Revelation Perth International Film Festival documentary: war stories of women and Mt Hawthorn’s Anzac Cottage

Revelation Perth International Film Festival documentary: war stories of women and Mt Hawthorn’s Anzac Cottage

Arts & Culture Places
ANZAC Cottage

This article was originally published on PerthNow.

One of Perth’s prominent feminist writers has directed a 10-minute documentary exploring the ‘forgotten stories’ of Australian women living through World War I.

Private Life of a War Memorial by Dawn Farnham follows three generations of women who lived in Anzac Cottage in Mt Hawthorn, the still-standing ‘practical memorial’ built to commemorate soldiers who lost their lives at Gallipoli.

The film will be screening at Luna Palace Cinema on the closing night of the Revelation Perth International Film Festival, July 16.

The cottage on Kalgoorlie Street was built by volunteers in 1916 and used to house returned wounded soldier Private John Porter.

“When the casualty number (at Gallipoli) started to come back, this group of people were really horrified and needed to mark the occasion,” Farnham said, “People didn’t want to build a stone cross but an actual living monument that would benefit a living returned and wounded soldier. That’s where the building of the cottage is interesting.”

WWI stories typically centre on male soldiers and the battlefield but Farnham wanted to take a different approach and create a film about the cottage through a feminist lens.

“I wanted to take forgotten war stories of women in history and bring them to the centre and recognise that whatever men have done, women have done,” she said. “Wherever men have been, women have been. It’s a story about what women have done and how women have picked up the pieces.

“Although this is a war memorial theoretically for men, we know women are the ones that have to cope with what comes back (from the war).”

One of three women the documentary follows is Private Porter’s granddaughter Anne Chapple, who received a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2022 for her service to community history.

“Anne has a lot of heart and emotion invested in this place, so really trying to tell this story from her point of view was very central,” Farnham said.

The documentary was backed by the City of Vincent and received a $7000 donation, a documentary master class and mentoring during the film’s development and production.

“We’re very grateful for the City of Vincent for backing it,” Farnham said. “I urge people to come along and see what is an extraordinary story told through a very different vein.”

– by Jessica Evensen


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