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My Brilliant Career(1979)

Reaching international screens the same year as George Miller’s Mad Max, this period picture played a key role in popularizing the Australian New Wave around the world. Viewers were enchanted with its breathtaking views of the Australian landscape (mainly New South Wales) while feminists found a new heroine in the fiercely independent Sybylla Melvyn (Judy Davis), who rejects marriage to find work she considers more meaningful. Producer Margaret Fink discovered the 1901 book when it was republished in 1965, and she spent 14 years trying to get the film version made. Although she didn’t set out to do so, the film’s crew contained a surprisingly large number of women, including director Gillian Armstrong, writer Eleanor Witcombe, the production and costume designers, the production supervisor, the bookkeeper and the accountant. With only her second feature (the first Australian color film shot in 35mm to be directed by a woman), Armstrong established herself as a major new talent, as did leading lady Davis—it was her second film, too—and New Zealander leading man Sam Neill, in his first Australian film. The picture was a hit at the Cannes and New York film festivals and continues to rank among the most beloved of all Australian films. (d. Gillian Armstrong, 100m, Digital)

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