Other awards go to 33 Postcards, Life In Movement, The Palace, Tethered, and Nullabor.
Iranian writer/director Asghar Farhadi’s Nader and Simin — A Separation has won the $64,000 (A$60,000) Sydney Film Prize, it was announced today on the 12th and final day of the Sydney Film Festival.
“This film looks beneath the surface of relations between men and women in Iran in a way that raises questions about law, freedom, and feminine and masculine honour,” jury president Chen Kaige told guests. “It is an extremely courageous film, successfully executed.”
A Separation, about a husband and wife with divorce and moving abroad on their minds, won best film and several acting awards at Berlin.
Farhadi was not in the country to receive his prize but sent a message saying he wanted to share his happiness with fellow Iranians living in Australia. Being on the other side of the world at the other end of the day, he also made reference to cinema’s ability to bring people together by removing time and space.
The Iranian director is no stranger to Australia: in late 2009 his previous film About Elly shared the grand jury prize at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA), and last year he became one of the first four filmmakers to receive US$25,000 in script development money through the APSA Academy/Motion Picture Association Film Fund.
Another very different film about relationships between men and women, Egyptian writer Mohamed Diab’s directorial debut Cairo 678, which tackles the relentless sexual harassment of women in his country, received a special mention.
It was honoured “for its courage in using a popular form of cinema to successfully communicate the frustration and anger of women in Egypt with sexual harassment, and their determination to change this. It’s a film that resonates the world over.”
Producer and actor Bushra Rozza was a guest of the festival.
Chen Kaige told guests that the two films came closest to fitting the judging criteria which are for films that have “emotional power and resonance (and) are audacious, cutting-edge, courageous, and go beyond the usual treatment of the subject matter”.
New Zealand actor Kerry Fox, UK producer Mark Herbert, film critic Julie Rigg and Australian director Sarah Watt were also on the jury for what is director Clare Stewart’s fifth and last festival. The event closes tonight with a Mike Mills’ Beginners.
Pauline Chan’s feature Chinese/Australian co-production 33 Postcards, about a Chinese orphan’s (newcomer Zhu Lin) determination to connect with her Australian sponsor (Guy Pearce) despite his attempts to deceive her, won the $5,300 (A$5,000) Community Relations Commission Award.
Life In Movement, Bryan Mason and Sophie Hyde’s 80-minute film about Tanja Liedtke, who was killed in a road accident before taking up her new role as the artistic director of the Sydney Theatre Company, won the $10,600 (A$10,000) FOXTEL Australian Documentary Prize.
Both these prizes are restricted to Australian films as are a number of others for short films: the Dendy Award for best live action film, which went to Anthony Maras’s The Palace, which was filmed in Cyprus; the Rouben Mamoulian Award for best director, which was given to Craig Irvin for Tethered; the Yoram Gross Animation Award, which went to Alister Lockhart’s Nullabor; and the Peter Rasmussen Innovation Award, which went to Dario Russo, the key creator behind Italian Spiderman and Danger 5.