Women figured prominently in the Australian Film Revival both in front of and behind the camera, most notably in the case of this remarkable debut feature from Gillian Armstrong, a graduate of the same inaugural class at the national Film and Television School that included Phillip Noyce and Chris Noonan (Babe). Based on a popular novel by the feminist Australian writer Miles Franklin, adapted for the screen by Eleanor Whitcombe (The Getting of Wisdom), My Brilliant Career features the extraordinary Judy Davis (in her first starring role) as Sybylla Melvyn, a headstrong young woman of no particular means sent to live with her wealthy grandmother at the turn of the 20th century. There, she enters into a flirtation with Harry (Sam Neill), a childhood friend and neighboring property owner who seems prepared to give Sybylla everything a young woman of the time might desire. Except that what Sybylla wants most of all is to experience the world on her own terms, and perchance to become a writer. Selected for competition at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival, My Brilliant Career was a major international success that launched Armstrong and Davis on their own brilliant moviemaking careers.

Print courtesy of the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia’s Kodak/Atlab Collection.