Paraguayan filmmaker Marcelo Martinessi’s The Heiresses was awarded the $60,000 Sydney Film Prize at last night’s 65th Sydney Film Festival Closing Night Gala, which was held at the State Theatre.
“For me, this first experience in Sydney was beautiful, and was a great discovery of people, places, and stories.” Martinessi said. “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.”
Sydney filmmaker Ben Lawrence’s Ghosthunter won the $10,000 Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary, while the Dendy Live Action Short Award went to Second Best, directed by Alyssa McClelland, and Tom Noakes won the $7000 Rouben Mamoulian Award for Best Director for his work on Nursery Rhymes, with Special Mention going to Alison James for Judas Collar.
The $5,000 Yoram Gross Animation Award went to Andrew Goldsmith and Bradley Slabe’s Lost and Found, with Larissa Behrendt’s Barbara receiving a Special Mention.
The Event Cinemas Australian Short Screenplay Award, a $5,000 prize for the best short screenwriting, was awarded to Indigenous screenwriter Tyson Mowarin of 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.
Warwick Thornton (We Don’t Need A Map, Sweet Country) was presented with the $10,000 Sydney-UNESCO City of Film Award by his friend and Archibald Prize-winning painter and activist Ben Quilty.
This year’s festival was the biggest yet as Sydney Film Festival CEO Leigh Small noted, “The Festival spread out further this year to include cinemas at Moore Park and expand attendance at Randwick and Casula. Over 170,000 people joined filmmakers from 66 countries and our own filmmaking community.
“Audiences of all ages and backgrounds ventured away from their personal screens to attend the Sydney Film Festival cinemas – much to the delight of the filmmakers. Virpi Suutari, Finnish director of Entrepreneur, summed it up well, ‘it’s one of the most open, most receptive, curious audiences that I’ve ever had in any festival. Really, it was a wonderful experience.”
SFF former director and 2018 programmer David Stratton observed, “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.”
Sydney Film Festival Director Nashen Moodley said “This year’s program presented a large number of first films from international directors, including the Official Competition winner Marcelo Martinessi from Paraguay. Our program continues in Sydney Film Festival’s spirit of discovery of impactful, relevant and urgent films. We have had filmmakers from every continent and many Indigenous Australian communities, and every year our audience continues to elate and surprise them.
“Our juries have enthused about the quality of competition films; and our red carpets have been graced with Guo Pei gowns and New England Kelpies. Audiences have been in tears, in stitches and standing to applaud.”