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Looking for Alibrandi: 10 iconic moments

May 2020 marks 20 years since the coming-of-age Aussie classic Looking for Alibrandi graced our screens.

For those not familiar, the film is told from the perspective of Josephine Alibrandi, an ambitious, intelligent and outspoken teenager entering her final year of school. With that comes the pressures of exams and university, but it’s also a year of discovery: friendships, first love, tragedy and learning the identity of her father, all while battling against the constraints of race, gender and class. 

Based on the book of the same name by Melina Marchetta (who also wrote the screenplay), the film was directed by Kate Woods in her feature debut, and starred Pia Miranda as Josie, alongside Kick Curry, Matthew Newton, Anthony LaPaglia and Greta Scacchi. Critically acclaimed, it won the Australian Film Institute Award for Best Film in 2000, but it also resonated with teenagers and adults alike through its authentic portrayal of growing up in Australia during the late 90s/early 00s and the second generation migrant experience.

To celebrate Looking for Alibrandi’s 20th anniversary, we take a look back at the most iconic moments and fall in love with Josie all over again.

  • 1. “Thank Christ that even in the most tragic of lives, there’s always a sliver of hope...and his name was John Barton.”

  • The operatic music, the slow-motion walk, that nonchalant toss of the hat: the giddy excitement as teenage testosterone strode through the halls of Josie’s all-girls school was palpable, and provided quite the intro to her crush John. 

  • 2. “Phone companies would go broke if it wasn’t for the Italians.”

  • No secrets are safe nor do misdemeanours go unnoticed by the Italians. Especially when Nonna’s spy ring is the “biggest and most thorough in the southern hemisphere.”

  • 3. “Ok God, here’s the deal: I’ll say the rosary five times a night with Nonna if you just get him to ask me for the first dance.”

  • Let’s just say Josie absolutely rocks that red dress and John truly missed his chance that night. Side note: how great was noughties music and fashion. Anyone else still think of this scene when they hear Happyland’s Don’t You Know Who I Am?

  • 4. “This is like the BEST dress I own. This is going to be a family heirloom one day. How do you expect me to sit on that bike in a family heirloom?”

  • Not exactly the ride home Josie pictured. Also, so quintessentially Sydney - George Street, Anzac Bridge, Glebe and the Inner West.

  • 5. “Dear Guinness Book of Records: I've just been out on a 10-minute date. Is that a record?”

  • Josie’s relationship with bad boy Jacob Coote gets off to a rocky start. In his words, “you’re my kind of chick. Why are we such a disaster together?”

  • 6. “I can’t believe I’ve got John Barton’s soul and he’s got mine.” 

  • That special moment when they give each other a piece of themselves, and it sums up those feelings of fear, pressure and expectations.

  • 7. “But I am what I am, and all I want is freedom.”

  • Who wasn’t a mess after hearing John’s final words to Josie, with the double-punch of the funeral scene and U2’s With or Without You. As Josie throws John’s letter into the air, you can almost hear everyone collectively reaching for the tissues.  

  • 8. “At least I’m not a bastard”

  • Arch-nemesis Carly Bishop went one step too far and I think we all enjoyed Josie’s reply a little too much. 

  • 9. Muck Up Day

  • A rite of passage for Aussie Year 12s. What better way to celebrate the end of an era than flour and water balloon fights, signing school uniforms and making out with your high school crush.

  • 10. “I'm Christina and Michael's daughter and I'm Katia's granddaughter. And we're not cursed, we're blessed.”

  • It’s Tomato Day (“National Wog Day”) again! Twelve months after we first meet Josie, we see her accepting her culture with a better understanding of who she is - a strong Alibrandi woman. Cue: happy tears.

You can enjoy Looking for Alibrandi at home now, available to rent or purchase on iTunes.