Compere Russell Crowe andthe film Look Both Ways were thestars of the Australian Film Institute (AFI) Awards at the Melbourne CentralCity Studios.
Oscar-winner Crowe made a significantcontribution to the revitalisation of an event that had lost its gloss inrecent years, injectingcomedy by threatening to throw the black phone next to the rostrum at anyonewhose speeches went on too long.
Look Both Ways, produced byBridget Ikin and written and directed by Sara Watt,went home with the awards for best film, best director and best writer.
Watt said it was "almost embarrassing" to getso many accolades as a first time director and that said more about hercollaborators than her.
Many identified with the film because of its themes offear and grief, she added.
Ikin's acceptance speechkicked off with a thank you to cinema-goers, who have turned out in force forseveral Australian films seeing in recent months: "It's been exciting for allof us to feel the energy around them."
In the acting categories, Hugo Weaving'sperformance as a heroin addict in Little Fish and Cate Blanchett'son-screen struggle to stay clean, were rewarded for the third time in as manyweeks.
The supporting honours went to NoniHazlehurst, also for Little Fish, andAnthony Hayes, for Look Both Ways.
"It was a joy to make despite sometimes harrowingmaterial," said Weaving of Little Fish.
"Rowan's (director Rowan Woods) immaculate preparation, great understanding ofcraft and warm heart made what would have been very difficult, very easy."
Emily Browning (for Lemony Snicket's A SeriesOf Unfortunate Events) and Crowe (Cinderella Man) won the two new international acting awards.
Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackmanand Naomi Watts supported their local industry by announcing winners viapre-recorded segments sent from overseas, as did Cate Blanchettwho won an award from newspaper readers.
Veteran actor Ray Barrett won the Longford LifeAchievement Award.
Crowe, and Robert Connolly and Elliot Perlman, the recipients of the best adapted screenplayaward for Three Dollars, were amongmany who criticised the government on issues such as industrial relations,freedom of speech and the Free Trade Agreement.
Two general excellence awards, an internationalaward and the Byron Kennedy Award, went to Roger Savage for his work on thesound on The House OfFlying Daggers and to production designer Chris Kennedy.
On the previous night the latter, won an AFICraft Award for The Proposition, which he described as the best and probablythe worst experience of his career.
"We all work in the film industry, care aboutit and it is special to be part of this group, this culture, this country."
There had been some controversy about the craftawards being split out of the main night and the much heralded telecast notgoing to air until about despiteCrowe's involvement. By the time Crowe closed the show with a song it was