1977 / Director. Tom Cowan.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
Much like WAKE IN FRIGHT, JOURNEY AMONG WOMEN spent decades collecting dust somewhere amongst the archives. Despite being critically praised upon its release it fell into obscurity and became a lost & forgotten classic. It wasn't until the National Film & Sound Archive dug it up, brushed it off and released it on DVD that audiences were finally able to see it. I had known about the film for years. Its legacy as a powerful, confronting and provocative drama had always cemented itself into my consciousness. It was also a rarity in that its feminist storytelling was incredibly jarring to audiences during the 70s and few films before it had been so audacious in their depiction of rape and degradation. The film takes place in the early colonial years of Australian federation. A group of female prisoners are habitually raped, beaten and sodomised by the prison guards (the red coats). When a guard's wife witnesses the brutality she shoot and kills the attacker. She frees the women and they all flee into the wilderness. Assuming that the women will return, the authorities abandon their chase, unaware that the escapees set out for a remote area where they establish their own utopia. With an aboriginal woman teaching them to live off the land they live frivolously and free from oppression and abuse. Before long the red-coats catch up with them and what ensues is an ultra violent, disturbing and primalistic confrontation that is as shocking now as it was then. Watching JOURNEY AMONG WOMEN for the first time recently I was completely left agasp. I had long considered WAKE IN FRIGHT to be one of the most emotionally taxing Australian films, but I can sense this one creeping up behind it. The performances were all incredibly courageous... whether it's the women performing completely nude in the middle of an unforgiving landscape or the men who were tasked with simulating some of the most abhorrent predatory sexual acts... all involved were phenomenal. The production notes suggest that the filming of JOURNEY AMONG WOMEN was volatile with disagreements over the subject and protests against what was demanded of the women. The entire cast and crew spent 6 weeks isolated in the bush, with no communication to the outside world. The result is a confronting, realistic and horrific film that ought to be celebrated as one of Australia's best. Highly recommended.