Ili Baré melts the ice ceiling with her powerful documentary on female leadership, set in Antarctica
In 2016, a voyage of 76 international scientists set sail for Antarctica under the guidance of an Australian corporate leadership coach. In Ili Baré’s powerful documentary The Leadership, these inspirational women reveal the systemic and deeply personal challenges they face to maintain fulfilling careers in STEMM. Ahead of the film’s World Premiere at Sydney Film Festival we spoke to Ili about directing the film.
How does it feel to have your latest documentary, The Leadership, have its World Premiere at Sydney Film Festival?
Having spent years going to Sydney Film Festival (SFF) as a viewer it’s amazing to have my own film be part of it. I won’t lie, part of me will mourn the cinema experience, but the fact that SFF has gone virtual this year is an opportunity for audiences across Australia to engage with the film and I’m very happy about that.
Tell us about making The Leadership and why you wanted to share this story.
At first, I was drawn to the story because it had so many elements – a bold experiment, a confident leader doing something unprecedented, and 76 accomplished women (each with her own struggle) all set against the stunning backdrop of Antarctica. As the process continued, I realised that what was playing out on board the ship in Antarctica could become a microcosm for wider issues in the film. What we have created is a unique vehicle to explore themes of diverse leadership, the systemic obstacles that prevent many women from reaching leadership positions in, and why these matter to us all.
Did you have any unforeseen challenges filming in Antarctica, and if so, can you tell us how you overcame them?
I was not prepared for the endless light of Antarctica and how it would affect our body clocks. Sometimes you would look outside and think it was 4pm but really it was 9pm. So, I tried to be pretty disciplined about downing tools at ‘night’ because otherwise our shooting ‘days’ could have been even longer than normal. One of our characters says in the film that it is tough being on a ship because there is nowhere to be by yourself, and there is always someone listening. After 21 days on the ship, I think the rest of the film crew would agree that this was tough for us as well!
Getting the drone to Antarctica was logistically challenging. Not only was obtaining the permission to use a drone in Antarctica a herculean feat, accomplished thanks to Producer Greer Simpkin, but getting camera batteries through Chile proved to be a drama at customs. We took extra because we knew they would run down faster in the cold, so there was a lot of nail-biting at customs in Chile.
Do you find it hard to make a living making documentaries?
Yes! It has become more challenging since having kids to be honest. I used to be able to ride the feast or famine finances that come with freelancing, particularly in TV, but with kids it’s harder to relax when you don’t know what’s coming next.
For of our emerging female practitioners, just breaking into documentary filmmaking, what is your best advice on how to take the next step in their career and become leaders in the field?
I don’t know that I am able to give advice for anyone to become a leader in their field. I think the film demonstrates just how tricky the business of giving leadership advice to people can be! However, I would say that it pays to acknowledge those around you, to treat your participants and colleagues with respect. Try to have working relationships based on trust and trust your gut when it comes to whether a story has legs.
I once worked with a Director of Photography (DOP) who had a rule, and that was that if we were to have breakfast on the road together, we were never to talk about the film until breakfast was finished. Although I found it hard, it helped establish some pretty firm boundaries and also taught me that you can do better work when everyone has a little distance from it, even if it is only 15 minutes at breakfast.
Directed by Ili Baré 2020 Australia 97 minutes M
In 2016, a collection of international women scientists set sail for Antarctica under the guidance of Australian leadership expert Fabian Dattner; what transpired is both inspiring and revelatory.
Watch the trailer now.
Image courtesy Bunya Productions.