Rebecca Smart as Celia holding a mask in a still from Celia (1989)
Rebecca Smart as Celia holding a mask in a still from Celia (1989)
Celia (1989)

ACMI and the NFSA Present


Featuring an interview with film scholar and author Dr Alexandra Hellier-Nicholas

Ann Turner | Australia | 1989 | M

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10–11 Apr 2021

Magical realism takes a dark twist with Ann Turner’s 1989 genre-bender Celia: an underappreciated Australian masterpiece, digitally restored.

Stick around after the screening on Sun 11 Apr for an interview with film scholar and author Dr Alexandra Hellier-Nicholas.

The best fantasy is grounded in reality, which is certainly the case for Celia. Set during Australia’s Red Scare of the 1950s, toxic Aussie masculinity plays in the background of a story that is largely centred on women, specifically the generational bonds between them.

Rebecca Smart gives one of the all-time great child performances as the title character Celia, a spirited and smart young girl. Her idealistic suburban childhood is rocked by the death of her grandmother, with the lonely Celia retreating into a rich fantasy life as a coping mechanism. Yet her grief shifts into a keenly astute sense of justice as she befriends the new neighbours, who are social outcasts in the town due to their affiliations with the Communist Party.

The magical realism present in Celia juxtaposes beautifully against the real-world events familiar to many Australians at the time, whether that was a generation of men dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following World War II or Victorian Premier Henry Bolte’s rabbit extermination program. An incredibly accomplished debut from writer/director Ann Turner, the female characters across the spectrum are rich and nuanced: from Celia herself and her feminist grandmother, to the female friendships between Celia’s classmates and even her own mother and mysterious neighbour. It’s the men that act as the villainous foil, both in her terrifying fantasies and practical realities, with the women united together. The horror elements and compelling creature design make for a fantastical exploration into the inner workings of a child’s mind and a must-see for fans of Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth.

– Maria Lewis, Assistant Film Curator

Presented with the National Film and Sound Archive’s digital restoration program – NFSA Restores – reviving our cinema icons.

A subtly affecting rites-of-passage drama … beautifully explores the fear which so often informs childhood perception.

Time Out

Format: DCP
Language: English
Source: NFSA
Courtesy: Umbrella Entertainment
Runtime: 98 min

Event duration

98 mins



The content is moderate in impact


Cinema 2, Level 2
ACMI Fed Square

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