Author Archives: Jeni Thornley

About Jeni Thornley

I am a documentary filmmaker, writer, film valuer and Honorary Research Associate in the School of Communication, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, UTS. I am currently working on an archival project: ‘memory=film', drawn from my Super8 collection (1976-2003); and developing an essay-memoir about neo-colonising in the Kimberley, ‘Notes From a Dry Town’.

Recent News

September 8th, 2020 | Posted by Jeni Thornley in News - (0 Comments)

2020  memory film: a filmmakers diary is my current film in production – a film poem about time passing, composed of images only from my Super8 archive filmed during 1976-2003. See memory film












NEWS! New feminist film – to be released in November 2020. Brazen Hussies (dir Catherine Dwyer): cinema release, festivals and ABC screenings. Brazen Hussies is a documentary feature about the revolutionary chapter of the Women’s Liberation Movement (1965 -1975);  I am one of many activists interviewed for the film; I briefly discuss an Anti-Vietnam War street theatre group I performed in, and my involvement in the 1970s abortion rights campaign ; in fact, my discussion of an abortion in 1968, when abortion was illegal and a criminal act,  has stirred up a lot of complex emotions; perhaps this is necessary – indicating that it is still a very painful site for me and many women. 


My recent writing 

See my Documentary blog 

Journey Among Women #metoo

Intertextuality in Margot Nash’s ‘The Silences’.

Feminism & Film: Sydney Women Filmmakers, 1970s & 1980s Sydney Film Festival 2017.  Three Retrospective programs including  ‘Film For Discussion’ (1974)  Sydney Women’s Film Group, (dir) Martha Ansara; and the 1983 collaborative feature documentary ‘For Love Or Money: A History of Women And Work in Australia’ .


Jeni and her mum in Film For Discussion

Jeni and her mum (Joan Janson) in Film For Discussion, 1974


For Love or Money filmmakers: L-R Nash, McMurchy, Thornley, Oliver (pic Sandy Edwards)

For Love or Money filmmakers: L-R Nash, McMurchy, Thornley, Oliver (pic Sandy Edwards)

Recent essay on my film Still Life (made with Dasha Ross in 1974 ), ‘Looking at Women’, Peephole Journal investigates the “original intentions of challenging the male gaze. Criticised at the time for perpetuating the sexual objectification of the female body, Thornley counters this now, in 2017, by arguing for the film’s ‘collaborative gaze’,  one that is shared by the women behind and in front of the camera”.

The artist model confronts the male gaze

The artist model confronts the male gaze, Still Life, 1974

Melbourne Women in Film Festival (MWFF) screens Still Life, March 2017.  In online mag ‘Mojo News’ Emily Burkhard reviews ‘Still Life’ as “raw and evocative”, along with a discussion of the contemporary films screened: Clare Ferra’s ‘Progressive Evolution; (2011) and ‘Love Oscillation’ (2012), and Amie Batalibasi’s ‘Lit’ (2016). “The festival stood out for its series of informative and insightful panel discussions during the two-day inaugural showcase – on the role of women in screen culture, how this has evolved from the days of the 1975 International Women’s Film Festival.”

Public screening and discussion: Island Home Country (52 min). Monday 14th March 2017, Mona Vale; hosted by the Aboriginal Support Group – Manly Warringah Pittwater (ASG). ASG started in 1979 as a treaty organization and later developed into a group of people committed to supporting Indigenous Australians in their broader struggle for justice.

Public screening and discussion: Island Home Country (52 min. film & thesis, DCA UTS 2011), Screening Indigeneity Series, Menzies Centre for Australian Studies & the Department of Film Studies, King’s College London, September 15th 2015.

For Love or Money, (dir. McMurchy, Nash, Oliver, Thornley), 2nd International Women’s Film Festival Bangladesh, Seminar Hall, Central Public Library, Dhaka, 16th March 2015.

Curator & Panelist, ‘Women’s Gaze and the Feminist Film Archive’, Future Feminist Archive, Art Gallery of NSW and Sydney College 2015.

