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Equal the Contest: Film Review

Siren intern, Pyper Denneman reviews the powerful new documentary from filmmaker Mitch Nivalis about rewriting the rules for inclusion in sport.

Director: Mitch Nivalis
Producers: Tony Coombs and Mitch Nivalis
Associate Producer: Alex Kelly

Passionate, real, captivating – that is Equal the Contest. 

A film directed by Mitch Nivalis following the Mount Alexander Falcons Football Club. This is not just any football club, the Mount Alexander Falcons are rewriting sporting norms by building an all-inclusive space, specifically for women and gender diverse people. 

The film follows Nivalis’ experience within the club as they lobby to play within the Central Victoria Football League and starts with the immersive gameplay vision from Mitch as they encounter contests on the field. As viewers, we feel as though we are on the journey. We are invited into the community and propelled through numerous highs and lows.

The film gives us the context in which the Mount Alexander Falcons exist, iterating the club’s purpose through interviews and one on ones. We learn how the AFL club system works at a local level and all that is involved when lobbying for club acceptance into a league. We see throughout the film how, by challenging traditional sporting norms, the Falcons start a movement of inclusion and belonging. A core theme is that there is no compromise on core values. The Falcons boast a standalone, independent club that puts their values at the forefront. Throughout the film viewers are invited to witness the development and progression of these values in an intimate and educational way.  

‘Equal The Contest’ touches on some of the everyday experiences that women and gender diverse people face within sport. 

The storytellers in this film are super honest and raw. The filmmaker Mitch is the epitome of the Falcon’s target audience and from Mitch’s perspective of being an outsider coming into this new environment, viewers can delve into Mitch’s experience not only with the club but the culture of Australian rules. Herbie is another interesting and complex character that we connect with and highlights links to the community. Herbie depicts community involvement and the importance of volunteers in any local football setting. It is clear that the Mount Alexander Falcons lead a charge to love footy in all of its glory and spread the joy it brings, by uniting people, players, volunteers and spectators alike. 

Mitch in the early stages of the film reflects on the club values stating, “there’s no talk about winning, really just talk about culture”. Here Mitch presents an interesting position in the film, providing a perspective as to how the club’s purpose impacts the individual and the community beyond just playing the game for points.  

Alana, the Falcons Club President says it perfectly in the film that, “you only know what you know”, and maybe we all need to get to know a little bit more to help make sport more welcoming to those it hasn’t always been so open to. 

One way to do that is watch Equal the Contest and spend an hour or so challenging yourself by just listening and leaning into the passion of the Mount Alexander Falcons and letting it consume you. Get to know more about others’ experiences. More about what binds a community. More about your own privileges to understand how not everyone has an equal contest, but they can, if we all can commit to driving change.

Equal the Contest is screening across the state at various events and if your club or organisation is interested in hosting a screening, you can reach out to the team here.

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