Margaret Fink and Gillian Armstrong’s empowering feminist classic My Brilliant Career has been digitally restored by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA), and is set to premiere at this year’s Sydney Film Festival on Wednesday 13 June. Director Gillian Armstrong will participate in a special Q&A following the screening.
The 1979 film, based on the novel by Miles Franklin, tells the story of Sybylla Melvin (Judy Davis), a young woman growing up in the Outback who aspires to become a writer despite the objections of family and society. She will have to choose between marriage to a rich landowner (Sam Neill), or pursuing a brilliant career.
Producer Margaret Fink said, “From the moment I read My Brilliant Career back in 1965, I knew I would make a film from Miles’ book. It took a long time to get together the elements, not the least of which was the funding. I was able to gather great talents: Gill Armstrong, Eleanor Witcombe, Jane Scott, Don McAlpine and Lucianna Arrighi. We had luck in finding our leads, Judy Davis and Sam Neill, who subsequently became big stars.
“Thanks to NFSA’s digital restoration My Brilliant Career can, today and into the future, be viewed by many young women who need to know they can have options.”
Director Gillian Armstrong added, “I am thrilled that our beautiful new digital print is to premiere at my much-loved Sydney Film Festival this June. It is still beautiful to look at; many thanks to the NFSA for their painstaking work and passion for preserving our heritage.
“Margaret Fink’s film launched four little brilliant careers: Judy Davis, Sam Neill, cinematographer Don McAlpine, and my own. They and all the cast are wonderful, and Miles Franklin’s message is still sadly just as pertinent today.”
The new digital print was produced as part of NFSA Restores, a program to digitise, restore and preserve, at the highest archival standards, classic and cult Australian films so they can be seen on the big screen in today’s digital cinemas.
NFSA Chief Curator Gayle Lake said, “We had to do justice to the film. Following the first assessment of the original materials held in the NFSA collection, it took just under a year of work on both the image and sound files in order to deliver this digital restoration. It was a pleasure working with Margaret, Gill, Don, and Editor Nicholas Beauman.”
For NFSA Restores, the NFSA uses the best available original picture and sound materials, from both the NFSA collection and around the world. Restored films are migrated every five years to ensure their format remains contemporary and they are available as Digital Cinema Packages (DCP) for screening in today’s cinemas.
Digital restoration is highly specialised work, with a film costing anywhere from AUD$50,000 to $150,000, depending on its condition.
NFSA Restores relies, in part, on public donations. You can assist its valuable work by donating via https://www.everydayhero.com.au/event/NFSA-Support-us
See a ‘Before and After’ reel from the My Brilliant Career project at https://youtu.be/PsW7srVnjqc