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Film review: The Leadership

Peter Malone MSC  |  05 October 2020

THE LEADERSHIP, Australia, 2020.  Starring Fabian Dattner. Directed by Ili Bare.  97 minutes, Rated M (Mature themes and coarse language).

A must for women. A must for men.

This is an interesting and challenging documentary, written and directed by Ili Bare who has had a successful career in making television documentaries. Here she collaborates with entrepreneur, Fabian Datner, who had been CEO of a clothing company but had moved on to encouraging women in careers.

With this collaboration, The Leadership can be seen as a must for a women’s audience. With the social and financial inequalities in the workplace and in companies between women and men, the film offers a great number of depressing and saddening statistics, The Leadership can be classed as an important must for a male audience. The focus is on STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Medicine) as striking areas of the inequality.

Fabian Datner created a program, Homewood Bound. It involved advertising for 76 places on a voyage to Antarctica, setting out from Patagonia. The places were all for women but achievement criterion was their professional involvement in science. (The ship’s crew was male – and there were men in the facilitator group.)

There is a play on words in the title of the film, highlighted when the title comes on, an initial focus on leader, then the inclusion of ship. This is a voyage for leadership training and learning.

The structure of the film enables continued interest on the part of the audience. First of all, there is a voyage to Antarctica, striking cinematography of the sea, of the snowclad landmass, of the islands and icebergs, close-ups of penguins, sea-leopard, whales, the participants able to get closer during motorboat expeditions. These sequences are intercut with the details of the 21 day voyage.

And the film continues its interest with a range of talking heads. Fabian Datner is able to give the background to the voyage, her intentions, the progress of the course, the discovery of limits in her communication with the women. There is also a strong range of women from different backgrounds, from Australia, the US, France, China… The women speak powerfully, personally and intimately, of their science ambitions and careers, frustrations, of sexual harassment and even assault. They speak well and convince us that they should be listened to. (Included are some enthusiastic male testimonies from colleagues.)

And the third strand throughout the film are the sessions of the course itself. They certainly focus on affirmation, on surfacing hardships and frustrations, the need for proper self-acknowledgement and the consequences. Included in the film are some sessions of frustration on the part of the women passengers themselves, and criticisms of various sessions and of Fabian Datner’s personal style (with sequences, especially the end at her Melbourne home, where she reflects on the voyage and her own styles of communication and leadership). There is added tension when an article appears about the voyage and one of the crew harassing one of the passengers.

Which means that while the voyage was a significant success and important for women, for women from the science fields, to be together, to communicate, to learn, to work together, there are significant directions established for the next Homewood Bound voyage.

And, of course, this challenge must be extended to the worlds of government, business, the churches and religious groups, and other male-dominated organisations.

Dark Matter Distribution 
Released 8 October 
Peter Malone MSC is an associate of Jesuit Media



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