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7 Boxes wins best feature at inaugural Cockatoo fest

A fast-moving action film from Paraguay, 7 Boxes, directed by Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tania Chembori, has won the Golden Feather Award for best dramatic feature at Sydney’s inaugural Cockatoo Island Film Festival.

The film is about a teenager who agrees to deliver seven boxes to the outskirts of Asunción’s chaotic markets for a stranger in exchange for $100. He believes the cash will eventually lead him to the fame he desires but he doesn’t expect the task to be so dangerous or difficult.

“It was exciting, very intriguing and had a certain quality of what we suspect Central America is like,” said cinematographer Don McAlpine of the film. He was on the jury alongside director Peter Andikidis, producer Helen Bowden and actor Alex Dimitriades.

7 Boxes provides a rare big screen window into Paraguay because, according to organisers, no more than 20 features have been made in the country in the past decade.

Marten Persiel’s Germany documentary This Ain’t California, billed as a “punk fairytale” that mixes the grace of roller boarding with the grim reality of teenage life in 1989 in the former German Democratic Republic, won the award for documentary.

The documentary jurors commended the director on his bravery, the unique nature of the film’s perspective and the importance of the subject matter. They also said the film was remarkable for its exploration of an intimate friendship.

A special jury prize for artistic vision went to Austrian film Breathing, a debut film by celebrated actor Karl Markovics (The Counterfeiters). The film screened in Cannes and centres on a teenager from an institution for young offenders who finds the strength to seek out his mother after getting a job in a funeral home.

The jurors said Breathing earned the award because of the work of both the director and first-time actor Thomas Schubert. 

Writer/director Bec Kingma’s A Silent Night, about the aftermath of a rape, was the winner of the competition for Australian shorts. Jo Anne Brechin won the award for a filmmaker aged 35 years or less who represents the most inspiring, exciting and accomplished voice across all categories. And Ella Bancroft won the documentary fellowship that only indigenous filmmakers were eligible for.

The festival ran from October 24-28 on Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour. Co-directors Stavros Kazantzidis and Allanah Zitserman have been running the Dungog Film Festival, just for Australian films, since 2007.

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