The book is written by Australian-born Melina Marchetta, and is currently a part of the curriculum in many schools.
Additionally, the film was shot in Sidney, using some of the locales in Leichhardt.
Melina wrote the screenplay for the film and as a result, it retains the many elements which make is a wonderful book to read.
The film stars Greta Schacchi, Anthony LaPaglia, and newcomers Pia Miranda, Matthew Newton and Kick Gurry in the three main young roles.
Three generations of Italian-Australian women living together in a hothouse atmosphere of love, support... and dramas on an operatic scale.
While Josie and her mum Christina live together in relative harmony, their relationship to Nonna Katia, the family’s matriarch, has always been stormy.
According to Katia, the three women live under the shadow of a curse brought about by Christina having a child outside marriage.
Josie’s longing to break free from her class and this stifling sense of Italian “destiny” becomes wrapped up in her feelings for the charming John Barton, top scholar at St. Anthony’s and a boy who lives and breathes privilege.
If he represents everything she wants to be why does she find herself so strongly attracted to his opposite – Jacob Coote, captain of the local high school?
Sure he’s good-looking and smart, but he also speaks and dresses badly and is downright rude.
John is perfect, but it’s this underdog that gets under her skin.
In the wake of the devastating news of John’s totally unexpected suicide (with its implied rejection of the “ideal” world of her dreams), Jacob comes to mean something very special to her and one of the most important relationships of her life starts to unfold.
The arrival of a third man in Josie’s life, the father who never knew she existed, complicates matters.
From a disastrous first meeting they gradually come to terms with each other and gain a new perspective on belonging just in time to deal with a final family bombshell.
Josie discovers by accident the source of her grandmother’s bitterness, a secret that goes to the heart of who Josie thinks she is.
In the process, she learns how deceptive notions of inherited destiny can be and, by successfully weathering a tempestuous year, she emerges a strong, determined and independent woman.
Josie’s desire to belong to the comfortable, privileged world of middle class Australia (and her clever, funny and unpredictable nature), drive this rites of passage story.
One of Australia’s best-known actresses, Greta Schacchi was the first choice for the role of Christina.
Her international career to date includes acclaimed performances in film and television as well as on the stage.
She has worked with directors such as James Ivory, Robert Altman and Gillian Armstrong, and has won several awards, including an Emmy in 1996 and the Italian Visconti Award for contributions to European Film and Theare.
Greta’s performance is enriched by her strong connection to her character, Christina.
“I was drawn to the part of the story that is about family life – Christina’s relationship with her mother and daughter,” she says.
“Those three women really love each other yet they treat each other so badly.
“I think that is very human and I think it is very rare to find a script that is so true to life on day-to-day issues.
“It all seems very familiar to me – I have a daughter who is very strong and loves to criticise me, and yet I know she also admires me.
“You wouldn’t think it, the way she gives me a mouthful sometimes!”
Anthony LaPaglia, who plays Michael Andretti, returned to his native Australia for the first time in four years to play the role of Michael.
“About two or three years ago, I reached the point in my career when I started making decisions based on what I liked as opposed to what would be good for my career, and they are two completely different things,” he says.
“As soon as I started doing that, ‘surprise!’, things got a lot better because you can actually commit yourself and put your heart into your work more when you choose the things that you really respond to.
“This is a beautiful story. I related a lot to it growing up in Adelaide in an ethnic family.
“Even though the main character is a girl, I related to the kinds of things she was going through.
“I just thought that it was one of those rare scripts where you really cared about everyone in the movie.”
One of director Kate Woods’ primary concerns with casting the film was to find fresh new talent for the young roles.
Josie Alibrandi is Pia Miranda’s first major role in film, but is likely to be the first of many.
“Pia displays a great maturity and focus about the work that goes way beyond her experience, and way beyond her ears,” producer, Robyn Kershaw, says.
“I feel that we really needed a miracle like her in order to pull of this extraordinary story.”
Pia gained her Bachelor of Arts majoring in Performance Studies from Victoria University of Technology in 1995 before commencing her career as an actress.
Sharing an Italian-Australian heritage with her character, Pia has brought great vitality, warmth and immediacy to the role.
“I went to all the real Italian functions with my father’s family – I had a nonna as well, the same as Josie – and then I had the really Australian things on my mother’s side.
“When you are young, it can be quite confusing and then as you get older, you learn to embrace it, and that’s why it relates back to this story.”
Despite this being her first role in a feature film, Pia says, “When I started, everyone was aware that it was my first film so they really helped me out”.
“Everyone was so supportive that I felt quite at ease with it when I thought I’d be much more panicky!”
The novel Looking for Alibrandi was first published in Australia by Penguin in 1992 and is now to be published in Denmark, Italy, Germany, Spain, Norway and Canada.
The novel has picked up numerous awards including: the 1993 Children’s Book of the Year (Older Readers); the Australian Multicultural Literature Award (Senior Award); the Koala Award (Kids Own Australia Literature Award – Secondary Readers Section); and the Variety Club Young People’s 3M Talking Book of the Year Award.