Filmmakers from across the country will be recognised today as the winners of the 2007/08 Hope Awards short film competition are announced at a screening and presentation in Sydney.

The winners are:

· Winner – Hannah Moon for Hamish
· Runner up – Chelsea Cassio for Imaginary Friend

· Winner – Brendon Brown Killen for Less than Perfect
· Runner up – Gita Irwin for Facing the Black Dog

The second Hope Awards challenged filmmakers to create a short film containing a clear message of hope for people with mental illness, their families and their carers. The winning films were selected from over 50 entries and will receive $7,500 and runners up receive $2,500 in prize money.

Hope Awards Ambassador and Channel Nine personality Jono Coleman believes the Hope Awards have a vital role to play in raising awareness of mental illness.

“There is a history of general misrepresentation around the life experiences of people with mental illness, and although community attitudes are changing, there is still a long way to go. Initiatives that bring mental illness out into the open and help to counter the negative stereotypes surrounding it, such as the Hope Awards, should be welcomed,” said Jono.

David Crosbie, CEO of the Mental Health Council of Australia says the Hope Awards provide an essential avenue in promoting education, resilience and recovery in mental illness.

“The Hope Awards is more than just an excellent film competition – it is about raising awareness and generating hope for the millions of Australians who are consumers, carers or family and friends of people with a mental illness. Often what can seem like a small step to others can constitute a big step forward on the path to recovery from mental illness and it is important that this is accurately represented, to help reduce the stigma associated with the condition.

“The Mental Health Council of Australia is very proud to support this program and we believe the Hope Awards provide a creative and essential avenue to promote education, information, resilience and recovery,” said Mr Crosbie.

Alongside the winning films, an additional award was made this year to a film that, in the opinion of the Steering Committee, showed promise in filmmaking and contained the message of hope. Buoyant, directed by Michael Wilson, is narrated by the residents of Footbridge Community Care Unit in Victoria who reflect on what inspires them and keeps them optimistic on their personal journeys. Buoyant will receive $2,500 as the Steering Committee’s Choice.

Graham Thorburn, experienced Director and Head of Film, TV and Digital Media at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS), and Hope Awards judge, was yet again impressed by the quality of the entries.

“Hope means different things to different people, and mental illness can be a daunting topic, but the short-listed films, though often made by people with limited filmmaking experience, approached the task with creativity to deliver powerful and moving accounts of mental illness,” said Graham.

Graham Thorburn was joined on the expert judging panel by Jaimie Leonarder, cult film aficionado and host of Sydney-based FBI radio’s ‘The Naked City’, Sacha Molitorisz, Sydney Morning Herald entertainment and film writer and Professor Ian Hickie, Executive Director of the Brain & Mind Research Institute at the University of Sydney.

The aim of the Hope Awards is to help reduce the stigma associated with conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression or anxiety and eating or personality disorders, using the short films for community education.

[release from Cube PR]

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