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Toby Wallace says it’s important for young Aussies to see themselves reflected, whether it’s in films like Boys in the Trees or TV shows like Puberty Blues.

Wallace stars in director Nicholas Verso’s feature debut Boys in the Trees, which is set around a group of teenagers in 1997 suburbia, whose last night of school also coincides with Halloween.

Part coming-of-age drama, part fantastical psychological thriller, the film follows Wallace’s character Corey, who takes pity on a former childhood friend that his mates bully mercilessly and agrees to walk him home. But a simple walk, combined with ghost stories and set to a late 90s soundtrack of hits, becomes something far more magical and dark.

Wallace says when films like Boys in the Trees speak to young people – particularly young Australians – in a way nothing else can.

“I suppose it’s just their own voice (on screen)…. It effects people. They’re like ‘I’m a part of something’,” he says.

“I think it’s really important to see a representation of your own country.”

From Heartbreak High, to The Year My Voice Broke, to a young Heath Ledger in Sweat, to Round the Twist, Australia has created many much-loved and stories that spoke to and connected with young people. Here is a selection of 11 more:

1. Galore (2014)

Wallace also featured in the Canberra-set film from writer/director Rhys Graham, which centred on the friendship of two girls, played by Puberty Blues’ Ashleigh Cummings and Lily Sullivan (Sucker). As they while away the summer before their final year of school, Billie is harbouring a secret – she’s in love and sleeping with Laura’s boyfriend (played by Wallace).

2. Looking for Alibrandi (2000)

Based on the book by Melina Marchetta (who also wrote the screenplay, and episodes of Dance Academy), this film starred Pia Miranda as teenager Josie Alibrandi, who is trying to balance the demands of her Italian family – and the arrival of a father she’s never met – with first loves and finishing Year 12 at a prestigious Sydney high school where she’s never felt like she belonged.

3. Puberty Blues (2012-13)

The two seasons of the popular Network Ten series starred Ashleigh Cummings and Brenna Harding as best friends growing up in Sydney’s southern beach suburbs as they deal with peer pressure, sex, surf and rebelling. The all-star cast also featured Claudia Karvan, Rodger Corser, Susie Porter and Dan Wylie. It was based on the classic 1979 novel by Gabrielle Carey and Kathy Lette, which was also made into a film in 1981.

4. Dance Academy (2010-13)

Over three seasons this ABC drama series followed Tara Webster (played by Xenia Goodwin), who at 15 moved from rural Australia to Sydney to study at the National Academy of Dance. Along with her fellow students, she navigates the emotional and physical challenges of studying to become an elite dancer, along with the added pressures and drama of being a teenager. It is also being extended into a feature film, Dance Academy: The Movie, which began shooting in Sydney in May.

5. Ready for This (2015)

The 14-episode series focused on six exceptionally talented teenagers – some great athletes, others musicians – who arrive at Arcadia House in Sydney to follow their dreams. For some it’s their last chance to make it happen, for others it’s the opportunity they never thought was possible. Made by the producers of Dance Academy and Redfern Now, the ABC Me series was also Australia’s first Indigenous teen drama and was recently nominated for an International Emmy.

6. Nowhere Boys (2013- )

This popular ABC series started out as the story of four mismatched teenagers – goth Felix (Dougie Baldwin), nerd Andy (Joel Lok), jock Jake (Matt Testro) and confident golden boy Sam (Rahart Adams) – who return from a school excursion to discover they are stuck in a parallel world where they were never born. The fantastical Emmy award-winning adventures of the foursome then extended into a second series and the movie Nowhere Boys: Book of Shadows. Now, fans are gearing up for the premiere of series 3 on ABC in November, set in the same world, but with fresh new faces.

7. SLiDE (2011)

Foxtel’s drama focused on the lives of five Brisbane teens in their final year of high school, who at 17, are hitting adulthood at top speed. Each episode is set over 24 hours and leads to unexpected and transformative first times, whether it’s a first kiss, first fight, first broken heart, or the first time you’ve been kicked out of somewhere. It also starred a young Brenton Thwaites (Gods of Egypt, Son of a Gun), The Code’s Adele Perovic and Love Child’s Gracie Gilbert (who also appears in Lockie Leonard).

8. Tomorrow When the War Began – The Series (2016)

Based on the novel of the same name by John Marsden and also a 2010 film, the series told the story of a group of eight teenagers, who return to their small country town after a camping trip to discover their country has been invaded. As the teens-turned-rebels are caught up in a conflict they never could have imagined, their parents are also having to cope with their lands being taken and sudden imprisonment.

9. Lockie Leonard (2006-09)

Before Puberty Blues, Sean Keenan starred as the titular character in two seasons of this Nine Network series, based on the books by acclaimed author Tim Winton. In it, surfer Lockie is 12 and three quarters years old when his family moves to a small coastal town in Western Australia. At first, it’s a total disaster with no friends and starting at a new school. But the surf, he discovers, is the best he’s ever seen. And then there’s Vicki Streeten (Gracie Gilbert), the first girl he’s ever met who makes him forget how to speak…

10. Girl Asleep (2016)

This off-beat coming-of-age film stars Bethany Whitmore as shy teen Greta, who’s pulled from her life of obscurity when to her dismay, her parents throw her a 15th birthday party and invite the whole school. Based on the stage play by Windmill Theatre Company where director Rosemary Myers is artistic director, it has drawn comparisons to Wes Anderson and Napolean Dynamite and also won the 2016 CinefestOZ $100,000 Film Prize. 

11. Emo The Musical (2016)

A satirical, fun take on the concept of a high school musical, this feature from writer/director/composer Neil Triffett is based on his short film of the same name, which was awarded a special mention at the 2014 Berlinale. The film stars Benson Jack Anthony (800 Words) as the sarcastic, witty Ethan, who wants to join the alternative school rock band ‘Worst Day Ever’ at his new high school and be a part of the Emo world. Only thing is, he can’t stop thinking about naïve Christian girl Trinity, even though she’s desperate to convert him. Emo (The Musical) premiered at Melbourne International Film Festival in August 2016 and will release in Australian cinemas in early 2017.

Boys in the Trees is out now. It is produced and distributed by Mushroom Pictures with financing support from Screen Australia and the South Australian Film Commission.