Equal the Contest to premiere at documentary film fest

June 9th, 2023Equal the Contest to premiere at documentary film fest

When documentary maker Mitch Nivalis contacted The Local a little way back requesting use of an article the paper had published in 2017, editor Donna Kelly was happy to oblige.

Words: Eve Lamb. Images: Mitch Nivalis

When documentary maker Mitch Nivalis contacted The Local a little way back requesting use of an article the paper had published in 2017, editor Donna Kelly was happy to oblige.

Mitch, who resides just out of Castlemaine, was keen to include the article as part of their new doco Equal The Contest to help “connect the dots for the history of women’s football in the area.”

“I’m making a self funded documentary film called Equal the Contest about my football club The Mt Alexander Falcons in regional Victoria,” Mitch told Donna at the time.

Now that documentary is about to have its world premiere as part of the ninth annual Castlemaine Documentary Film Festival happening this month.

The film synopsis provides a taste for what Equal The Contest is all about: “When the rules exclude you, rewrite them,” it states, and continues…

“When a filmmaker joins a new local women’s footy club in central Victoria, a simple desire to play becomes a complex journey of inclusion and belonging. An unexpected turn of events means the team has to fight to play. Their campaign challenges age-old traditions and joins the wider movement for gender equity.”

The documentary’s premiere screening happens Saturday June 17 at 5pm and will be followed by a panel discussion with Mitch who also co-produced Equal the Contest with Tony Coombs.

Mitch’s role in making the documentary was initially Director and Director of Photography, but that expanded when they realised their own lived experience was a key part of the story…”So I’m not only the maker, but the participant, which was extremely challenging, confronting and in many ways healing,” Mitch said.

“During the making of the film one of our executives, Sam Henty, sent me a link to a 2017 article that had been written by Heather Mutimer and published in The Local about two women’s football teams that played two games in 1947 / 48 – The Castlemaine Woollen Mill women’s football team, and a Daylesford women’s football team which was a combination of two teams that existed in Daylesford at that time,” Mitch said.

“So that sent me on a quest to find any surviving members from the Castlemaine team. I did end up finding a woman called Mavis, who ended up becoming a much loved part of our story. So I’m extremely grateful to The Local for celebrating women’s sporting history and shining a light on some of the pioneers of our local area.”  

But Mitch saysbarriers still exist for women and gender diverse people to access and participate in sport across codes in Australia and hopes the documentary will contribute to positive change.

“I hope Equal the Contest creates an opportunity for people to understand how to create safe and inclusive spaces within clubs, particularly at the local level and to open up important conversations,” Mitch said.

“Conversations around fair and equal access to resources like gender neutral changerooms, playing and training times, distribution of club finances and allocation umpires, as well as conversations around access to safe spaces to participate for trans and gender diverse people.

“Historically, particularly male dominated sport, has focused on winning at all costs, on field aggression and making excuses for off-field incidences of violence and Equal the Contest shows how the Mt Alexander Falcons is leading by example to change club culture and provide a new model for community AFL. 

 “I’ve always been interested in documentary and I make short advocacy based doco style video content as part of my production company MDP Photography and Video.

Equal the Contest has been my biggest undertaking to date though and the first time I’ve made a feature length film, although it comes off the back of a 35min doco called The Wonder of Improvisation that I made in 2017.

“Very quickly when turning up to the Falcons first ‘Come and Try’ day, I knew I had found a community unlike anything I’d ever been part of.

“The club and my teammates have become like a family to me and it has become a space where we are all able to celebrate each other, regardless of race, sexuality, gender identity, age, body size or ability.”

Those keen to get more information about Equal the Contest, the festival it’s part of, and to book tickets can head to: https://cdocff.com.au/2023-festival/equal-the-contest/

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