Best Film, Best Direction, Best Screenplay and Best Actor were all awarded last night to Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale. In Jennifer Kent’s absence, accepting the awards for Best Director and Screenplay was Associate Producer of the film, Jim Everett, a Tasmanian Indigenous elder, and Indigenous adviser on the film. Also absent on the night, Best Actress winner Aisling Franciosi recorded an acceptance message, whilst those in attendance graced the stage for the final award of the night, Best Film, with lead producer Kristina Ceyton speaking on behalf of the production. All of the acceptance speeches for The Nightingale on the night made a concerted effort to acknowledge the Indigenous aspect of the film, reflecting the fact that a white woman told an Indigenous story, somewhat of a controversial aspect in the current Screen Australia led conversation around representation.
A fellow cast member of The Nightingale, Damon Herriman picked up Best Actor for his performance in Judy & Punch, one of four nominations for the local screen hero at the 2019 Awards.
The other big winners on the night were TV series Total Control (Best Drama Series and Deborah Mailman and Rachel Griffiths for Best Lead Actress in a Television Drama and Best Guest or Supporting Actress in a Television Drama respectively), Lambs of God (Best Telefeature or Mini Series), The Australian Dream (Best Documentary) and The Letdown (Best Comedy Program and Best Performance in a Television Comedy for show co-creator Alison Bell).
Parasite won Best Asian Film, Robbie Hood for Best Online Drama or Comedy and highly respected First AD P.J. Voeten the Byron Kennedy Award.
The highlight of the night was without reservation, the presentation of the Longford Lyell Award to Sam Neill. Introduced by Dr George Miller (great filmmaker, failed doctor according to Neill) with a congratulation reel featuring everyone from Helena Bonham Carter, Mel Gibson, Susan Sarandon, Liam Neeson, Taika Waititi and Neill’s best friend Bryan Brown, the actor (originally named Nigel as many reminded him) gave a heartfelt speech praising the many Australians that gave him the opportunity to do what he loves, his love for Australia and thanks to Hugo Weaving for playing his roles on occasion.
As is to be expected for an awards night made for TV broadcast, the audience in the theatre was an afterthought, with host Shane Jacobson appearing only at the beginning and end of the show, spending the brunt of the awards in the green room with the presenting talent, which included Jacki Weaver, Asher Keddie, Rodger Corser, Joel Creasey, Essie Davis, Damon Gameau, Nazeem Hussain, Angie Kent, Danielle Cormack, Ewen Leslie, Darren McMullen, Dr. George Miller, Tim Minchin, Pia Miranda, Julia Morris, Todd Sampson and Miranda Tapsell.