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Sapphires sweeps Australia's AACTA Awards

Comedy drama The Sapphires dominated the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Awards, hosted Wednesday night [Jan 30] in Sydney by actor Russell Crowe.

The film is about a group of four young indigenous women who go to Vietnam in the 1960s to entertain the troops. One of the highlights of the evening came late in the presentation when three of the four women on whom the story is based, took the stage surrounded by those who played them in the film and by those who had just performed a musical tribute to the film.

The Sapphires, which ranked as the highest grossing Australian film of last year, won a total of 11 awards.

Winners included Goalpost Pictures producers Rosemary Blight and Kylie du Fresne; debut director Wayne Blair; adapted screenplay writers Keith Thompson and Tony Briggs, whose mother was one of the women on which the film was based; lead actress Deborah Mailman; best supporting actress, the singer Jessica Mauboy; and cinematographer Warwick Thornton, director of Samson And Delilah and upcoming ghost story anthology The Darkside.

The film, which had its world premiere in Cannes, also won the prize for the most memorable screen moment in the eyes of audiences. The scene featured Irishman Chris O’Dowd, who won the AACTA Award for lead actor. Although not in attendance, the Bridesmaids actor delivered the most entertaining speech, even though it was read out by co-star Mailman.

As one of the presenters said, The Sapphires is a film “that shines with warmth, laughter and joy”.

Other winners

Thirteen films were nominated but only three other films besides The Sapphires were named during the awards ceremony.

Wish You Were Here won best original screenplay for husband-and-wife pair Kieran Darcy-Smith, who also directed the film, and Felicity Price, who also starred in the film. That film’s Antony Starr also won the category for best supporting actor.

Saskia Rosendahl won the award for best young actor for her lead performance in Cate Shortland’s German-Australian co-production Lore. She was 17 when the film was made and had not previously acted on screen.

Matteo Zingales and Jono Ma took home the award for best original music score for the romantic comedy Not Suitable For Children.

Posthumous prize

The Byron Kennedy Award went, posthumously, to Sarah Watt, who directed Look Both Ways and My Year Without Sex. As her son said upon accepting the award, she had “the ability to make mundane seem beautiful”.

The Raymond Longford Award went to Al Clark, as previously reported by ScreenDaily.

The night was packed with celebrities at the Star Event Centre with Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman, Joel Edgerton and Geoffrey Rush among the presenters, and several winners declared how much they loved working in the film industry.

The production company behind The Sapphires, Goalpost Pictures, has an alliance with Tristan Whalley’s Goalpost Film in the UK. Matthew Saville’s Felony, written by actor Joel Edgerton and to star him, is next on the Sydney-based company’s film slate.

Second AACTA Awards

It was only the second annual AACTA Awards but they have a 55-year history: they replaced the Australian Film Institute (AFI) Awards. During the presentation it was noted that Australians had won more than 60 BAFTAs and Oscars.

The presentation ceremony was split over three events: a presentation a week ago of the international awards in Los Angeles, dominated by Silver Linings Playbook; a lunch on Monday; and a presentation last night.

The event was telecast after the live presentation had wrapped by Network Ten, which just happened to have broadcast Puberty Blues, the winner of the award for best drama series.

Another big television winner was Redfern Now which, like The Sapphires, told stories from indigenous Australians. It earned Steven McGregor the award for best screenplay, and Leah Purcell the award for lead actress in a television drama – and her little celebratory on-stage dance won many hearts.

McGregor thanked English scriptwriter Jimmy McGovern, who was a key part of the development of the series.

“One of the things he said that sticks in my mind is that you have to torture your characters. I found that he also wanted to torture the writers, by driving them into the ground. You are an uncompromising bastard: but in a good way.”

The full list of film winners, and some selected TV, documentary and short film winners are

BEST FILM
The Sapphires, Rosemary Blight, Kylie du Fresne 

DIRECTION
The Sapphires, Wayne Blair 

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Wish You Were Here, Kieran Darcy-Smith, Felicity Price 

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Sapphires, Keith Thompson, Tony Briggs

LEAD ACTOR
Chris O’Dowd, The Sapphires

LEAD ACTRESS
Deborah Mailman, The Sapphires

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Antony Starr, Wish You Were Here

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jessica Mauboy, The Sapphires

CINEMATOGRAPHY
The Sapphires, Warwick Thornton

EDITING
The Sapphires, Dany Cooper

SOUND
The Sapphires, Andrew Plain, Bry Jones, Pete Smith, Ben Osmo, John Simpson

ORIGINAL MUSIC SCORE
Not Suitable For Children, Matteo Zingales, Jono Ma

PRODUCTION DESIGN
The Sapphires, Melinda Doring

COSTUME DESIGN
The Sapphires, Tess Schofield

VISUAL EFFECTS
Iron Sky, Samuli Torssonen, Jussi Lehtiniemi, Juuso Kaari, Kelly Myers

YOUNG ACTOR
Saskia Rosendahl, Lore

RAYMOND LONGFORD AWARD
Al Clark, producer

BYRON KENNEDY AWARD
Sarah Watt, director

FEATURE LENGTH DOCUMENTARY
Storm Surfers 3D, Ellenor Cox, Marcus Gillezeau 

DOCUMENTARY UNDER ONE HOUR
Then The Wind Changed, Jeni McMahon, Celeste Geer

TELEVISION DRAMA SERIES
Puberty Blues, John Edwards, Imogen Banks

TELEFEATURE OR MINI SERIES
Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War, John Edwards, Mimi Butler 

BEST SHORT FICTION
Julian, Robert Jago, Matthew Moore 

BEST SHORT ANIMATION
The Hunter, Marieka Walsh

INTERNATIONAL AWARD FOR BEST FILM
Silver Linings Playbook

INTERNATIONAL AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTION
David O Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

INTERNATIONAL AWARD FOR BEST SCREENPLAY
Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained

INTERNATIONAL AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

INTERNATIONAL AWARD FOR BEST ACTOR
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

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