Helen Reddy: I Am Woman

HELEN REDDY: I AM WOMAN

BY SAGAR MAHINDRA
“When you are making a film on someone’s life you have to honor the person’s spirit” said Unjoo Moon, the Australian filmmaker whose debut I Am Woman will be screened today as a part of the International Section at the International Film Festival of India, Goa. The film covers the life of famous Australian vocalist Helen Reddy whose song I am Woman(1971) became an anthem for the women’s movement
in the 1970’s. It captures the journey of Reddy’s struggle to stardom. The Peacock talked with the director about her film’s origins, inspiration and creation.
How did the idea of this film come to you?
I never had the privilege to attend any of Helen Reddy’s concerts since I was not old enough, but I remember my mother and her friends listening to her song. Whenever it used to play on the radio, they would be all smiles. They would turn the volume up, put down the car’s window and let their hair loose. They would sing loudly, and feel liberated. The song empowered an entire set of women to fight for equality. A few years ago, I was at a Hollywood award ceremony and Helen was sitting right next to me on the table. I went to her and we started talking about her career and how she inspired women to bring about changes in the society. By the end of the conversation I was convinced that I had to tell her story to the world. Initially, Helen and I discussed a documentary but while developing the script I just felt that it needed to be told as a fictional feature.

 

Biographies tend to be extensively researched works. What process did you follow for this film?
Before the filming began, I spent a year with Helen. We went for dinner. We would walk by the beach for hours discussing her life. In the beginning, she was a little formal but slowly she began to trust me. I joined her for her comeback tour in 2014. She was 72 at that time, but the energy with which she performed was phenomenal. I met fans who were immensely happy seeing her perform. There were fans who have not missed a single concert of hers. I was amazed to see the amount of love she received and was grateful to be a part of that energy.

 

Was it challenging to make this film?

More than a challenge, it was a huge responsibility for me. I knew I’ll be impacting her life. I believe that we stand on the shoulders of those who struggled through out their lives to make us reach where we are. What Helen did in the 1970’s forged the way for women to demand equality in work spaces. It is because of people like her that women can now be a part of any field. I remember three years ago, when Donald Trump became the president, a march took place in America where women from across the country raised their voice against Trump’s anti-women comments. It slowly became a global phenomenon, and I saw people holding banners which had lines from Helen’s song saying, “I am a woman, hear me roar.”

 

What was Helen’s reaction after watching the film?
I took her to one of the screenings and was extremely nervous. Throughout the film, I was just thinking about whether she will like the film or not. When I went to her after the screening, I saw her crying. She hugged me and appreciated what I did. Her family was also present and all of them were teary eyed.

 

I am Woman screens today at festival multiplex screen II at 12 PM.

 

Read more from The Peacock: Issue 9 (2019) here: