an NFSA website

Only the Brave (1994)


Alex (Elena Mandalis) and Vicki (Dora Kaskanis) are best friends, growing up in the industrial suburbs of outer Melbourne. Vicki’s parents are Greek migrants. Alex’s parents were musicians, but her Greek mother left the family years earlier, and Alex longs to know where she is. In school, Alex is the favourite of English teacher Kate (Maud Davey) and Vicki is the rebel. Outside school, they both run wild, setting fires in abandoned houses, drinking and smoking, planning to run away to Sydney to find Alex’s mother. Vicki can’t understand Alex’s reluctance to sleep with a boy; Alex isn’t quite sure yet what her sexuality is. When Alex learns that her friend is being sexually abused, the world collapses for both girls.

Curator’s notes

Ana Kokkinos worked for nine years as an industrial lawyer before deciding she wanted to be a filmmaker. Only the Brave was made soon after she finished the graduate film program at the Victorian College of the Arts (then known as Swinburne) and it was clear evidence that a major new voice had arrived in Australian film. Although made on a low budget, the film showed that Kokkinos had an uncompromising ambition to tell powerful and personal stories. The film’s shocking finale – in which Alex is powerless to stop her friend’s suicide by fire – is extremely provocative and disturbing. It was a sign of things to come. Head On, made four years later, was another shock for audiences, as was The Book of Revelation in 2006. Kokkinos has said she believes artists should provoke and question, and that cinema has the power to provoke a visceral response. 'It’s okay if it creates a fuss,’ she has said.