It was a one-horse race at the annual AFI (Australian Film Institute) Awards on November 16. Lantana made history by being the only film to win the seven top awards: best film for Jan Chapman, best director for Ray Lawrence, best actor and actress for Anthony LaPaglia and Kerry Armstrong, best supports for Vince Colosimo and Rachael Blake, and best adapted screenplay for Andrew Bovell.
In an unprecedented occurrence, Armstrong also won best actress in a television drama series for her role in SeaChange and it will be interesting to see whether international offers will follow for this 40-something actress who challenged organisers to try and get her off the stage before she had completed her extended acceptance speech.
The absent Bovell also had a second reason to celebrate. He was awarded the inaugural $5,200 (A$10,000) screenwriting prize, sponsored by magazine Harper's BAZAAR and the only award that carries a cash prize. The second major new award, for global achievement, went to Russell Crowe. Often first-time filmmakers dominate the AFI Awards but not so this year.
Lawrence's first and only other feature Bliss won best director and best film in 1985, and the Chapman produced film The Piano won best film in 1993. Most of the craft awards went to the year's biggest commercial success, Moulin Rouge. It was the second AFI Award win for cinematographer Don McAlpine and production designer Catherine Martin, while editor Jill Bilcock and some members of the sound team had won multiple times. Robert Connolly won the award for best original screenplay for The Bank, and Cezary Skubiszewski won the award for best original music score for the second consecutive time, this year for La Spagnola and last year for The Wogboy. The award for best foreign film went to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Local critic David Stratton won the Raymond Longford Award for significant contribution to Australian filmmaking, and writer Ian David won the Byron Kennedy Award.
Lantana is described as a psychological thriller but is really a film about long-term adult relationships. The Film Finance Corporation and Germany's MBP funded the film, which has been sold to many territories by sales agent Beyond Films. Lions Gate releases the film in the US on December 14.