Judy Davis accepts 2011 Don Dunstan Award

Actress Judy Davis accepted the 2011 Don Dunstan Award on the opening night of the BigPond Adelaide Film Festival yesterday for her outstanding contribution to the Australian film industry.

The presentation included tributes from filmmakers Woody Allen, via video, and Fred Schepisi, who attended the Vale Ale Opening Night Gala.

Davis told the audience that her career was nurtured by the Don Dunstan-Gough Whitlam era in the 1970s that generously funded the arts as well as her education at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA).

“I was of the generation that was made to feel that the country needed us and was prepared to give anybody that had the initiative a chance to have some sort of impact and I realise now that it really was a golden period,” she said.

“It makes me sad to think it’s so difficult for the young kids now when they have so many different mediums to work in… I wrack my brains as to what we can do to make it better."

Davis has starred in critically acclaimed Australian films such as My Brilliant Career and Winter of our Dreams, as well as international films such as Woody Allen’s Husbands & Wives. She notched up Emmy and Golden Globe wins for her portrayal of Judy Garland in Life With Judy Garland: Me & My Shadows.

Her next film is Schepisi’s The Eye of the Storm, which will be released later this year. However, Schepisi said Davis originally harboured doubts about playing the character of Princesse de Lascabane because she might be a “not-so-loveable bitch”.

“We decided to give it a go,” Schepisi told the audience. “Judy immersed herself in the character and dug out all the complexities, humanities, humour, regret, jealousies and resentments in that character, then made sure the right situations where there in the writing and the play for them to suddenly emerge.”

Woody Allen joked that he had never had a conversation with Davis off-set, despite making four films together, because he was too intimidated by her.

“You’re absolutely great Judy – one of the most exciting actresses in the world and I hope that we get the chance to work together again… if I see you again don’t be upset if we don’t speak,” he said.

Davis joins David Gulpilil, Dennis O’Rourke, Rolf de Heer and Jan Chapman as previous winners of the Don Dunstan Award.

Meanwhile, SA premier Mike Rann said eight classic films supported by the Adelaide Film Festival Investment Fund would feature at New York’s Museum of Modern Art’s A Salute to the Adelaide Film Festival presentation in April. The films include Look Both Ways, Ten Canoes and Samson & Delilah.

The opening night world premiere of the documentary Mrs Carey’s Concert was also well-received by the audience.

The BigPond Adelaide Film Festival has paid for Brendan Swift's flights and accommodation to Adelaide.