Delegate, Critical Thought Versus The Capitalist Hydra, CIDECI, Universidad de la Tierra Chiapas, Mexico, May 2015

Subcomandante Insurgente Moises

Maidens (dir. Thornley 1978), Retrospective Screening, Films from the Co-ops Part 1, Melbourne Cinémathèque, ACMI Cinemas, Federation Square, Melbourne, May  20 2015.

'The Maidens', my mum's school play, Tasmania 1933.

The Maidens’, my mum’s school play, Tasmania 1933 

Referee reader for monograph, Robots and Art: Exploring an Unlikely Symbiosis (eds.), D. Herath, C. Kroos & Stelarc, Springer 2015.

Interviewee: In New Zealand, the Activist Complex Female Protagonist Whispers, (Marian Evans). Research Report on the New Zealand Film Commission’s Gender Policy, 2015

Interviewee, When the Camera Stopped Rolling (dir. Jane Castle). A documentary feature film about Lilias Fraser, pioneer of the Australian documentary film industry. Screen Australia and Documentary Australia Foundation (DAF), 2016

Interviewee, A Filmmakers’ Cinema: 20 Years of the Filmmakers’ Co-operatives (dir. John Hughes & Tom Zubrycki), a documentary film-archival project, 2016.

Interviewee (audio), Genealogy of thought-practice: sexual difference (Dir.Alex Martinis Roe), an arts based documentary film, 2016.

Member Filmnews Digitising Collective: a project to digitise the collection of Filmnews via the National Library of Australia’s Australian Newspapers Digitisation Program. Finance raised from various sources, including Australian Directors Guild (ADG) 2016.

The original Film News Collective c1980

Filmnews Ed board

Recent writing on documentary

August 20th, 2020 | Posted by Jeni Thornley in News - (0 Comments)

In Press: Book chapter: ‘“We are not dead”: Decolonizing the Frame’, (ed.) Knopf et al., First Takes, Fourth World: Global Indigenous Films, Transnational Indigenous Perspectives Series, Routledge, 2021.

Book Chapter: ‘ Island Home Country: On the possibility of praxis between “artefact” and “exegesis” in the creative arts doctorate : a case study’, eds., L. Ravelli et al, Doctoral Writing in the Creative and Performing Arts: the researcher/practitioner nexus (Libri, UK 2014).

PHD thesis: ‘Island Home Country’– Subversive mourning: working with Aboriginal protocols in a documentary film about colonisation and growing up white in Tasmania. A cine-essay and exegesis (online)

Film Festival Review: ‘The eye of the camera: Ethnographic documentary and the Aperture Festival’, Metro Media & Education Magazine, Issue 181, Sept.2014.

Essay : ‘Islands of possibility: Film-making, cultural practice, political action and the decolonization of Tasmanian history’, Studies in Australasian Cinema, Decolonizing Screens, 7.2:  2013.

Film Festival Review: “The ethnography of compassion: documentary in Vietnam”Realtime #13 2013.

Book ReviewReview of “Cinema’s Alchemist: The Films of Péter Forgács”, in Screening The Past, 2012.

TV Series Review: Go back to where you came from: Reality TV encounters the refugee crisis, The Conversation, June 2011.

Book Review:  ‘Australia Documentary: History Practices and Genres’, Trish FitzSimons et al, Cambridge UP, 2011, Metro Magazine, No 173, 2011.

Book Chapter: Island Home Country, ‘Working with Aboriginal protocols in a documentary film about colonisation and growing up white in Tasmania’, in Eds. Peters-Little, Curthoys & Docker,  ’Passionate Histories Myth, Memory and Indigenous Australia’, (Aboriginal History Monograph 21 ANU Press, 2010.


The ethnography of compassion: documentary in Vietnam

August 21st, 2014 | Posted by Jeni Thornley in News - (0 Comments)

Island Home Country was invited to  the inaugural International Anthropological Film Festival in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (Nov 12) ; it was organised by VICAS, Vietnam Institute of Culture and Arts Studies) and screened in four venues across Ho Chi Minh City.

This was a very special event demonstrating what visual ethnography offers the documentary tradition – the  vibrant energy of cultural exchange and shared consciousness. Here is a my review of the Festival in Realtime #13 2013:   “The ethnography of compassion: documentary in Vietnam”. It has now been translated into Vietnamese and published in the VICAS journal.