Ledger was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in Brokeback Mountain and is sure to be in Oscar consideration again next year given the impact that his disturbing and compelling performance in The Dark Knight is having on audiences.
'It is a life-time achievement award and he was a man with a strong stellar career on the international stage, but he was also someone who has tackled the Australian iconic role of Ned Kelly in an Australian film,' said BIFF executive director Anne Demy-Geroe. Critic David Stratton, academic Bruce Molloy and Demy-Geroe decided to give the award to Ledger.
He appeared in the Australian films Blackrock, Paws, Two Hands, Ned Kelly and Candy. He also earned a spot in The Patriot alongside Mel Gibson, who trained in Australia and got his leg-up into Hollywood with the Mad Max movies.
'Many in the local industry are still very emotional about his death, still grieving for him whether they knew him personally or not,' said Demy-Geroe. 'I didn't know him but when I saw him on stage at Venice accepting an award for Cate Blanchett for I'm Not There, he was just so gorgeous and goofy.'
Other recipients of the Chauvel Award include the actors Geoffrey Rush and Bryan Brown, both of whom Ledger has starred alongside, but it also often goes to people who are not household names because they are behind-the-camera. Examples include director Rolf de Heer (Ten Canoes) and producer Jan Chapman (Lantana). The award is named after the pioneering filmmaking couple Charles and Elsa Chauvel.
BIFF opens on July 31 with Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden' and closes on August 10 with the wartime drama The Edge Of Love. The films of Olivier Assayas, Thai and British cinema and films that reflect on European terrorism of the 1960s and 70s are among the highlights.