Documentary – Intimate Encounters 20 years on

In 1998, 40 people with disability revealed their inner most thoughts and feelings in the ground-breaking photographic exhibition, Intimate Encounters by Belinda Mason. Sexuality and disability are not often intersecting topics, and twenty years ago it was a subject that many people would have regarded as taboo. Belinda, together with the participants of Intimate Encounters chose to challenge the hidden, and often at times not so hidden myth in our society that only the most glamorous, attractive and successful among us lead active, healthy and imaginative sexual lives. In doing so, they showed us that disability does not take away one’s wants and desires.

Almost 20 years later, five of those participants, will chart what has and has not changed in how they explore their desire and relationships in Australia today. This 15-minute documentary provides some answers to questions about how their perceptions have or have not changed. Each participant will be asked similar questions, and their answers will be interwoven with each other, giving an insight to the diversity of their experiences since participating in the exhibition. Revealing these stories reaffirms that we all have a unique sexual journey mapped out with secret adventures, whispered aspirations, the pain of risk and an overriding urge for intimacy, love and family. This documentary will provide a unique freedom of speech, as often people with disability are made to feel they need to justify their lives as they can often be asked inappropriate questions by strangers.

Exploring each of the participant’s journeys allows us to hold a mirror up to the sharp reality of each of their lived-experiences, sex, love, family, parenting, loss, and identity. Among them, they have disability that is: acquired, congenital, sensory, visible and invisible. They are a snapshot of our community.

Belinda Mason took her sons Dieter and Liam with her along on this journey, introducing them to each of the participants of Intimate Encounters. This allowed them to grow up in a world where diversity was the norm. Dieter and Liam now have a film production company “Knierim Brothers Productions and are re-visiting each participant, to discover whether or not there has been a social and political shift in the perceptions of people with disability who are featured in Intimate Encounters. They will travel to each participant’s home and the location of the original photo session affording us the opportunity here we will gain an insight into their lifestyle. Archival photographs, the photographic work of Belinda Mason, will assist in drawing a picture of what they have experienced and who they are today.

The intimate style of the documentary will allow viewers the feeling they are talking with a friend, up close and personal with their faces filling the screen. Audiences will drawn by their gaze; to see the ‘tests of time’ as every expression on their face has a story to tell. Audiences will be given a glimpse into their lives today, their stories, their past, and look into their hopes for their future. This documentary will use stylistic characteristics, like those utilised within ‘Australian Story’.  A story-telling style including lifestyle coverage that takes you beyond the interview chair and into the individual’s habits and lifestyle choices; also similar to the format of ‘You Can’t Ask That’ a technique of interweaving character dynamics and stories.

This documentary will be directed and produced by Dieter Knierim and his team. The team previously worked on national and international projects around complex issues and topics that are often unspoken. Enabling a voice for people living with disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, the LGBTIQ+ community, and violence against women. Dieter Knierim’s team consists of Award-winning photographer Belinda Mason – director of photography; Liam Knierim – journalist, editor, sound technician and Jyotsna Arora, writer and production assistant.

The documentary is not designed to draw in a particular group of people but is for people of all ages. With and without disability. The production team is inclusive of people with disability.

Release date is March 2018