My Brilliant Career

Australia, 1979

Courtesy the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia

Film Australian film

Aunt Helen (Wendy Hughes) was wrong when she told Sybylla (Judy Davis) that her “wildness of spirit” would get her in trouble her whole life. It’s Sybylla’s independence and defiance that frees her from 19th-century Australia’s repressive, patriarchal society in Gillian Armstrong’s My Brilliant Career (1979).

A key work in the Australian New Wave film movement, My Brilliant Career was Armstrong’s first feature film and a global success, gaining Academy Award and Palme d’Or nominations.

Adapted from Stella Miles Franklin’s 1901 novel of the same name, the film certainly reflected the author’s feminist spirit: key roles in its production were held by women, including producer Margaret Fink, production designer Luciana Arrighi and costume designer Anna Senior.

Curator notes

Gillian Armstrong was one of the 12 students selected as the inaugural class at the Australian Film and Television school in Sydney and she was the first woman to direct an Australian film in 46 years with My Brilliant Career., which not only launched her career, but Judy Davis and Sam Neill's also.

Learn how the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia restored Gillian Armstrong's My Brilliant Career.

A clip from My Brilliant Career from the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia's restoration.

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