Logline: A story about women, family and friendship in the Italian heart of rural Australia.
Director: Jary Nemo
Producer: Samantha Dinning, Lucinda Horrocks and Jary Nemo
About the director and producer:
Jary Nemo: (Producer, Director) is the co-founder of Wind & Sky Productions, an independent company specialising in short documentary films on culture, community, history and science.
Lucinda Horrocks (Writer, Producer) is the co-founding director of Wind & Sky Productions. She seeks to tell positive stories which engender social responsibility yet work to a compelling narrative.
Samantha Dinning (Writer, Producer) is an Australian-based producer, writer script coordinator and director. She works in TV production and also directs and produces her own independent dramatic films.
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): Buyers, distributors, journalists.
Funders or production company: Wind & Sky Productions. Supported through funding from the Australian Government’s Your Community Heritage Program
Release date: March 2014
Why did you make The Savoy Ladies Group?
We love creating stories about the extraordinary in the ordinary and everyday. We became fascinated by the culture of North-Eastern Victoria which has been so heavily influenced by post-war migrant culture, in particular by Italian culture.
The Italians moved there and created a distinct kind of Australian life. But it’s also kind of ordinary. We wanted to look into that and see why. And also to celebrate the story of the contribution of women, and the lives of older women, which tend to be bypassed by storytellers of this era.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
The story will take you on a gentle journey into a world you don’t know about. But it’s a welcoming world, with a bit of love and a bit of sadness. The documentary follows Rosa, President of the Savoy Ladies Group, as she tells the story of Italians in the North-East, tobacco farming, women, family and friendship.
Every fortnight for thirty years members of the Myrtleford Savoy Ladies Group have met to play tombola, create plays, go on excursions and maintain their Italian heritage. The group was founded in 1983 to combat the social isolation of Italian women tobacco farmers in the Ovens Valley.
This film takes an observational look at the group’s modern day activities. In the process the film sheds light on the difficulties faced by post-war Italian women migrants in North-East Victoria, their part in the local agricultural industry and their contribution to a distinctive and unique culture.
What led you to this story?
The film’s co-writer and co-producer Samantha Dinning grew up in the North East of Victoria and for a long time had wanted to tell a story about the unique Italian Australian culture of the inland country towns in that area, a story which she felt wasn’t really known in the populous capital cities of Australia.
When she heard the story of the Italian women of Myrtleford and the empowering journey they went on to support each other, she knew it was a story that needed to be told.
Why do you think we’ve had to wait so long for there to be a documentary about these women?
Women, particularly older women, tend to be invisible in our culture. Stories are not told about them, which is a terrible shame because it leads to a lack of diversity in our storytelling.
I think it also took a while for migrant culture to become something of interest and something to be proud of in our culture and our storytelling.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
Some people have really loved it, others find it takes too long to tell the story. It’s a gentle story that takes its time to unfold. It’s not for everyone. Those that take the time out to watch the full story usually find it rewarding.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
All feedback is good. Sometimes it takes a while to synthesise. Films are a conversation with the audience, you should be able to talk about it, take on board the audience’s view, and incorporate that into your next film which is the next conversation.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on this platform?
We would like more people to watch the film and would love to see it distributed to a global audience.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
If film festival directors are interested in showing the film as part of their program that’s brilliant. Distributors and buyers are welcome to look and see if they like it. I would love to talk to journalists and get the story of these wonderful women more widely told.
What type of impact would you like this film to have?
In the world today there is a lot of fear of people who are culturally different, a lot of fear of migrants and those who speak a different language and might have a different set of values. I would like this film to remind audiences that migration has added to the diversity of our communities.
I would like this film to make people think about the face of the other. It would be great if after watching this film audience members made an effort to learn about the diverse communities within their own town or suburb.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or conversation about this film?
What makes a community strong?
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
If you are interested in the history behind the story we produced a digital gallery for Culture Victoria with historic images from the Myrtleford Historical Society and others, which can be viewed here http://www.culturevictoria.com/stories/immigrants-and-emigrants/savoy-ladies-group/ .
As part of this project we also produced two historical essays which are available online, one is about about the history of Migration in North Eastern Victoria < http://windsky.com.au/the-north-east-victorian-migration-story/ >and one is about the history of the Savoy Ladies Group <http://windsky.com.au/the-history-of-the-savoy-ladies-group/ >
What next for the key creatives?
Hopefully, more films!
As we speak (May 2016) Jary and Lucinda are working on a story about 1970s Gay Liberation movement in Australia. Sam Dinning is currently working on a documentary about World War 1, with filming taking place in Turkey.