Fairy Tales: Unmissable films in February


In February, the Fairy Tales Cinema program explores the changing face of fairy tales and the ways they blend with other storytelling traditions to reflect particular moments in time.

The fairy tale theorist and historian Jack Zipes has used the concept of the ‘meme’ to think about this ever-shifting continuity of storytelling, and the importance of fairy tales for cultural evolution. Memes, Zipes argues, play a similar role to that of genes in the biological evolution of humans. In genetics, successful mutations are passed on through reproduction, so that subsequent generations inherit advantageous evolutionary traits. As memes, fairy tales pass on ideas which give the receiver a cultural advantage.

Gustave Doré ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ c.1862

On display in ‘Fairy Tales’ / Gustave Doré, France 1832-83 / Little Red Riding Hood c.1862 / Oil on canvas / 65.3 × 81.7cm / Gift of Mrs S. Horne, 1962 / Collection: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

For instance, ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ (Gustave Doré’s 1862 painting on display in ‘Fairy Tales’ illustrated) warns girls off the dangers of talking to strangers, whilst ‘The Frog Prince’ provides important rules for marriage and mating. Because these stories contain ideas which ensure the safety and well-being of societies, they are passed on, with constant adaption to make their core messages valuable in different contexts.

Film is a key medium where this ongoing evolution can be seen, and each of these films reveals something about the time and place they were made.

Screening this week & upcoming

Fairy Tales Cinema: Truth, Power and Enchantment’ is presented in conjunction with Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art’s (GOMA) blockbuster summer exhibition ‘Fairy Tales’. ‘Fairy Tales’ unfolds across three themed chapters. ‘Into the Woods’ which explores the conventions and characters of traditional fairy tales alongside their contemporary retellings. ‘Through the Looking Glass’ presents newer tales of parallel worlds that are filled with unexpected ideas and paths. ‘Ever After’ brings together classic and current tales to celebrate aspirations, challenge convention and forge new directions.

Travel with us in our weekly series through each room and theme of the ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition as we introduce you to some of the works while curator Sophie Hopmeier picks her unmissable films each month during the program.

Mirror Mirror (2012) PG

Tarsem Singh’s fractured retelling of the Brothers Grimm’s ‘Snow White’ is narrated by the wicked and insecure Queen Clementianna (Julia Roberts). When her headstrong stepdaughter Princess Snow (Lily Collins) is abandoned in the woods and threatened by the mysterious beast which terrorises the icy kingdom, she is adopted by a team of seven bandit outcasts who train her as a fighter. With extraordinary costumes by Japanese designer Eiko Ishioka, this joyous romp brings a fresh and nuanced approach to the archetypal characters of the beloved fairy tale.

3.00pm, Sunday 18 February 2024
& 3.00pm, Sunday 14 March 2024

(Left) Tarsem Singh (Director), India/United States b.1961 / Eiko Ishioka (Designer), Japan 1938–2012 / Production still from Mirror Mirror (2012) / © 2012 UV RML NL Assets LLC. / Photograph: Jan Thijs / Image courtesy: Relativity Media / (Right) Eiko Ishioka (Designer); Tricorne Costumes (Costumier) / ‘Yellow dress with hood’ costume from Mirror Mirror (2012) installed in ‘Fairy Tales’, Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Brisbane 2023 / Silk taffeta, polyester, nylon tulle, synthetic taffeta / Collection: The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Los Angeles / Photograph: C Callistemon © QAGOMA

Watch | Director Tarsem Singh’s filmic adaptation of ‘Snow White’

Courtesy: Relativity Media

Watch | Dressing the Fairy Tale: Eiko Ishioka’s costumes on display at GOMA

Courtesy: Relativity Media

The White Reindeer (1952) Ages 15+

This supernatural fairy tale set in the icy wilderness of Finnish Lapland follows lonely newlywed Pirita (Mirjami Kuosmanen). Consulting a shaman to draw her hard-working reindeer-herder husband to spend more time with her at home, Pirita’s wish backfires, transforming her into a vampiric shapeshifter destined to lure men to their deaths. Taking inspiration from the folklore and beliefs of the Sámi people, this stark folk-horror masterpiece draws on both avant-garde and documentary film techniques to highlight gender and societal inequality through the trope of animal transformation.

7.30pm, Friday 23 February 2024
The White Reindeer will screen from an imported 35mm print.

Production still from The White Reindeer 1952 / Director: Erik Blomberg / Image courtesy: National Audiovisual Institute – Kavi, Helsinki

Wanderers of the Desert (1984) Ages 12+

The stories of ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ are drawn from across the Arab world and India, and made an indelible mark on European Fairy Tales when they were translated in the eighteenth century. Wanderers of the Desert, the first film in Tunisian director Nacer Khemir’s jewel-like ‘Desert Trilogy’, lovingly explores the richness of Arabian folklore and Sufi poetry in their place of origin. When a young teacher arrives in a forgotten village, he becomes swept up in the mysteries of the town which has been abandoned by men, who are drawn to wander the desert for eternity.

