Cinema industry salutes Gillian Armstrong

Gillian Armstrong and Murray Forrest. (Photo credit: Peter Jackson)

Gillian Armstrong has won one of the Australian cinema industry’s highest honours, the Murray Forrest Award for Excellence in Filmcraft.

The trailblazing director whose My Brilliant Career was the first Australian feature directed by a woman in 46 years received the award at the Australian International Movie Convention.

Accepting the award, Armstrong was self-deprecating, observing: “I could not type or cook or drive so it was good to find something I wasn’t too bad at.”

She paid tribute to her numerous collaborators including first AD, the late Mark Turnbull, film editor Nicholas Beauman and DOPs Don McAlpine, Russell Boyd, Dion Beebe and Geoffrey Simpson.

Also she thanked distributors and exhibitors, acknowledging “nothing beats the terror of audiences and the first weekend in cinemas.”

There was nothing glamorous about working in the film industry, especially getting up at 4.30 am and toiling for hours in rain and mud.

To loud applause, the director urged the Federal Government to impose local drama quotas on Netflix and other streaming platforms.

Presenting the award, Forrest recalled Armstrong was among the first intake of 12 students at the Australian Film Television and Radio School.

Noting the diversity of her work, he pointed to Starstruck, High Tide, The Last Days of Chez Nous, Charlotte Gray, Oscar and Lucinda, Hollywood films Mrs Soffel and Little Women and the feature doc Women He’s Undressed.

Previous recipients include Warwick Thornton, Yoram Gross, George Miller, Don McAlpine, John Seale, Russell Boyd, Zareh Nalbandian and Deborah Riley.

At the convention held on the Gold Coast veteran exhibitor Terry Jackman received a Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Australian Independent Distributors Association (AIDA) bestowed its Independent Spirit Award to Sydney Film Festival programs manager and documentary programmer Jenny Neighbour.

AIDA’s Award for Excellence in Exhibition Innovation and Marketing was shared by Event Cinemas’ Boutique and Palace Cinemas’ Palace Platinum.

Also recognised was Paul Dravet who retired recently from the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace after more than 40 years in the business.