Local films top Sydney Film Festival audience awards

‘Sequin in A Blue Room’. 

Sydney Film Festival announced its audience awards today, with best narrative feature awarded to Samuel Van Grinsven’s Sequin in a Blue Room and best documentary to Selina Miles’ Martha: A Picture Story – both Aussie films.

Sequin in a Blue Room, a queer coming-of-age story, is Van Grinsven’s debut feature, completed as part of an AFTRS Masters project and produced by Sophie Hattch. It stars Conor Leach in his film debut, alongside Jeremy Lindsay Taylor (Puberty Blues, Deep Water) and Anthony Brandon Wong (The Family Law, The Matrix).

Martha: A Picture Story, documents the life and work of NYC photo journalist Martha Cooper. It is the first full length documentary film from Miles, and was executive produced by Jennifer Peedom and and produced by Daniel Joyce.

Two other Australian films – Ben Lawrence’s Hearts and Bones and Imogen McCluskey’s microbudget debut Suburban Wildlife – were also voted in the top five narrative films, alongside Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s Never Look Away and Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

Local productions also dominated the documentary awards, with audiences rating Ian Darling’s The Final Quarter, Erica Glynn’s She Who Must Be Loved (which also won the festival’s $10,000 Documentary Australia Foundation Award), and Kaye Harrison’s Sanctuary, as well as North Macedonian film Honeyland, directed by Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska.

Sydney Film Festival director Nashen Moodley said: “The people have spoken – and it is with great pleasure that the festival announces Sequin in a Blue Room and Martha: A Picture Story as the winners of the 2019 Audience Award. The fact that the majority of the top-voted titles were local productions gives a great insight into our collective appetite for excellent Australian storytelling.”

Sequin in a Blue Room is a very highly-accomplished film, particularly as the debut feature of young Australian filmmaker Samuel van Grinsven,” he said.

“This coming-of-age tale about a high schooler whose hook-up app obsession sends him down a dangerous path is a breath of fresh air from the independent Australian queer film scene.”

“Delving into a story beyond our own borders, Martha: A Picture Story is a wonderful Australian production about an unexpected icon of New York’s vivid graffiti scene – one of the biggest art movements in history,” he said.

The Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature Top Five:
1. Sequin in a Blue Room, directed by Samuel Van Grinsven (Australia)
2. Hearts and Bones, directed by Ben Lawrence (Australia)
3. Suburban Wildlife, directed by Imogen McCluskey (Australia)
4. Never Look Away, directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (Germany)
5. Portrait of a Lady on Fire, directed by Céline Sciamma (France)

The Audience Award for Best Documentary Top Five:
1. Martha: A Picture Story, directed by Selina Miles (Australia)
2. The Final Quarter, directed by Ian Darling (Australia)
3. She Who Must Be Loved, directed by Erica Glynn (Australia) – also the winner of the 2019 Documentary Australia Foundation Award
4. Sanctuary, directed by Kaye Harrison (Australia)
5. Honeyland, directed by Ljubomir Stefanov, Tamara Kotevska (North Macedonia)