MIFF prizes for Jub Clerc, ‘Neptune Frost’, ‘Greenhouse by Joost’

Jub Clerc. (Photo: Nic Duncan)

Neptune Frost, directed by Anisia Uzeyman and Saul Williams, is the winner of the Melbourne International Film Festival’s inaugural Bright Horizons Award, while Jub Clerc won the Blackmagic Design Australian Innovation Award.

Further, Australian documentary Greenhouse by Joost, directed by Bruce Permezel and Rhian Skirving, took home the Audience Award.

Uzeyman and Williams receive a prize of $140,000, beating out a field of 10 other competition films. Neptune Frost‘s win was determined by jury president, actor and director Shareena Clanton, alongside filmmaker and artist Lynette Wallworth, cinematographer Adam Arkapaw and Indonesian film director and screenwriter Mouly Surya.

A Rwandan-American science fiction musical, Neptune Frost premiered in Cannes Directors Fortnight in 2021.

An Afrofuturist film, it follows a young coltan miner who encounters Neptune Frost, an intersex hacker. They soon attempt a takeover of the authoritarian regime that’s exploiting that’s exploiting the region’s natural resources – and its people.

‘Neptune Frost’.

The jury described Neptune Frost as like “like nothing we have ever seen before”.

“By disrupting the colonial gaze and connecting the rising influence of technology in all our lives, this film penetrates deeply into your heart and soul to say that you are not
too far disconnected from me. It felt at once absolutely specific, and entirely global,” said Clanton.

The innovation award, also introduced by MIFF this year, recognises an Australian filmmaking talent for their work within a film screening at the festival. Nyul Nyul/Yawuru writer-director Clerc, whose debut feature Sweet As made its world premiere at MIFF, wins $70,000.

Supported by the MIFF Premiere Fund, Sweet As is a coming-of-age film that follows Shantae Barnes-Cowan as 16-year-old Murra, who is on the verge of self-destruction. That is, until her policeman uncle (Mark Coles Smith) secures an unusual lifeline: a “photo-safari for at-risk kids”.

The dramedy is inspired by Clerc’s own experience growing up in the Pilbara and The Kimberley; she did a photo safari with National Geographic when she was growing up. It compete for CinefestOZ’s $100,000 Film Prize next week before heading to the Toronto International Film Festival.

The jury regarded Clerc’s film as “more than just ‘sweet’.”

“It crossed worlds and intersected certain realities – incredibly difficult to achieve,
even for any accomplished filmmaker,” said Clanton.

“We are so excited to see what happens next in this filmmaker’s journey, and hope that this award encourages their future filmmaking projects; that it not just inspires more Indigenous women to be central characters in their own stories, but helps show just how resilient and beautiful Indigenous women are.”

‘Greenhouse by Joost’.

Greenhouse by Joost proved the audience’s favourite out of 250 features to play MIFF this year.

Supported by the MIFF Premiere Fund, the Melbourne doco follows designer and eco-warrior Joost Bakker as he devises the FutureFood System, a self-sufficient residence that provides shelter, food and energy while reusing any by-products as fuel or fertiliser. Alongside chefs Matt Stone and Jo Barrett, Bakker works with a team of builders, engineers, and experts in agriculture, aquaponics and biochemistry to realise the project at Melbourne’s Fed Square – culminating in the launch of a unique farm-to-table restaurant.

The prizes were presented tonight at MIFF’s Closing Night Gala at the Forum Theatre, ahead of the Australian premiere of Lachlan McLeod’s Clean, a portrait of the late Sandra Pankhurst, a Melbourne-based ‘trauma cleaner’.

MIFF Artistic Director Al Cossar said MIFF’s Awards were about elevating “distinctive, ambitious, bold new voices that deserve and demand a global stage.”

“My congratulations to Neptune Frost’s Anisia Uzeyman and Saul Williams, and to Jub Clerc, for their incredible work and deserved recognition as our inaugural awards recipients.”

“We are vastly proud of the introduction of MIFF’s Bright Horizons Competition this year – a truly jaw dropping line up of emerging international and Australian filmmaking, featuring attendances from a worldwide collection of breakthrough filmmakers. We look forward to presenting more incredible cinema, and welcoming further incredible artists, as Bright Horizons and the MIFF Awards continue into the future,” he said.

Encore presentations of Neptune Frost and Sweet As will be held at The Capitol tomorrow (Sunday August 21).

Further encore sessions of festival favourites, My Old School and Anak, have also been announced for MIFF’s closing weekend. Final screenings continue throughout the day and evening on ahead of the festival’s last in-cinema event, a late-night showing of David Cronenberg’s first film in eight years, Crimes of the Future.

MIFF may finish in person tomorrow, but continues nationally on digital platform on MIFF Play until August 28.