Portuguese director Miguel Gomes’ Arabian Nights has won the top award, the Sydney Film prize, at the 62nd Sydney Film Festival.
The 3-part opus, which draws on the folk tales One Thousand and One Nights to create a portrait of modern-day life in Portugal, took the $62,000 cash prize at the closing night awards at the State Theatre.
Jury president Liz Watts hailed a film of "ambition and political vision which confronts, frustrates, and spellbinds – and ultimately reminds us that cinema continues to be a powerful vehicle to examine the human condition.”
Journalist Michael Ware and two-time Oscar winner Bill Guttentag received the $10,000 Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian documentary for Only the Dead; with a special mention to The Lost Aviator directed by Andrew Lancaster.
A Single Body directed and written by Sotiris Dounoukos won the best live action short award; Grace Under Water directed and produced by Anthony Lawrence collected the Yoram Gross animation award; and Brooke Goldfinch took the Rouben Mamoulian Award for best director for Red Rover, with a special mention to Ryan Griffen for You Turn.
The $5,000 Australian shorts screenplay award went to Bluey, written and directed by Darlene Johnson.
NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for the Arts Troy Grant said, “This year's festival opened and closed with feature films produced in NSW and enthralled audiences with more than 250 films over 12 days, reinforcing Sydney’s role as a global creative hub.”
Lord Mayor Clover Moore said, “This year’s Sydney Film Festival was another hugely enjoyable triumph. With more than 300 screenings of the best local and international cinema, we’ve seen the world through the eyes of some of the most exciting directors, screenwriters and cinematographers.”
Sydney Film Festival CEO Leigh Small noted this edition marked the eighth consecutive year of growth in attendance, with more than 176,000 people attending screenings, events and talks. She announced Nashen Moodley will continue as festival director for another four years.
Moodley said: “The Festival has been bolstered by a strong line-up of Australian films. From the world premieres of Australian feature films Ruben Guthrie, Holding the Man, The Daughter, Last Cab to Darwin and Riz; to important Australian documentaries including Sherpa, Gayby Baby, Tyke Elephant Outlaw and Freedom Stories; to great examples of new and dynamic Australian short film, such as the Screen: Black program of 13 new Indigenous Australian films, and the Dendy Shorts including Academy Award winner Adam Elliot’s new claymation Ernie Biscuit.”
“Other highlights included hosting Academy Award winning documentarian Alex Gibney to sell outs sessions of his new film Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief at the State Theatre, and two premieres of Gibney’s other most recent films Steve Jobs: the Man in the Machine, and Mr Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown.
“Staging the southern hemisphere’s first ever premiere of a film on a ship – Princess Cruises Sun Princess, with Gillian Armstrong’s Women He’s Undressed; and an almost instantaneous sell out of Amy – the new Amy Winehouse biopic at Dendy Newtown, have also contributed to an incredible year for the Festival."
The event closed with the world premiere of Neil Armfield’s Holding the Man with stars Ryan Corr, Craig Stott, Sarah Snook and Camilla Ah Kin attending with the director and the producer, Goalpost's Kylie du Fresne.