Romulus, My Father last night won the Australian Film Institute (AFI) Award for best film for producers Robert Connolly and John Maynard.

'Some people think awards are a bit frivolous but I think they are of real value,' said Connolly just hours before the award was announced in Melbourne. He then explained that Magnolia Pictures saw Romulus in Toronto but only struck a deal for US rights from Arclight after the film had scored 16 nominations, more than any other film this year.

The Home Song Stories also did very well with Tony Ayres winning best director and best script. These categories are only voted on by filmmakers whereas any AFI member can vote for best film.

The two key feature film acting awards were also divided between Romulus, My Father and The Home Song Stories: Joan Chen won for her fictional portrayal of Ayres's own mother and Eric Bana won for his portrayal of Gaita's father Romulus (Bana also won the audience prize).

Bana's co-star in Romulus, Kodi Smit-McPhee, who played Gaita as a boy, won the young actor award. Also, Martin Csokas won best supporting actor.

Emma Booth won best supporting actress for Clubland.

Sally Regan and Anna Broinowski's Forbidden Lie$ won best documentary.

Short awards went to Justine Kerrigan and Paul McDermott's The Girl Who Swallowed Bees (best short animation) and Anthony Maras and Kent Smith's Spike Up (best short fiction).

Geoffrey Rush, one of a handful of local Academy Award winners, hosted the awards, which were attended by such A-listers as Cate Blanchett, Anthony LaPaglia and Joan Chen.

As has been the case for several years there has been no shortage of critical acclaim for Australian films this year. It has been a lacklustre year commercially, however, as this year's crop of local films have been arthouse-bound.

The exception has been Happy Feet and and its director George Miller won a global achievement award.

The Byron Kennedy Award was given to Curtis Levy, while the AFI Raymond Longford Award went to David Hannay.