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AACTA Film Fest | Young Talent at AACTA Film Fest

Article by Brisbane-based journalist, university teacher and writer Ella Donald. Ella is a regular contributor to GQ and has also written for Vanity Fair, The Guardian and The Saturday Paper.

From THE YEAR MY VOICE BROKE to LOOKING FOR ALIBRANDI, Australia has a proud tradition of coming of age stories. Whether set in the late 19th century (MY BRILLIANT CAREER), the 1970s (GIRL ASLEEP), the present (52 TUESDAYS), or in far off countries (TANNA, THE ROCKET), these often intimate and exhilarating portraits give us a window into the lives of young people so different from our own, and an undeniably valuable springboard for some of our finest up-and-coming talents.

Coming-of-age stories are numerous in this year’s AACTA line-up. They range from ensemble comedies to two or three-handers and lush period dramas; and are set everywhere from the freewheeling and laidback 1970s of SWINGING SAFARI and BREATH, to the early 20th century upbringing of Errol Flynn (IN LIKE FLYNN), and the late 1950s Sydney on the precipice of change of LADIES IN BLACK. And this is without mentioning BOY ERASED, the story of a young gay man forced to undergo ‘conversion therapy’ in the American south.

These films star actors that, despite their young ages and still-early careers, have already left an indelible mark on their profession. They’ve worked with award-winning directors like Sofia Coppola and starred in some of the biggest blockbusters (Angourie Rice of THE BEGUILED and SPIDER MAN: HOMECOMING, who plays Lisa in LADIES IN BLACK). Some of them are even Oscar®-nominated (Lucas Hedges, BOY ERASED).

But aside from the talents of these already accomplished performers who carry each one of these films so assuredly on their shoulders, what makes these films join the other iconic, home-grown coming of age stories before them are their universality, existing because - and not in spite of - their specificity. Many of the stories these films tell are set in times and circumstances quite distant from our own, but they nonetheless remind us of the journeys of discovering our place in the world we all take and those important lessons we learn along the way.

One such film is LADIES IN BLACK, which is based on the book of the same name by Madeleine St John and tells the story of Lisa Miles (Rice), an introverted high school graduate in 1959 Sydney. She’s torn between expectations and her dreams for the future, her father (Shane Jacobson) forbidding her to accept an offer to attend university. Taking a summer holiday job at the opulent David Jones-esque store Goode’s, she befriends the colourful women who also work in the clothing department, all of whom are facing their own challenges in life with the changing tides of the impending early 60s, and finding independence in all areas of their lives. European immigrant Magda (Julia Ormond) particularly takes Lisa under her wing, showing her the opportunities that exist beyond the small world that she knows. It’s a poignant film for anyone who remembers such a time in their life between adolescence and adulthood and their first steps into the universe that exists beyond their bedroom, a reminder of what makes stories like these so irresistible - we go to the movies to see ourselves, and sometimes we do in the most unexpected ways.


The feature films in competition were screened in cinema in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane during September 2018 as part of AACTA Film Fest. SWINGING SAFARIBREATH and IN LIKE FLYNN will be available for members to watch online via AACTA TV until 11 October 2018.

Please note, LADIES IN BLACK and BOY ERASED will not be available on AACTA TV. Members will have the opportunity to view these films when they are released theatrically in Australia on 20 September and 8 November respectively.

For your complete guide to the feature films competing for a nomination for the 2018 AACTA Awards presented by Foxtel, download the Film Fest Guide here (6MB).


Follow Ella on Twitter and find her at her website.


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