Touted as one of this year’s must-see documentaries and described by Australian filmmaker Gillian Armstrong as an emotional and uplifting experience, The Baulkham Hills African Ladies Troupe tells the stories of four courageous and charismatic African women who have survived harrowing journeys to make new lives in Australia.
Director Ros Horin was researching the topic of gendered violence for a theatre piece in 2011 when she became inspired by the strong, funny and compelling women she met.
“I wanted to make a piece of theatre about violence against women that explored how women survived and how women could put their lives together again,” Ros says.
“Once the women and I started talking and working together, extraordinary things, and really quite profound things, started coming out in the workshop.”
The documentary’s gestation was a long one. Ros decided to film the play’s workshops and rehearsal process, but it was only after a triumphant run of stage shows that she realised how powerful it could be on the big screen.
“I could see that the play was having an incredible impact on audiences,” Ros says. “I could see how the women were starting to grow and become empowered and change.”
After each performance of the play, audience members would come forward wanting to share their own stories of survival. Ros hopes that the documentary will be more cause for hope and change.
“We really want to change community attitudes towards women who have been abused,” she says. “It is incredibly important that women’s voices be heard around the issue and we don’t maintain the cloak of hidden silence and shame.”
Despite the film’s heavy subject matter, audiences will walk away with a life-affirming message.
“It’s a big story from beginning to end. It’s also got a lot of lightness as well as darkness,” Ros says.
“During the process of making the play, we had heaps of laughs, sang, did drumming and dancing and told jokes. These women have a natural resilience and sense of humour. It’s a great insight into another culture, and just some really inspiring women.”
The Baulkham Hills African Ladies Troupe is screening at these Melbourne cinemas:
- Cinema Nova, Carlton
- The Classic, Elsternwick
- Lido Cinema, Hawthorn
- The Cameo, Belgrave