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Goddess: Power, Glamour, Rebellion

This world-premiere exhibition at ACMI celebrates women across 120-plus years of screen history.
By Sarah Ward
April 05, 2023
By Sarah Ward
April 05, 2023

We're the country that gave the world Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie, to name just a few renowned Australian actresses owning the silver screen in recent years. Accordingly, we're no stranger to celebrating formidable women in cinema. It tracks, then, that Melbourne's Australian Centre for the Moving Image has curated a world-premiere exhibition dedicated to femininity across screen history — which is running from Wednesday, April 5–Sunday, October 1.

Six-month-long showcase Goddess: Power, Glamour, Rebellion declares its affection for ladies of the screen right there in its name. Examining how women are represented in cinema and television, it pays tribute to standout ladies, how depictions and expectations of femininity have changed, and what female talents have symbolised — and been forced to deal with — about and from the society around them.

It's both a massive and a landmark exhibition. More than 150 original costumes, objects, artworks, props and sketches are now gracing the Federation Square venue's walls and halls, all championing oh-so-many women and their impact. Launched in-person by the one and only Geena Davis, who is also the exhibition's lead ambassador, Goddess fittingly includes outfits worn by her and Susan Sarandon in 1991's Thelma & Louise — and that's just the beginning of its treasures.

Among a lineup that spans threads that've never been displayed before, various cinematic trinkets, large-scale projections and other interactive experiences, attendees can check out odes to 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, there's Mae West's sky-high heels from 1934's Belle of the Nineties, as well as Michelle Yeoh's fight-ready silks from 2000's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

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

As it does with its big exhibitions, ACMI is pairing Goddess' wide-ranging display with soundscapes by Melbourne-based composer Chiara Kickdrum, and also hosting a sprawling events program complete with late-night parties, performances and talks — and film screenings, of course. Fancy taking an in-depth curator tour of the exhibition after hours? That's on the bill monthly.

There's also a music program called Goddess Nights from late May, which'll focus on three femme-centric live music lineups with performances by DJ JNETT, CD, POOKIE and Ayebatonye — and a curated range of food and booze put together just for each evening.

For film buffs, movie series Divine Trailblazers will focus on contemporary actors at the height of their powers, while the Goddess Sundays is all about on-screen personas. So, the first includes Angela Bassett's Oscar-nominated performance in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Academy Award-winners Michelle Yeoh and Jamie Lee Curtis in Everything Everywhere All At Once, Cate Blanchett conducting a masterpiece in Tár, Viola Davis in warrior mode in The Woman King, Filipino actor Dolly De Leon stealing every scene she's in in Triangle of Sadness, and Leah Purcell writing, directing, producing and starring in The Drover's Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson.

Images: Eugene Hyland Photography.

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