The director of The Black Balloon, Elissa Down, has won the highest feature film accolade for 2008 from her peers at the Australian Directors Guild (AWG). Click here for review.

But the film's producer, Tristram Miall, collected the award on her behalf at a dinner last night (Saturday) in Sydney because she is where many Australian directors go to work after making a successful first film: Los Angeles.

An autistic character is central to the family drama, which is the highest grossing Australian film of the past 12 months.

Tom Murray won best director in the category for feature-length documentaries with In My Father's Country, which takes audiences into remote Australia and the world of a young Aboriginal boy as he prepares to be initiated.

The creator of a string of feature-length documentaries, Tom Zubrycki, won the prestigious Cecil Holmes Award, which is for someone who both impresses with his craft and helps other directors.

The politically-motivated Bruce Petty was the recipient of the ADG's outstanding achievement award. Given for a body of work, his latest animated documentary, Global Haywire, was in cinemas this year, nearly 30 years after his short film, Leisure, won an Oscar.

At a time when the methods the Federal Government uses to support Australian film-makers is under review, both men emphasised the importance of independent film-making.

Kate Woods, director of the 2000 feature Looking for Alibrandi, received the highest accolade in television: the Michael Carson Award for Excellence.

The winners of 2008 Australian Directors Guild Awards are:

Feature film: Elissa Down, The Black Balloon.

Documentary feature: Tom Murray, In My Father's Country

Documentary - stand alone, under 60 minutes: Natasha Gadd, Anatomy - Muscle

Documentary - series: Brian McKenzie,.Love's Harvest

Animated film: Dennis Tupicoff, Chainsaw

Short film: Julius Avery, Jerrycan.

Short student film: John Evagora, 296 Smith Street

TV drama series - periodical: Peter Andrikidis, East West 101 - Episode 1: The Enemy

TV drama series - mini-series: Tony Tilse, Underbelly - Episode 2: The Sorcerer's Apprentice

TV drama series - ongoing: Ian Gilmour, All Saints - Episode 435: Blind Faith

TV comedy series: Stuart McDonald, Summer Heights High

Television commercial - performance: Sean Meehan, The Race

Television commercial - visual narrative: Paul Middleditch, Brewtopia (Pure Blonde)