Six films have been nominated for best film at this year’s Australian Film Institute (AFI) Awards, rather than the usual four, in acknowledgement of the large number of high-quality films in circulation.

The six films are Balibo, Beautiful Kate, Blessed, Mao’s Last Dancer, Mary And Max and Samson & Delilah.

Almost the same six films were nominated for the AFI Members’ Choice Award, except that the AFI members replaced Blessed with Australia. This big-budget drama will win the new award for highest grossing film at the presentation ceremony in Melbourne on December 12.

In the category for best director the nominees are Robert Connolly (Balibo), Rachel Ward (Beautiful Kate), Bruce Beresford (Mao’s Last Dancer) and Warwick Thornton (Samson & Delilah).

There is a strong tradition of writer/directors in Australia and Connolly (with David Williamson), Ward and Thornton are also named in the writing categories. So is the writer of Mao’s Last Dancer, Jan Sardi.

Other writer/directors in the running for an AFI Award for screenwriting include Serhat Caradee (Cedar Boys), Adam Elliot (Mary and Max) and Sarah Watt (My Year Without Sex). The skill of the four writers of Blessed, Andrew Bovell, Melissa Reeves, Patricia Cornelius and Christos Tsiolkas, was also acknowledged.

In the categories for lead actors the nominees were Sophie Lowe and Ben Mendelsohn (Beautiful Kate), Marissa Gibson and Rowan McNamara (Samson & Delilah), Frances O’Connor (Blessed), Sacha Horler (My Year Without Sex), Anthony LaPaglia (Balibo) and Hugo Weaving (Last Ride).

Most of the eight actors named for their work on the international stage this year excelled in television, the exceptions being Russell Crowe in State of Play, and Guy Pearce in Bedtime Stories.

Two weeks ago the nominees for the IF Awards, Australia’s other key film awards, were announced. Two of the three best film contenders in the IF Awards were also named this morning, being Balibo and Samson & Delilah, but the third, Cedar Boys, was not. Two of the three best director contenders in the IF Awards were also named this morning, being Warwick Thornton (Samson & Delilah) and Rachel Ward (Beautiful Kate) but the third Adam Elliot (Mary & Max) was not.

All the best actor nominees in the IF Awards – Rowan McNamara, Marissa Gibson (Samson & Delilah), Anthony LaPaglia (Balibo), Hugo Weaving (Last Ride), Sacha Horler (My Year Without Sex) and Frances O’Connor (Blessed) – are also nominees for AFI Awards.

Best Film

Balibo, producers John Maynard, Rebecca Williamson

Beautiful Kate, Leah Churchill-Brown, Bryan Brown

Blessed, Al Clark

Mao’s Last Dancer, Jane Scott

Mary and Max, Melanie Coombs

Samson & Delilah, Kath Shelper

AFI Members’ Choice Award

Australia, producers Baz Luhrmann, G. Mac Brown, Catherine Knapman

Balibo, John Maynard, Rebecca Williamson

Beautiful Kate, Leah Churchill-Brown, Bryan Brown

Mao’s Last Dancer, Jane Scott

Mary and Max, Melanie Coombs

Samson & Delilah, Kath Shelper

Best Direction

Balibo, Robert Connolly

Beautiful Kate, Rachel Ward

Mao’s Last Dancer, Bruce Beresford

Samson & Delilah, Warwick Thornton

Best Original Screenplay

Cedar Boys, Serhat Caradee

Mary and Max.,Adam Elliot

My Year Without Sex, Sarah Watt

Samson & Delilah, Warwick Thornton

Best Adapted Screenplay

Balibo. Robert Connolly, David Williamson

Beautiful Kate. Rachel Ward

Blessed. Andrew Bovell, Melissa Reeves, Patricia Cornelius, Christos Tsiolkas

Mao’s Last Dancer. Jan Sardi

Best Cinematography

Balibo, Tristan Milani ACS

Beautiful Kate, Andrew Commis

Last Ride, Greig Fraser

Samson & Delilah, Warwick Thornton

Best Editing

Balibo, Nick Meyers ASE

Blessed, Jill Bilcock ACE, ASE

Mao’s Last Dancer, Mark Warner

Samson & Delilah, Roland Gallois

Best Sound

Australia, Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer, Wayne Pashley MPSE, Guntis Sics

Balibo, Sam Petty, Emma Bortignon, Phil Heywood, Ann Aucote

Mao’s Last Dancer, David Lee, Andrew Neil, Yulia Akerholt, Mark Franken, Roger Savage

Samson & Delilah, Liam Egan, David Tranter, Robert Sullivan, Tony Murtagh, Yulia Akerholt, Les Fiddess

Best Original Music Score

Australia, David Hirschfelder, Felix Meagher, Baz Luhrmann, Angela Little

Balibo, Lisa Gerrard

Mao’s Last Dancer, Christopher Gordon

Samson & Delilah, Warwick Thornton

Best Production Design

Australia, Catherine Martin, Ian Gracie, Karen Murphy, Beverley Dunn

Balibo, Robert Cousins

Mao’s Last Dancer, Herbert Pinter

Mary and Max, Adam Elliot

Best Costume Design

Australia, Catherine Martin, Eliza Godman

Balibo, Cappi Ireland

Lucky Country, Mariot Kerr

Mao’s Last Dancer, Anna Borghesi

Best Lead Actor

Anthony LaPaglia, Balibo

Ben Mendelsohn, Beautiful Kate

Hugo Weaving, Last Ride

Rowan McNamara, Samson & Delilah

Best Lead Actress

Sophie Lowe, Beautiful Kate

Frances O’Connor, Blessed

Sacha Horler, My Year Without Sex

Marissa Gibson, Samson & Delilah

Best Supporting Actor

Brandon Walters, Australia

Damon Gameau, Balibo

Oscar Isaac, Balibo

Bryan Brown, Beautiful Kate

Best Supporting Actress

Bea Viegas, Balibo

Maeve Dermody, Beautiful Kate

Rachel Griffiths, Beautiful Kate

Mitjili Gibson, Samson & Delilah

International Award For Best Actor

Russell Crowe, State of Play

Martin Henderson, House, Network Ten

Anthony LaPaglia, Without A Trace, Nine Network

Guy Pearce, Bedtime Stories

International Award for Best Actress

Rose Byrne, Damages, Foxtel

Toni Collette, United States of Tara, ABC1

Melissa George, In Treatment, Foxtel

Mia Wasikowska, In Treatment, Foxtel

Young Actor Award

Brandon Walters, Australia

Sebastian Gregory, Beautiful

Tom Russell, Last Ride

Toby Wallace, Lucky Country

Marissa Gibson, Samson & Delilah

Rowan McNamara, Samson & Delilah

Visual Effects Award

Australia, Chris Godfrey, James E. Price, Andy Brown, Rob Duncan

Death of the Megabeasts, Matt Drummond, Mike Dunn

Plastic, Sandy Widyanata, Eric So, Matthew Mackereth, Christopher Jackson

Scorched, Bertrand Polivka, Soren Jensen.

Best Feature Length Documentary

Bastardy, Philippa Campey, Amiel Courtin-Wilson, Lynn-Maree Milburn, Andrew de Groot

The Choir, Chris Hilton, Michael Davie

Glass: a portrait Of Philip In Twelve Parts, Scott Hicks, Susanne Preissler

Lionel, Lizzette Atkins