Orchids: My Intersex Adventure

A film by Phoebe Hart

Australia | 2010 | 60 minutes | Color | DVD | English | Order No. 111031


Gen X filmmaker Phoebe Hart always knew she was different growing up – but she didn’t know why. This award-winning documentary traces Phoebe’s voyage of self-discovery as an intersex person, a group of conditions formerly termed hermaphroditism. Learning only in her teens that she was born with 46XY (male) chromosomes, Hart now seeks to understand her own story and the stories of others affected by this complex and often shameful syndrome.

With help from sister Bonnie (born with the same condition) and support from partner James, Hart drives across Australia, interviewing individuals whose struggles and victories mirror and differ from her own. Some advocate systemic change ending shame and controversial genital surgeries, while others debate coming out or staying closeted with a stigmatized secret. Questioning rigidly defined constructs of gender, sexuality, and normality, often with lively good humor, ORCHIDS is the first film to look at intersex from a positive perspective. Its engaging portrait of survival, courage and reconciliation will speak to a variety of audiences and spark lively discussion about what it means to be perceived as "different."


"The filmmaker's warmth and candor provide an engaging perspective on intersex identity and one family's changing attitude toward their 'secret.'"

Patricia White Film and Media Studies, Swarthmore College

"With playful yet searing honesty, Phoebe Hart’s autobiographical account of self-discovery offers an object lesson in the harms created by silence... This film could effectively be used in psychology, women’s studies, and/or sexuality courses to challenge sex and gender binaries, [and] make visible the variations between female and male..." -

Clara Golden, Ithaca College "The Courage of Conversation"

"Winner of the Australian Teachers of Media's ATOM Award for best documentary, Hart's work took years to complete and makes for compelling viewing. It blends a history of her condition with her own experience and stories from other intersex people she seeks out to help her understand."

Katherine Feeney Brisbane Times

"Personally I could not imagine a better film ever being made on coming to terms with a condition like AIS. It's wildly funny in parts but at the same time it's very intimate and deeply moving. I can't stop thinking about it."

Professor Garry Warne AM, Senior Endocrinologist, The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne

“The film balances personal stories with a brief introduction to the biology of intersex syndromes and provides scientific as well as demographic context… Statistics like these make the case for adding Orchids to any library collection, but it is a particularly welcome addition to gender studies collections…”

Educational Media Reviews Online

"The road trip at the heart of the documentary serves as a metaphor for moving from secrecy and shame to openness and acceptance…In the process, Hart’s film not only paints a compassionate portrait of people coming to terms with intersex, but crucially also interrogates rigidly defined constructs of gender, sexuality, and normality."

Films for the Feminist Classroom

“…Orchids settles into an exploration of the ways that many intersex people are made to feel – wrongly – that a ‘normal’ life is a contentment they can never achieve.”

Bitch Magazine


  • Australian Academy Cinema Television Arts Awards, Best Documentary Under 1 Hour
  • Honolulu Film Festival, Winner, Gold Kahuna Award
  • Australian Directors Guild Awards, Best Direction in a Documentary (Stand Alone)
  • Brisbane International Film Festival, Best Documentary
  • Australian Teachers of Media’s ATOM Award, Best Documentary
  • Chéries-Chéris Film Festival, France, Prix Spécial du Jury du Film Documentaire
  • MujerDoc International Festival of Documentary Cinema on Gender, Spain, Best Short Documentary
  • TranScreen Amsterdam, Audience Choice Awards (Runner Up)
  • Sarasota Film Festival
  • NEWFEST: The New York LGBT Film Festival
  • Frameline, San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival 2011
  • OUTFEST: The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
  • Milwaukee LGBT Film Festival
  • Tampa International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
  • Seattle Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
  • Michigan Womyns Music Festival
  • Boston LGBT Film Festival


Phoebe Hart

Phoebe Hart is principal of hartflicker, an energetic Australian-based video and film production company. Since completing her film studies at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in 1995, Phoebe Hart has worked extensively as a writer, producer and director of factual television and media, including children’s program Totally Wild, Network Ten’s documentary unit, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) Race Around the World and Fly TV. She codirected a documentary series on the state of Australian higher education for the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) called Downunder Grads, which screened in March 2008. Phoebe also directed and co-wrote the ABC documentary Roller Derby Dolls on a group of women who play the rough-and-tumble sport of roller derby, which screened in a primetime slot in September 2008. In 2009 Phoebe was awarded her doctorate from QUT of which Orchids was a central element of her studies. (3/11)


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