Auteur director Rolf deHeer's Ten Canoes, which he producedwith Julie Ryan, was crowned best film at the Australian Film Institute Awardson Thursday night (Dec 7) in Melbourne.

While its untrainedindigenous cast failed to take home any acting awards, it won six of the 10categories for behind-the-camera roles including best screenplay for de Heerand best direction for de Heer and Peter Djiggir.

De Heer also won theprestigious Byron Kennedy Award, given each year to a filmmaker whorelentlessly pursues excellence.

Ten Canoesis an indigenous fable set in the past, long before the arrival of whitepeople. It was made under very challenging conditions with the help of thepeople of Ramingining in Arnhem Land, who were givenheartfelt thanks in most of the acceptance speeches.

"Thank you for sharing yourlives on and off the screen," said Tania Nehme, who won and AFI Award forediting Ten Canoes. "Our lives weretransformed by this film."

The ceremony was probablythe most star-studded in AFI Awards history. Those present included CateBlanchett, Eric Bana, Daniel Radcliffe and Heath Ledger, who took home one ofthe newly introduced awards recognising great work by Australian actors abroad.He was honoured for Brokeback Mountain and Rachel Griffiths won for the television series Six Feet Under.

Dion Beebe, on the nightbefore - the awards are split over two nights in order to create a morepalatable telecast - won an international award for filmmaking excellence.

Turning to acting inAustralian films, Emily Barclay won for her lead role in Suburban Mayhem and Anthony Hayes for his supporting part in thesame film.

Shane Jacobson was honouredfor bringing Kenny to life in thefilm of the same name, and Susie Porter won for her supporting role in The Caterpillar Wish. Porter was alsohonoured for television acting: in the miniseries RAN.