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Categories: Movie Reviews

Peccadillo Pictures and Fiona Cunningham-Reid present two insightful docs about successful lesbian women from both the Sydney nightclub scene and the French winemaking industry. 

CrocADyke - WineWomenFriends

Peccadillo Pictures have released a double pack of hour-long documentaries directed by Fiona Cunningham-Reid, both of which provide insight into the lives of dedicated and passionate lesbian businesswomen. The two films, Crocadyke Dundee and Wine, Women and Friends, are short, fun docs that will be an enjoyable watch for their intended audiences. 

Of the two docs, Crocadyke Dundee: The Legend of Dawn O’Donnell, is the more conventionally entertaining of the two docs, taking us through a series of interviews, home movie clips and narrated flashbacks that piece together the puzzle of the titular O’Donnell, a confident, ruthless and widely-loved nightclub tycoon whose efforts to subvert the draconian anti-gay laws of mid-20th century Australia helped make Sydney one of the most openly gay cities in the world.

What makes Crocadyke Dundee so appealing, beyond its hilariously clever title, is just how much of a mystery there is surrounding O’Donnell. She herself passed away in 2007, so what remains of her are mainly interviews a decade or more old, and the memories of those close to her, such as her surviving wife Aniek Baten, 23 years Dawn’s junior. These testimonies can only do so much – there are a quite a few narrative gaps, and the documentary doesn’t get too personal – but they do serve to build up an image of an impressive woman who could always get what she wanted, and gain anybody’s trust. 

Dawn O’Donnell is shown in many lights, from her early days as a near-professional speed ice-skater to her impressive accumulation of LGBT-friendly night clubs and drag show joints to numerous accusations of arson – and even once, an organized murder – for business-related motives. Hero or criminal, she was surely an endlessly fascinating person, and the documentary does a relatively good job of letting this shine through. 50 minutes is ultimately not enough time for director Fiona Cunningham-Reid to delve deep into the life of O’Donnell, but it’s a solid introduction to such an important woman. 

The second film in Cunningham-Reid’s double pack, Wine, Women and Friends, is one that I suspect will be less easily accessible than Crocadyke Dundee, but it might nonetheless appeal to audiences interested in the subject. That subject, as the title would imply, is wine, specifically the wine business ran by lesbian couple Carole Leblanc and Jo Béfort in Collias, France.

Wine, Women and Friends is a much more low-key and conventional doc that takes us through the yearly process Leblanc and Béfort go through to make their wine step-by-step. Informative scenes are interspersed with interview with Leblanc, Béfort and their friends, who discuss their careers and motivations, as well as the reactions of the conservative locals to the openness of their sexuality. This, however, takes much more of a backseat than it did in Crocadyke Dundee, and so the film is more casual and less suspense-free. 

Ultimately, Wine, Women and Friends is a more specialized film, and so would only be recommended to those interested in winemaking or French culture. But combined with Crocadyke Dundee, it rounds out a short and sweet pairing of two inspiring stories, stories that otherwise might not have been told.  

Crocadyke Dundee and Wine, Women and Friends are available as a double pack from peccapics.com

Cameron Johnson

Cameron Johnson is a writer and filmmaker born in England, based in Michigan, USA, and currently living in Enniscrone, Ireland. He writes about all things entertainment with a speciality in film criticism. He has been working on films ever since middle school, when his shorts "Moving Stateside" and "The Random News" competed in the West Branch Children's Film Festival. Since then he's written and directed a number of his own films and worked in many different crew jobs. Follow him on Twitter @GambasUK and look at his daily film diary at letterboxd.com/gambasUK.

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