Samson & Delilah, which dramatically illustrates what it can be like to be black, Australian, and living in the desert, took home six of the ten Inside Film Awards given out tonight to features.

Told from the inside by indigenous writer/director Warwick Thornton, and produced by Kath Shelper, the moving story won best film, best director, best script and best music. The film’s two teenage leads, Rowan McNamara and Marissa Gibson, won best actor and best actress.

The ceremony, held at Luna Park overlooked by the Sydney Harbour Bridge, definitely belonged to Samson & Delilah, which grossed twice its $1.5m (A$1.6m) budget at the Australian box office. But it was another film with an indigenous story at its heart, Baz  Lurhmann’s Australia, that earned the box office achievement award for producers Luhrmann, G Mac Brown and Catherine Knapman. Told on a much bigger scale, its final Australian gross was $34.8m (A$37.5m).

And the indigenous theme of the night didn’t stop there: the Message Sticks Indigenous Film Festival, which showcases indigenous film from Australia and other parts of the world, won the award for the best film festival.

Lurhmann’s body of work, which also includes Strictly Ballroom and Moulin Rouge!, earned him the living legend award and the team behind Australia’s first co-production with Iran My Tehran For Sale, produced by director Granaz Moussavi, Julie Ryan and Kate Croser, won the award for independent spirit.

The IF Awards came at the end of the first day of the annual conference of the Screen Producers Association of Australia (SPAA) which began with a stinging attack on the negative impact of direct government subsidy on Australian film.

“In the film industry, government intervention has been consistently used to assist in the creation of product the market does not want and the market tells us that year in year out by rejecting it en masse,” said SPAA president Antony Ginnane.

He is referring to social realist cinema – while Samson & Delilah is an example, Ginnane described it as a success given its realistic budget – and called for cultural cinema being funded and judged quite differently to commercial films and the sustainable business they could be creating.

The big issues that emerged and will continue to dominate discussion for the next two days include the terms of trade between producers and direct funding agency Screen Australia, and matters associated with the producer offset, Australia’s relatively new indirect funding source.


Best feature film: Samson & Delilah – Warwick Thornton, Kath Shelper

Best actor: Rowan McNamara – Samson & Delilah

Best actress: Marissa Gibson – Samson & Delilah

Best script: Samson & Delilah – Warwick Thornton

Best music: Samson & Delilah – Warwick Thornton

Best direction: Samson & Delilah – Warwick Thornton

Best sound: Balibo – Sam Petty, Emma Bortignon, Phil Heywood, Ann Aucote

Best editing: Balibo – Nick Meyers

Best production design: Mary & Max – Adam Elliot

Best cinematography: Beautiful Kate – Andrew Commis

Independent spirit award: My Tehran For Sale – Director: Granaz Moussavi, Producers, Julie Ryan, Kate Croser, Granaz Moussavi

Rising talent: Dominic Allen

Box office achievement: Australia – Baz Luhrmann, G.Mac Brown and Catherine Knapman

Living legend IF Award: Baz Luhrmann

Best film festival: Message Sticks Indigenous Film Festival

Best short film: Ralph – Director Deborah Mailman, producers Jessie Mangum and Kylie Du Fresne

Best animation: The Cat Piano – Directors Eddie White & Ari Gibson, producer Jessica Brentnall

Best short documentary: Mankind is No Island – Jason Van Genderen

Best documentary: The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce – Michael James Rowland, Producer Nial Fulton

Best music video: Sway Sway Baby – Short Stack – Dan Reisinger