Dov Kornits

“I’d love for the film to have a life,” director Rosemary Myers told us almost a year ago when Girl Asleep was about to premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival.


Yesterday, the film picked up a tidy $100,000 prize at CinefestOZ, Australia’s youngest and most exciting film festival, taking place in South Western WA’s picturesque Busselton/Margaret River Region.


“It’s been a wonderful ride from Berlin to Busselton, but this has been the most fun yet,” said the film’s producer Jo Dyer upon picking up the award.


Girl Asleep is the story of an introverted girl (Bethany Whitmore) with a rich imaginary life on the eve of her 15th birthday in ‘70s Australian suburbia. Apart from her quirky family she must also navigate the various cliques of her new school before striking up a sweet friendship with a nerdy boy.


Following its premiere at its hometown Adelaide Film Festival where it picked up the Audience Prize, Girl Asleep opened Berlinale’s Generation 14Plus strand before also playing Sydney and Melbourne Film Festivals earlier this year.


Previous winners of the CinefestOZ are Paper Planes and Putuparri and the Rainmakers, reflecting the diversity of filmmaking that has enjoyed the support of this lucrative prize.


Presenting the prize, WA Premier and Tourism Minister Colin Barnett announced the West Australian Government had secured a new two-year deal to continue sponsoring the event.


“CinefestOZ is a great example of a home-grown West Australian event that has gone from strength to strength with State Government support,” Mr Barnett said. “Last year it attracted more than $2.73 million into the region which is important for the local economy.


“I am very pleased that the State Government will be supporting this fantastic event for a further two years through Tourism WA and the Royalties for Regions program.”


Girl Asleep co-writer and cast member Matthew Whittet
Girl Asleep writer and cast member Matthew Whittet

The prize received 30 submissions this year, narrowed down to the aforementioned four, with the jury made up of Sue Taylor, Garry Phillips, Damian Walshe-Howling, Emma Booth and Chair, Gillian Armstrong.


“The film was a dazzling treat, brave, clever, funny and heartfelt with a wonderful cast and performances especially by the two lead kids, Bethany Whitmore and Harrison Feldman,” said Armstrong. “Beautifully, wickedly designed and shot, it was a visual treat with a brave and successful heightened style that never took us out of the humanity and poignancy of the story.”


Gillian Armstrong was also recognised for her outstanding achievements as an Australian director, and named the CinefestOZ 2016 Screen Legend. “Thank you very, very much, it’s been a privilege and an honour and a great many things,” Armstrong said upon picking up the well-deserved award. “Never before have I been called a legend. I’ve found the thing that I love to do.”


Previous recipients of the CinefestOZ Screen Legend include Hugo Weaving, Jack Thompson, Bryan Brown, David Wenham and filmmaker Fred Schepisi, and in this year of the woman, Armstrong was the perfect choice.


For more on CinefestOZ, head to their websiteGirl Asleep is in cinemas from September 8.


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