Her Sound, Her Story is a powerful commentary on the struggles and experience of non-white males in the Australian music industry. Made over the course of four years by photographer Michelle Grace Hunder and filmmaker Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore, this documentary places women’s voices at the centre of the conversation.
The film is an intimate look into the experiences and histories of over 40 musicians from all over the country. Featuring interviews with Tina Arena, Jen Cloher, Banoffee, Mama Kin, Julia Stone, Missy Higgins and so many more incredible women, trans and non-binary folk, it is like nothing I’ve seen before.
Each story is beautifully told through the eyes of two incredibly talented women who are equally as invested and passionate about the subject as each of their interviewees. Michelle and Claudia say that Her Sound, Her Story “came from observing the constant conversation about gender inequality and imbalance within the music industry and the arts in general”.
Sexism in the music industry, experienced by both musicians, punters and those working behind the scenes continues to be an issue worldwide. The conversation has begun, but there is still a long way to go in terms of real change. Audiences hear from a huge variety of women throughout the documentary, shedding light on their own experiences as sound engineers, managers, writers, and many other roles from which a perspective isn’t always heard. Now that I’m more aware of all the sides there are, it’s easier to consider these when participating in discussions.
In the film, musician Nina Las Vegas rather candidly states something along the lines of “instead of writing think-pieces about why there aren’t women in music, just start writing about all the cool shit they’re doing and let that speak for itself”. She has a point. I’ve written think pieces about it before, but the film really reminded of how little I know about this problem outside of the pop-punk/heavy music bubble I personally live and work in. I’ve always known that there’s more to the conversation, but having seen this film I now have an idea of where to begin learning more.
As a woman working in music, I’ve experienced much of the sexism and struggle that’s presented in the film. But there’s also so much that I’ll never be able to fully understand, being a white cisgendered woman. Being given insight into the experiences of musicians of colour, like Kardajala Kirridarra, NGAIIRE, Sampa The Great, Thelma Plum and Nattali Rize was a very welcome learning experience for me. More importantly though, is the positive impact those personal stories will have on young women of colour wanting to pursue music, too.
During one of her interview snippets, OKENYO begins to tell a story about an interaction she had with a stranger. A mother recognised Zindzi from her role as an actress on the ABC kids program Play School, telling her that she is her young daughters’ favourite character. OKENYO chokes back tears as she explains that the reason she is this little girl’s favourite character is because ‘Zindzi has the same hair and skin colour as her’. I think every heart in the audience collectively broke at that moment.
The film is as uplifting as it is heartbreaking, and an absolute must-watch for literally everyone in the industry. If you missed out on the screenings so far, Her Sound, Her Story is showing at Splendour In The Grass, and for a limited run at CinemaNova in Melbourne from July 12th.