1.00pm, Sunday 25 February 2024
& 1.00pm, Sunday 21 April 2024

Production still from Wanderers of the Desert 1984 / Director: Nacer Khemir / Image courtesy: Trigon Films

Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022) M

When self-contained academic Alithea (Tilda Swinton) unleashes an ancient Djinn (Idris Elba) in her Istanbul hotel room her work as a narratologist — or studier of stories — makes her wary of the three wishes she is offered, and leads her to ask for the life story of her new companion. This spectacular adaption of a short story by A.S. Byatt reimagines the stories of ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ to reflect on the changing ideals of love, and the possibilities of magic in contemporary life.

On display in the ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition, view the striped glass Blue and white Djinn bottle by Canberra Glassworks that Alithea haphazardly scrubs and breaks in George Miller’s Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022).

3.00pm, Sunday 25 February 2024

Production still from Three Thousand Years of Longing 2022 / Director: George Miller / Image courtesy: Roadshow Films

Watch | View the blue striped glass bottle at GOMA

View the full program (2 Dec 2023 – 28 Apr 2024)

Alice 1988
Alice in Wonderland 2010
Barbe bleue 2009
Beauty and the Beast 2017
Blancanieves 2012
Blaze 2022
Border 2018
Careful 1992
Cinderella 2015
Cinderella Moon 2010
Claire 2001 Live Music & Film / 11.00am, Sunday 3 March 2024 | Tickets on sale now 
Crumbs 2015
Donkey Skin 1970
Dreams 1990
Häxan 1922 Live Music & Film / 6.30pm, Friday 5 April 2024 | Tickets on sale now
Kummatty 1979
La Belle et la Bête 1946
Labyrinth 1986
Mirror Mirror 2012
Night of the Kings 2020
Pan’s Labyrinth 2006
Petite Maman 2021
Picnic at Hanging Rock 1975
The Adventures of Goopy and Bagha 1969
The Adventures of Prince Achmed 1926 Live Music & Film / 11.00am, Sunday 3 December 2023
The Company of Wolves 1984
The Fall 2006
The Juniper Tree 1990
The Lure 2015
The Match Factory Girl 1990
The Night of the Hunter 1955
The Princess Bride 1987
The Tale of Princess Kaguya 2013
The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga 2014
The White Reindeer 1952
The Wizard of Oz 1939
Three Thousand Years of Longing 2022
Thrilling Bloody Sword 1981
Walkabout 1971
Wanderers of the Desert 1984
What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? 2021
Where the Wild Things Are 2009
Wild at Heart 1990

The ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition is at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Australia from 2 December 2023 until 28 April 2024.

Fairy Tales Cinema: Truth, Power and Enchantment‘ presented in conjunction with GOMA’s blockbuster summer exhibition screens at the Australian Cinémathèque, GOMA from 2 December 2023 until 28 April 2024.

The major publication ‘Fairy Tales in Art and Film’ available at the QAGOMA Store and online explores how fairy tales have held our fascination for centuries through art and culture.

From gift ideas, treats just for you or the exhibition publication, visit the ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition shop at GOMA or online.

‘Fairy Tales’ merchandise available at the GOMA exhibition shop or online.

The Australian Cinémathèque
The Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) is the only Australian art gallery with purpose-built facilities dedicated to film and the moving image. The Australian Cinémathèque at GOMA provides an ongoing program of film and video that you’re unlikely to see elsewhere, offering a rich and diverse experience of the moving image, showcasing the work of influential filmmakers and international cinema, rare 35mm prints, recent restorations and silent films with live musical accompaniment by local musicians or on the Gallery’s Wurlitzer organ originally installed in Brisbane’s Regent Theatre in November 1929.

Dr Sophie Hopmeier is ‘Fairy Tales’ Assistant Curator and Assistant Curator, Australian Cinémathèque, QAGOMA

Featured image: (Left) Tarsem Singh (Director), India/United States b.1961 / Eiko Ishioka (Designer), Japan 1938–2012 / Production still from Mirror Mirror (2012) / © 2012 UV RML NL Assets LLC. / Photograph: Jan Thijs / Image courtesy: Relativity Media  / (Right) Tarsem Singh (Director), India/United States b.1961 / Eiko Ishioka (Designer), Japan 1938–2012 / Tricorne Costumes (Costumier), United States est. 2000 / ‘Swan dress’ costume from Mirror Mirror (2012) installed in ‘Fairy Tales’, Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Brisbane 2023 / Silk, synthetic tulle, plastic, metal, nylon, feathers, resin / Collection: The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Los Angeles / Photograph: C Callistemon © QAGOMA