A Heartfelt Celebration of Blood and Recovery: 'Period Party' by Georgia Brogan
Red glitter-dipped tampons hanging on a string as decoration; handmade pink paper uteruses stuck on the wall; and a red uterus-shaped piñata filled with red candy, complete with fallopian tubes, ovaries, and a stick with “CRAMPS” painted onto it to break it open... It's outlandish, it’s campy, and it’s fantastic.
The film opens with a shot of our protagonist Beatrice (‘Bee’) sleeping peacefully. The gentle morning light shines on her freckled skin and ginger hair, the frame washed in the beautiful springtime tones of pastel green, pink and yellow. We hear the sound of birds chirping softly, interrupted by an occasional clunking coming from the kitchen. Then, Bee opens her eyes, awoken by her mother yelling out to her from off screen:
‘Beatrice, my vagina is melting!’
After some convincing, Bee’s mother coaxes her to the kitchen to help her fix the disaster: a pink and red vagina shaped cake decorated in admirable detail, which has been iced too early, and is now “a sloppy mess.”
This is Period Party, the eccentric yet touching graduate capstone project directed and written by UTS Media Arts and Production student Georgia Brogan. The film follows Bee and her awkward but well-meaning family as they throw a party to celebrate the return of her period after struggling with anorexia. It is a slice of life story of an ordinary, imperfect family celebrating the small wins during recovery.
I cannot praise Period Party without first talking about Sarah J. Moore’s production design. Vagina cake aside, the film sports an incredible mise-en-scène of red glitter-dipped tampons hanging on a string as decoration; red tissue paper pom poms everywhere; handmade pink paper uteruses stuck on the wall; a bouquet of white roses splashed with red paint on the tips of the petals; and a red uterus-shaped piñata filled with red candy, complete with fallopian tubes, ovaries, and a stick with “CRAMPS” painted onto it to break it open. Moore and Brogan have truly missed no detail: it's outlandish, it’s campy, and it’s fantastic.
The same can be said of the costume design. Each character is dressed in brilliant red, from Bee’s ruby pantsuit to her dad Mike’s bright floral shirt. This is a fully-fledged bleeding celebration warranting red nail polish, red lipstick, flower crowns, and uterus earrings.
The design is perfectly complemented by Jack Saltmiras’ cinematography, which is a gorgeous showcase of pinky pastel tones and floral wallpapers, with a boxy 4:3 aspect ratio that makes the film feel cosy. The twee aesthetics combine excellently with the offbeat comedy tone of the film - the writing and visuals work seamlessly together.
The only guest who sticks out, disregarding the party dress code, is Bee’s grandmother. This contrast illustrates visually the tension that her presence brings upon the group, with her inappropriate, misguided comments that Bee “didn’t look sick,” because her appearance wasn’t “skeletal.” This familial conflict speaks to the purpose of Period Party, a film aimed at destigmatising eating disorders. It is a necessary conversation starter and an educational tool, because for most, there is so little knowledge about eating disorders and their impacts on menstruation and reproductive health. Instead, harmful and false stereotypes and assumptions take the reins.
According to Brogan, the writing style is a delicate balance between absurdist humour and poignant, emotional moments. This is a difficult tone to pull off even for the most experienced directors, and yet for all of the film’s outrageousness, as a viewer it does feel like we are looking in on an event that is incredibly intimate and important for this family. The performances are both silly and raw. More importantly, these characters feel like real, multidimensional people. Bee’s family feels like one that actually exists, eating vagina-shaped cake and drinking red punch in their own happy corner of Australia. This mix between humour and realism really works, and makes the handling of film’s sensitive subject matter even more effective. Charisma oozes from the screen, making us root for these characters even when they get it wrong, or don’t fully understand. We want to celebrate Bee’s recovery with them, so when the whole family screams out “Fuck Terrence!” (the name Bee has given to personify her anorexia), and cheer wildly as Bee gleefully attacks the uterus piñata, we share their joy.
Period Party is a strikingly original film that is equal parts absurdity and charm. Brogan, along with her crew, have created an impactful story that is entertaining, emotional, and an important piece of representation.
Recovery is hard, especially when the people you care about don’t understand your experience as you would like them to. But Period Party shows that every milestone along the way is important and something to be proud of, and that you are not alone.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder and needs urgent support, call the Butterfly Foundation national helpline at 1800 33 4673 or 1800 ED HOPE (available 8am-midnight 7 days a week).
If you are an onshore UTS student, you can access the UTS counselling service for confidential support. Find out more details including contact information here: https://www.uts.edu.au/current-students/support/health-and-wellbeing/counselling-service-and-self-help/contact-us
Lifeline national crisis helpline: 13 11 14
Kids Helpline (free, confidential service for people aged up to 25): 1800 55 1800