineties, costumes worn by Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon in 1991's Thelma & Louise (1991) and Michelle Yeoh's fight-ready silks from 2000's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon will also feature.

The list goes on, clearly, spanning Anna May Wong, Marilyn Monroe, Laverne Cox and Zendaya as well. And, expect everything from Glenn Close's Cruella de Vil in 102 Dalmatians to the Carey Mulligan-starring Promising Young Woman to get time to shine.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000, Yu Xiulian costume.

"The women of Goddess are bold, rebellious and defiant. Their power is expressed in numerous ways — in what they wear, how they move and the stories they tell," said ACMI Director of Experience and Engagement Dr Britt Romstad, announcing the exhibition.

"ACMI's exhibition honours their influence and daring, and explores how they have transformed the face and expectations of on-screen femininity for audiences, time and time again," Romstad continued.

Thelma and Louise, 1991, L-R Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, © MGM. Image courtesy of Moviestore Collection Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo.

Goddess will pair its wide-ranging display with soundscapes by Melbourne-based composer Chiara Kickdrum, and also feature a sprawling events program complete with late-night parties, performances and talks — and film screenings, of course. The full program, including guests, will be announced in February 2023, which is when tickets go on sale.

Unsurprisingly, the exhibition is ACMI's big midyear blockbuster — and its 2023 contribution to the Victorian Government's Melbourne Winter Masterpieces series, as Light: Works from Tate's Collection was in 2022.

After showing in Melbourne for its premiere season, Goddess will then tour internationally, taking ACMI's celebration of women on-screen to the world.

Limehouse Blues (AKA. East End Chant), 1934, L-R Anna May Wong, George Raft. Image courtesy of Everett Collection Inc / Alamy Stock Photo.

Goddess will display at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Federation Square, Melbourne, from Wednesday, April 5–Sunday, October 1, 2023. For more information, and to join the ticket waitlist, head to the ACMI website.

Top image: Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, 2020, Margot Robbie, © Warner Bros. Image courtesy of LANDMARK MEDIA / Alamy Stock Photo.

Published on December 13, 2022 by Sarah Ward
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