Powerful football film to screen in Knox

Mitch Nivalis interviewing for the film. Picture: PENNY RYAN

By Tanya Steele

Inclusion and belonging are the themes that set the stage for a student come filmmaker who joined a new local women’s footy club in regional Victoria.

Knox Community Arts Centre is set to host a free screening of the powerful film “Equal the Contest” to celebrate International Women’s Day on Thursday 7 March.

Creator Director Mitch Nivalis said the film came about when Nivalis saw a poster for a local women’s football team in Mt Alexander inviting women and gender diverse people to their first “come and try” day.

The photography student turned filmmaker was initially looking for a master’s project to challenge gender roles and stereotypes and went along to investigate but never expected to fall in love with the game at the same time.

“I had a kick and just loved it,” they said.

Nivalis had never seen such an a club actively embracing gender diversity and the film follows the club’s journey as they explore the themes of gender and inclusivity in football.

“This was the first time where the first and foremost priority was about creating culture and community and making everyone feel accepted no matter where they were at… and that shifted everything for me.”

Nivalis said the filmmaking style came about partly because they had the conundrum of wanting to play in the team, but also document their story.

“I had the idea to attach cameras to my body and just as I started doing that, we got rejected from the league – I immediately realised there was a much bigger story there,” they said.

Not long after joining, the club had their application to field a team in the local AFL women’s league rejected and the film ultimately morphed into a feature length documentary.

“I just started documenting and documenting and, you know, then I thought maybe it’s going to be a 10 minute short film, and it just grew and grew,” Nivalis said.

Equal the Contest has been selected for seven film festivals (five in Australia and two internationally) and has now been picked up for distribution in Australia by Umbrella Entertainment.

Responses to the film have been powerful and Nivalis said the “Equal the Contest” has really been resonating with a lot of different demographics of viewers.

“The film speaks to a number of different things and any girl or woman or gender diverse person over about the age of 15, or 20, they’re seeing themselves and their experiences reflected,” they said.

“It’s also been really exciting to see the response from men and boys understanding the barriers that do exist for women and girls that they didn’t fully understand before that moment.”

“They’re having a penny drop moment where they’re realising what they can be doing differently to be allies and advocates for women in sport and standing up, taking action and volunteering and all the different ways that they can participate to progress women’s participation in sport.”

One year on from its release Nivalis said the journey has been humbling and exciting.

“While I was making the film, it felt so personal to me and the journey… and I certainly had a couple of people kind of telling me that no one was going to be interested in watching it because it was about women’s sport,” they said.

“There was a bit of doubt that would creep in along the way, but then ultimately, I just had this really deep sense in my gut that this was a very universal story.”

The Knox screening will feature lucky door prizes, including the chance to win an AFLW Season Membership of your choice and the film screening will be followed by a panel discussion.

Entry is free, bookings are essential at:


When: Thursday 7 March, 6:15pm – 8:30pm

Where: Knox Community Arts Centre, Cnr Mountain Hwy and Scoresby Road, Bayswater