Warwick Thornton’s Samson & Delilah has proved its critical prowess once again, this time at Australia’s most prestigious awards ceremony, the Australian Film Institute (AFI) Awards, held Dec 12 in Melbourne.

The portrait of what it can be like growing up black in outback Australia won the best film and the members’ choice awards, as well as best direction, best original screeenplay and best cinematography for Warwick Thornton.

The film’s two on-screen newcomers, Marissa Gibson and Rowan McNamara, shared the young actor award, and it also won the sound category.

The film’s widespread acclaim continues to disguise what an exceptional year it has been for Australian films, yet producer Kath Shelper, at the end of her acceptance speech, summed up why the importance of the film means nobody really minds.

“After a screening in Los Angeles a Catholic nun called Sister Rose came up and said that Samson & Deliliah are the children that God has forgotten,” said Shelper. “After making the film we now hope that Samson & Delilah will be the children that Australia remembers.”

Balibo won best adapted screenplay for David Williamson and its director Robert Connolly, as well as best editing; Australia topped the costume, production design and visual effects categories, and Mao’s Last Dancer won best music score. Australia was also acknowledged for its outstanding box office gross and Mao’s for its popularity with the readers of News Corporation newspapers.

Anthony LaPaglia won best lead actor for Balibo, and that film also earned Guatemala-born Oscar Isaac the supporting category. Frances O’Connor won best lead actress for Blessed and Rachel Griffith the supporting category for Beautiful Kate.

In the international acting awards, Russell Crowe was acknowledged for his performance in State Of Play and Toni Collette for United States of Tara.

Another Australian, Nathan McGuinness, also won an interntional award for his visual effects work on Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Terminator Salvation, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and a slew of others.

In an unusual but much welcomed result, key grip Ray Brown won the Byron Kennedy Award and made a plea for the safety of technicians everywhere.

Members’ choice award: Samson & Delilah — Kath Shelper

Best film: Samson & Delilah — Kath Shelper

Best direction: Samson & Delilah — Warwick Thornton

Best original screenplay: Samson & Delilah — Warwick Thornton

Best adapted screenplay: Balibo — David Williamson, Robert Connolly

Best cinematography: Samson & Delilah — Warwick Thornton

Best editing: Balibo — Nick Meyers ASE

Best sound: Samson & Delilah — Liam Egan, David Tranter, Robert Sullivan, Tony Murtagh, Yulia Akerholt, Les Fiddess

Best original music score: Mao’s Last Dancer — Christopher Gordon

Best production design: Australia — Catherine Martin, Ian Gracie, Karen Murphy, Beverley Dunn

Best costume design: Australia — Catherine Martin, Eliza Godman

Best lead actor: Anthony LaPaglia — Balibo

Best lead actress: Frances O’Connor — Blessed

Best supporting actor: Oscar Isaac —  Balibo

Best supporting actress: Rachel Griffiths — Beautiful Kate

International awards. Acting: Russell Crowe — State of Play; Toni Collette — United States of Tara. Excellence in filmmaking: Nathan McGuiness for visual effects.

Young actor award: Marissa Gibson & Rowan McNamara — Samson & Delilah

Visual effects award: Australia — Chris Godfrey, James E. Price, Andy Brown, Rob Duncan

Byron Kennedy Award: Ray Brown.

Highest grossing film: Australia — Marc Wooldridge, Baz Luhrmann, G. Mac Brown, Catherine Knapman, Stuart Beattie, Ronald Harwood, Richard Flanagan

Readers’ choice award: Mao’s Last Dancer — Jane Scott

Best feature length documentary: Glass: A Portrait Of Philip In Twelve Parts — Scott Hicks, Susanne Preissler