When I was trying (in vain it would be revealed) to relaunch the Moviedrome series for another generation, I did so because I had a list of certain films that I consider masterpieces, which had criminally been overlooked and deserve attention from a new audience. One of the films high on this list, I had seen on TV in the dead of night. It was from Australia. The debut feature of director Ann Turner and had been a well regarded film on its release in 1989. This transpired to be CELIA.

CELIA tells the story of 9 year old Celia (Rebecca Smart). Living in the world of school hood joys of playing games and night time stories of The Hobyahs, a menacing creature that takes away the wife of a man. She lives in small town Australia, with her mother and father. Her grandmother dies seconds into the film, a staunch communist, she wanted her grand daughter to be free to do as she wants, not is told to. This communist ideology was fine during the war but now its 1957 and the so called Red Menace is creeping into the societies of western capitalism. Big industry, small communities and national bodies are shaken to their core.

When new neighbours the Tanner, move into the next door house, Celia is besotted by them. Especially Alice (Victoria Longley), mother to three children Meryl (Callie Gray), Karl (Adrian Mitchell), and Steve (Alexander Hutchinson). These seem to be a replacement to her mother figure, her grand mother. Her own mother Pat (Mary-Anne Fahey) is distant, mainly because she fears for her own marriage. Alice though is far more engaged, She shares many similarities with her grand mother. From the blond hair, to the staunch communist belief in an ideal world and rights for all. This breeds fears in Celia’s father Ray Carmichael (Nicholas Eadie). It also seems to bring local issues of workers and industrial action, A national rabbit infestation and a series of pranks between Celia and local policeman’s daughter Stephanie (Amelia Frid),to a cruel one upmanship, to the heart of tensions.  When the communist links of the neighbours are revealled, the stage is set for a fractured family show down.

CELIA had been released on DVD, a proudly sat on my shelf. This 2K restoration (which did have a projection issue originally that was mine and not the discs fault), is among the best I have ever seen. The warm clay soil of Australia has not been lost. Nor has the grain from the celluloid (something that keeps the cinema feel when projected in a dark room). The extras of note are Celia’s World (2021). Which is as much a meditation on the work to get the film to screen, as the film itself. Alexandra Heller-Nicholas conversation pieces with Maria Lewis. Boldly asking us to consider the horror of CELIA being less from the Hobyahs and more from the animal slaughter.

But then there is Michael Brookes essay. I like Brooke. He doesnt seem to be particularly compelled to speak to me. Fair enough. These notes to this release by Brooke, seem to be a little skewed. Brooke, usually a very informative writer on film, gets a little lost in his own family dynamic. Suggesting that ‘only a father and daughter can understand the relationship between Celia and her own father Ray.’ This is a rather shallow observation from him. It feels rather more like he is pleased of his own procreation and less about the obvious elements on screen of a relationship that anyone can understand, father or not.

• Celia (1988) presented from a new 2K restoration by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, approved by the director.

• Celia’s World (2021): a new, exclusive and expansive documentary on the film’s background and legacy made especially for this release by director Ann Turner.

• A filmed interview with Ann Turner.

• There’s Something About Celia (2021): Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, author of ‘1000 Women in Horror’, in conversation
with Maria Lewis at the Australian Centre for Moving Image.

• Extensive image gallery.

• 24-page booklet featuring essays by film historian Michael Brooke and Professor Joy Damousi, and ‘The Hobyahs’, a traditional folktale featured in the film.

• English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

• Region free Blu-ray (A/B/C)

• World premiere on Blu-ray.

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