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Lilias Fraser: a remarkable pioneer of Australian film who overcame enormous personal challenges to make over forty films at a time when most women were still in the kitchen. Her younger daughter, Jane Castle, also a filmmaker, tells Lilias’s story in a moving and poetic meditation, using the rich textures of an unseen part of Australia’s cinematic history and her own highly personal cinematography. This is a poignant insider’s view of an unheralded Australian pioneer.
Lilias’s trailblazing career begins in 1957 with her first film, shot single-handedly on the shores of Moreton Bay. Her films are infused with an upbeat optimism as she seeks to ‘uplift’ people through her art. While juggling her household and her career, she becomes a leader in Australia’s nation-building film industry of the 60s and 70s and makes one of Australia’s first land rights films, This is Their Land.
By the 1980s, unbeknownst to Lilias, she’s become a feminist role model. Younger women filmmakers look up to her as a mentor. Now it’s time for her to look inside to find her own voice. She revisits the mining towns of her industrial documentaries and looks afresh at the women who struggle to survive in them, in Women of the Iron Frontier. In some way they mirror her own struggles. Meanwhile, her daughter has picked up a camera and become a cinematographer. She takes up where Lilias left off.
As Lilias and Jane’s films are interwoven, the mysterious interchange between image and reality, between art and life, become sub-text. The story is narrated as if in letters written to Lilias. Only now can she interrogate her choices and share her own experience. She tracks Lilias’s final years with compassion and honesty. As she reflects on her mother’s journey, she arrives at a place of understanding for the complex struggles of her family and her own role within it.
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