“CROCADYKE DUNDEE”/”WINE, WOMEN & FRIENDS”— Two Documentaries from Fiona Cunningham-Reid

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“Crocadyke Dundee”/”Wine, Women & Friends”

Two Documentaries from Fiona Cunningham-Reid

Amos Lassen

Two lesbian-themed documentaries “Crocadyke Dundee/Wine, Women & Friends” are being released on DVD in the UK from November 23rd and hopefully an American release will follow. “Crocadyke Dundee” tells the story of Dawn O’Donnell was a convent girl who later became a professional ice skater and traveled the world ending up in Australia in the 1950s with almost no money. By the time that she died in 2007, she had stormed through Sydney’s gay underworld and built herself an empire of bars, clubs, steam rooms, sex shops and drag shows, inspiring “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”.

O’Donnell was a bit of a legend in the Sydney gay scene. She opened numerous bars, clubs and other venues (including sex shops). But the film is not just about her—we see how gay life has changed in Australia’s most populous city and we also see that involvement started back when being gay was illegal. At that point there were few gay venues and those that existed were at risk of being raided (indeed it’s suggested that having half their clientele occasionally locked up was built into the business plan of some of these bars). But even with the oppression and the disdain of society, we see that those involved generally had a great time. O’Donnell became a key figure in the Sydney gay scene after she was fired because someone recognized her voice in a documentary about lesbians. She went on to build a mini empire, with many of her establishments featuring over the top drag shows which became the influence for “Priscilla Queen Of The Desert” and she actually owned the hotel seen at the beginning of the movie and milking it for all its worth.

She was a fascinating woman who had a knack for turning a profit and taking no prisoners. There were rumors that she was connected to organized crime and may even have had someone murdered. This is a really interesting movie and we see the woman at the center as a way to look at he LGBT community. We see how the bars and other gay helped to shape and build the community. Additionally we get the thought that as LGBT life goes more mainstream we’re in danger of losing something special.

“Wine, Women & Friends” is about Carole Leblanc and Jo Béfort who started their wine adventure six years ago in Collias, France. Their dream was to produce excellent wine. They had passion but no experience and winemaking is a complex and labor-intensive process that has been traditionally belonged to men. Yet this film shows that it is possible for two women who are willing to work hard.

The film takes us to the French countryside and the vineyard of the two women who six years before decided to start their own wine business. The documentary was filmed over the course of a year and shows the fields where the grapes are harvested through the winemaking process to the point where the drink is ready to be bottled. We also get insights into the fact these are two women making headway in a winemaking world that’s still rather macho, and that they are lesbians living in the sort of place you wouldn’t think would be accepting of alternative lifestyles. Even though there are some who don’t approve of these two women and what they’re doing, they have built a network of friends and knowledge that has allowed their label to thrive.

The film is slow in the beginning just as making wine was for the two women and to be completely honest not a subject that I am interested in or want to see a film about. But then as we near the end it becomes more interesting when we understand that there is more going on than we see. It is a pleasant film but I am afraid that it will have a limited audience. It indeed helps that it is packaged with another mote interesting movie.