Geeta director Emma Macey-Storch wins Australia’s newest film award

Geeta follows mother-of-three Geeta Mahor, an acid-attack survivor who now campaigns for law and justice reform around domestic violence.

Director Emma Macey-Storch has been named the winner of the inaugural Ferguson Film Prize for her 2021 documentary Geeta. The award, administered by Screenwave International Film Festival, comprises a $3,000 personal cash prize, a trophy and an official accreditation.

Geeta, Macey-Storch’s second documentary, follows mother-of-three Geeta Mahor, who was asleep with her young daughters in India when her husband crept into the room and threw acid on them, leaving Geeta and her daughter Neetu badly injured and grappling with poverty and ostracism in Agra’s slums. Since then, they have campaigned to end violence against women, catapulting Geeta onto a global stage as co-founder of a local activist movement, Sheroes.

Macey-Storch said: ‘When I was introduced to Geeta Mahor in 2015, I was completely blown away by her homegrown style of activism, and by Geeta and her daughter Neetu’s uncensored take on their own story.’

Geeta was predominantly shot across the city of Agra and rural Uttar Pradesh over five years, with a small filmmaking team from Australia and India. It had its world premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival in August last year.

‘It is in Geetaʼs heartfelt desire to bring about the dreams of her three daughters, and especially to get her daughter Neetu a life-changing operation to restore her sight, that we learn the most about this family and what really drives gender-based violence,’ Macey-Storch said. ‘It’s the small victories she wins closer to home that are the most compelling and most revolutionary.

‘It’s a story about overcoming violence, the transformative power of love and the everyday heroism that creates grassroots change.’ 

SWIFF, in partnership with the family of the late Australian actress Kate Ferguson, said the new prize was about ‘celebrating Australian fiction or non-fiction feature-film directors that add a new, distinct voice to Australia’s national film identity’. It will be awarded to ambitious storytellers directing debut or sophomore feature films that have been included in SWIFF’s Official Selection each year.

David Horsley, co-director of SWIFF, said: ‘We are thrilled with the jury’s decision to award the inaugural Ferguson Film Prize to Emma Macey-Storch, and honoured to carry on the legacy of Kate Ferguson.’

The Screenwave International Film Festival runs from 21 April–6 May 2022.

Paul Dalgarno writes novels: A Country of Eternal Light (2023) and Poly (2020); memoir: And You May Find Yourself (2015); and creative non-fiction: Prudish Nation (2023). He was formerly Deputy Editor of The Conversation and joined ScreenHub as Managing Editor in 2022. Twitter: @pauldalgarno. Insta: @narrativefriction