Anna-Maria Monticelli has won an Australian Writers Guild Award for the script of her feature film adaptation of JM Coetzee's novel Disgrace, which will have its world premiere next month in a special presentation at the Toronto International Film Festival.

In the original feature category, The Black Balloon earned its two writers, director Elissa Down and Jimmy the Exploder*, the top accolade from their peers. The film explores the relationship between a teenager, his girlfriend and his younger autistic brother and grossed A$2.26 million for Icon, making it the highest earner of any Australian film so far this year.

Icon is also the local distributor of Disgrace, but only because the film was one of several Australian pictures inherited when Icon bought Dendy Films this year. It is not being released in Australia until 2009 and Fortissimo is handling international sales rights.

Disgrace is directed by Monticelli's husband Steve Jacobs and was filmed in South Africa at a time of great change and great violence. It stars John Malkovich as a Cape Town academic who goes to live on his daughter's farm after he is denounced for having an affair with a student. The novel won the Booker Prize in 1999 and its author is now based in Adelaide.

There were 24 awards presented in Melbourne on Friday night with many for television and the theatre. The winner of the category for best adapted miniseries, Underbelly, has still not been seen in Melbourne because it is about that city's numerous gangland murders and the characters depicted are still the subject of court actions.

*In relation to changing his name from Jimmy Jack, The Black Balloon co-writer said, in the Film and Television Institute of Western Australia newsletter: 'If you do something ridiculous like changing your name - especially to Jimmy The Exploder - any other risks you take seem more normal.'