The winners of this year’s Sydney Film Festival prizes have been chosen.
The 65th Sydney Film Festival has awarded the prestigious Sydney Film Prize to The Heiresses, the debut feature film from Paraguayan filmmaker Marcelo Martinessi.
“For me, this first experience in Sydney was beautiful, and was a great discovery of people, places, and stories,” Martinessi said when accepting the prize, which consists of $AU60,000, at the Festival’s Closing Night Gala awards ceremony and event at the State Theatre. “Cinema is a collective work… sometimes we win, and sometimes we don’t win. But the important thing is to always do what we strongly believe in.”
The relationship drama, an acclaimed standout from the relatively modest Paraguayan film industry, takes an unusual look at the lives of wealthy Paraguayan families, through the tribulations of a lesbian couple. Jury President Lynette Wallworth said the film impressed the team by carrying viewers “with restraint and confidence into a world still shielded by entitlement even as its structures crumble.”
“It revealed a delicately unfolding courage to release what we cling to, even when it is all we know, and let change come – within ourselves and within this collective frame that we build, that is society.”
Previous Sydney Film Prize winners include: On Body and Soul (2017), Aquarius (2016), Arabian Nights (2015); Two Days, One Night (2014); Only God Forgives (2013); Alps (2012); A Separation (2011); Heartbeats (2010); Bronson (2009); and Hunger (2008).
Here’s the trailer for The Heiresses:
This year’s Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary’s $10,000 went to Ghosthunter, from Sydney filmmaker Ben Lawrence. The doco follows a Western Sydney security guard and part time ghost hunter searching for his absent father.
Short film Second Best, directed by Alyssa McClelland, was the recipient of the Dendy Live Action Short Award. Tom Noakes’ Nursery Rhymes took out the $7000 Rouben Mamoulian Award for Best Director, with Special Mention going to Alison James’ Judas Collar. The $5000 Yoram Gross Animation Award went to Andrew Goldsmith and Bradley Slabe’s Lost and Found, with Larissa Behrendt’s Barbara receiving a Special Mention.
Indigenous screenwriter Tyson Mowarin took home the Event Cinemas Australian Short Screenplay Award of $5,000 for his work Undiscovered Country. Renée Marie Petropoulos (Tangle and Knots), Lucy Knox (An Act of Love) and recently-announced recipients of the 2018 Lexus Australia Short Film Fellowship Curtis Taylor and Nathan Mewett (Yulubidyi – Until the End), all received Special Mentions.
And Australian filmmaker Warwick Thornton (Samson & Delilah) was presented with the $10,000 Sydney-UNESCO City of Film Award, bestowed by Create NSW to a trail-blazing NSW-based screen practitioner. Archibald Prize-winning painter, activist and Thornton’s friend Ben Quilty presented the award.
Influential film critic David Stratton, who directed the SFF from 1966 to 1983 and was a programmer of this year’s festival, said the event serves as a reminder that there is still a desire to watch films in cinemas, despite the rise of ‘at home’ content.
“What you learn from the success of the Sydney Film Festival is that there’s still an audience that wants to come and see movies where they’re meant to be seen – on cinema screens, where they’re designed to be shown. Not sitting at home and watching them on television, no matter how big your television screen is.”