The Nostradamus Kid (1992)

The Nostradamus Kid is a semi-autobiographical 1992 Australian film written and directed by writer, journalist, film-maker and political activist Bob Ellis.

Set in part at a Seventh Day Adventist Camp in 1956, the film is a religious and sexual coming of age story starring Noah Taylor (Almost Famous, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) as Ken Elkin, a Seventh Day Adventist boy struggling with doubt, his fleshly desires and belief that the world is about to end.

Overall, I’d say the film is better than the 2.2-star rating on Netflix and reviews with terms like “borefest” might suggest. What I found most fascinating about the film, which I admit is a little on the long side, are the flashback scenes to the Seventh Day Adventist summer camp in which we see Elkin awkwardly flirting with a British preacher’s daughter and attempting to work out his doubts about his faith in an environment where asking questions is considered heresy and the former Adventist squawking about the world coming to an end across the road from the camp’s main entrance is shunned. While it’s a different kind of summer camp than you may be used to, the summer camp experience of Elkin is not all that foreign to some of my own experiences attending camp meetings in Ohio as a youngster and the Christian camp I attended as a teenager.

In fact, many Christian camps and camp meetings still in existence today probably looked similar to the one depicted in the film, an encampment of tents where families stayed and a large tent where evening worship and preaching occurred.

In a 2004 interview, Bob Ellis had this to say about his experiences at camp:

“There were these annual Seventh-Day Adventist camps, which were the most exciting things that ever happened to me. They were great romantic adventures, and I fell in love repeatedly with various girls.”

While Elkin isn’t the most likable character and the scenes not set at the camp are somewhat of a let-down by comparison, The Nostradamus Kid is still a worthwhile watch if you like biopics and are interested in seeing the ’50s and ’60s from the perspective of a quirky Australian kid.

Matt Ralph

Matt Ralph

I'm the editor of Summer Camp Culture and also blog at Tangzine.com and MatthewRalph.com. I live in the Philadelphia area and went to camps and camp meetings growing up in Ohio, Maryland and New Jersey.

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