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Alps wins top prize at Sydney Film Festival

Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos has won the fifth Sydney Film Prize with Alps, an offbeat film starring Aggeliki Papoulia, Aris Servetalis and Johnny Vekis.

The decision was announced yesterday, the final day of the 59th Sydney Film Festival, by the jury president, Sydney director/actor Rachel Ward.

Alps is about a group of people who operate a business replacing the recently deceased for the sake of those left behind. It is Lanthimos’s follow-up to Un Certain Regard winner Dogtooth.

Alps melds pathos, black humour and taut menace in a film that is at once challenging and highly rewarding,” said Ward. “A finely calibrated, absurdist study of power and identity, Alps is intelligent, uniquely emotive filmmaking from an important new voice in Greek cinema.”

Lanthimos wrote Alps with Efthimis Filippou – they earned the best screenplay award at Venice – and produced it with Athina Rachel Tsangari, who directed the 2011 Sydney competition film Attenberg, on which Lanthimos was one of the producers.

There were 12 films in competition for the $60,000 (A$60,000) prize, Australia’s biggest cash award for film. Australian filmmaker Amiel Courtin-Wilson, Chad filmmaker Mahamet-Saleh Haroun, critic Boyd Van Hoeij, based in The Netherlands, and Hong Kong producer Lorna Tee were the other jury members. Lanthimos did not accompany his film to Australia.

Various Australian short films also went home with awards yesterday. The Dendy Award for best live action short went to Cannes competition film Yardbird, directed by Michael Spiccia and produced by Jessica Mitchell. The drama is about a young girl who takes on the local bullies when they turn up to torment her father.

The Rouben Mamoulian Award was won by Dumpy Goes To The Big Smoke, written and directed by Mirrah Foulkes, who was in the cast of Animal Kingdom, and the Yoram Gross Animation Award went to The Maker, written and directed by Christopher Kezelos, and produced by he and Christine Kezelos.

Killing Anna, directed and produced by Paul Gallasch and sparked by his girlfriend breaking up with him, won the FOXTEL Australian Documentary Prize.

Official figures will not be released until tomorrow but ticket sales and box office grosses both reached record levels during the 12-day event, which ended with Colin Trevorrow’s quirky US indie comedy Safety Not Guaranteed.

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