Encore screening for ‘Equal the Contest’

    Filmmaker and footballer Mitch Nivalis is pictured in their studio. Photo: Julie Millowick

    Equal the Contest is a groundbreaking documentary film that follows the footy journey of filmmaker and director Mitch Nivalis.

    The film invites audiences to explore the power of inclusion and the transformative potential of sports in creating a more equitable and diverse society.

    The documentary had its sold-out world premiere at the Castlemaine Documentary Film Festival in June and was met with a standing ovation as the end credits rolled. Now, due to popular demand, the film will have an encore screening at Theatre Royal next Saturday August 5 at 8pm.

    Equal the Contest follows Mitch, a 42-year-old non-binary person, as they embark on their first experience playing football. Mitch joins an establishing club, the Mount Alexander Falcons, which is being built specifically for women and gender-diverse people.

    “The response to the film has been amazing – way beyond anything I could have hoped for. It’s got legs and it’s running,” Mitch said.

    The club’s application to field a team in the Central Victorian AFL in 2022 was rejected, sparking a fight for inclusion and challenging long-standing traditions in sports. Equal the Contest captures this struggle, showcasing the club’s determination to play and shatter barriers in the process.

    The Falcons collectively decided to join the newly formed women’s Riddell District Football Netball League, which prioritises gender equity, and the they have just wound up their first season.

    “It’s been really validating playing in the league and coming together as a team. We came fifth out of six teams, so we’re not at the bottom,” Mitch said.

    “The team is still growing and we’re getting new players all the time and we’re continuing the vibe of come as you are and when your ready.

    “We’re building a community and capacity in a space where people can be their complete selves, which are the foundations of a great team.

    “I love the variety of the team. It’s a beautiful melting pot of age, ability, gender and sexual orientation. Our youngest player is 16 and the eldest is 61.

    “It’s all about loving each other and loving kicking a footy.”

    Mitch’s film presents a unique perspective by incorporating footage captured from their body as they participate in training and games, challenging preconceived notions of who belongs on a football field.

    At a time when the acceptance of trans and gender-diverse people in sport is widely debated, Equal the Contest proudly demonstrates a world where inclusion leads to access and allows individuals from all backgrounds to thrive on and off the football field.

    Part of the ethos of the team is to reduce barriers for participants and with a number of single parents or main caregivers joining, the club has committed to providing free childcare for players.

    “Men’s clubs prioritise money to pay players. Our club has prioritised reducing barriers for women and gender-diverse people by providing free childcare for one of the training sessions and for the games,” Mitch said.

    Accompanying the film’s release is an ambitious impact campaign to initiate discussions on fair access, gender equality, gender and sexuality, power dynamics, legacy, diversity and inclusion.

    Clubs and organisations are encouraged to host their own screenings, with booking requests now available via the website at equalthecontest.au

    The documentary serves as a compelling case study, fostering robust conversations at both community and elite levels of sport across different codes.

    Equal the Contest director Mitch Nivalis interviews Falcons vice-president Louise Conwell. Photo: Penny Ryan Photography