Fiona Cunningham-Reid
Fiona Cunningham-Reid

Croc-a-Dyke Dundee The Legend of Dawn O´Donnell, a documentary about the woman who opened some of the first gay and lesbian bars in Sydney, Australia in the fifties.

Interview with the  film director Fiona Cunningham-Reid of Croc a-Dyke-Dundee

Tell us about your film?

Over 20 years ago I made Feed Them to the Cannibals about the Mardi Gras. Arthur Phillip (first gov of NSW) wanted all homos shipped off to NZ so the ‘cannibals’ could eat them. That was when I first met Dawn and was instantly intrigued by her – her energy, her appearance, her involvement and her influence on Sydney’s gay life.

We all, I think, are more attracted to stories of outsiders, crimes; and the rumours swirling around her were compelling enough to discover more.  So I did! I’m not an investigative journalist but am passionate about oral history and stories from our gay history need telling…it was also refreshing not to have a politically correct character through which to look at Sydney’s gay past.

She definitely operated on the darker side – and the entertainment side – all those wonderful drag bars put a shine on the dodgy legal licensing laws that needed to be avoided!

What made you want to make it?

I first talked to Dawn on camera in 2003 (she always refused before that) then after she died I asked Aniek, her long term partner if I could make a film.  She was involved in litigation over Dawn’s will and understandably wasn’t in the mood. She relented but I had no funding – I am UK based – soon money for an Oz film and vice a versa in Oz! Eventually, I had so much material in boxes, my editor said just let’s do it with what we’ve got – so here it is! There will be and should be many more stories told about the 60s and the Purple Onion era.

Why should our readers see your film?

How many stories are out there with a strong powerful lesbian as the central character? Plus it’s our shared history and it’s a hoot.

What are some of your favourite lesbian films?

I heard the music Singing

Thin ice!

Gauzon Maudit