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Real lives inspire award winning films at this year’s AFI Awards; but can the awards continue to live with a split presentation personality, asks Andrew L. Urban.

It is instructive to note that the two films that garnered most of the awards – The Home Song Stories and Romulus, My Father, are both based on real lives; truth is stranger than fiction, and makes a better story. But let’s not forget that the awards also reflect how those stories are told. Romulus was voted Best Film, but Tony Ayres was voted Best Director for The Home Song Stories – which also won the award for its screenplay, among several others.

Geoffrey Rush steered the telecast presentation with dignity and a finely tuned Australian tone, and the polished production looked like a faithful rendition of Oscar Down Under. It’s a pity that Australia can’t devise its own unique awards presentation format. Actually, that’s not tru; the inaugural Asia Pacific Screen Awards (November 13, 2007, Gold Coast) did exactly that. It was screened on CNN International, what’s more.

But back to the AFI Awards. The two-night presentation is an unavoidably clunky way to run the awards, but how else do you handle 44 award categories. See my opinion on the right for one possible answer.

With all the attention on the big winners, it’s easy to overlook some of the key categories in non-feature film. One example is the open Screen Craft Award, which this year was won by cinematographer Mark Lapwood, for his wordless short film, Eclipse. Mark, who is now based in Mumbai, used the city as his subject. It's a wonderful marriage of images and music, offering the viewer a delicate yet powerful sense of people and place. The music and occasional wordless vocalisation adds an ethereal, almost mystical quality, without tipping into pretentiousness or self indulgence. Although Eclipse is inspired by the likes of Baraka, it is very much its own, unique work.

As AFI boss James Hewison says, awards are never free of controversy and contrasting views. These accolades are so valued by the filmmaking community that passionate opinions about how they are structured and presented are always rippling just under the surface – or above it.

AFI Global Achievement Award
• Dr George Miller – Happy Feet

AFI International Award for Excellence in Filmmaking
• Jill Bilcock

Byron Kennedy Award
• Curtis Levy

AFI Raymond Longford Award
• David Hannay

News Limited Readers’ Choice Award
• Eric Bana

L’Orιal Paris AFI Award for Best Film
• Romulus, My Father – Robert Connolly and John Maynard

AFI Award for Best Direction
• The Home Song Stories – Tony Ayres

Macquarie Private Wealth AFI Award for Best Screenplay (Original or Adapted)
• The Home Song Stories – Tony Ayres

AFI Award for Best Lead Actor

• Eric Bana - Romulus, My Father

AFI Award for Best Lead Actress
• Joan Chen – The Home Song Stories

AFI Award for Best Supporting Actor
• Marton Csokas – Romulus, My Father

AFI Award for Best Supporting Actress
• Emma Booth - Clubland

L’Orιal Paris AFI Young Actor Award
• Kodi Smit-McPhee – Romulus, My Father

AFI Award for Best Cinematography
• The Home Song Stories - Nigel Bluck

AFI Award for Best Editing
• The Home Song Stories – Denise Haratzis ASE

AFI Award for Best Sound
• Noise – Emma Bortignon, Doron Kipen and Philippe Decrausaz

AFI Award for Best Original Music Score
• The Home Song Stories – Antony Partos

AFI Award for Best Production Design

• The Home Song Stories – Melinda Doring

AFI Award for Best Costume Design
• The Home Song Stories – Cappi Ireland

AFI Visual Effects Award

• ROGUE – Andrew Hellen, Dave Morley, Jason Bath and John Cox

AFI Award for Best Documentary

• FORBIDDEN LIE$ - Sally Regan and Anna Broinowski

AFI Award for Best Short Animation
• The Girl Who Swallowed Bees- Justine Kerrigan and Paul McDermott

AFI Award for Best Short Fiction Film
• Spike Up – Anthony Maras and Kent Smith

AFI Award for Best Direction in a Documentary

• Global Haywire – Bruce Petty

AFI Award for Best Cinematography in a Documentary

• Cuttlefish - The Brainy Bunch – Malcolm Ludgate ACS, Joel Peterson and Scott Carrithers

AFI Award for Best Editing in a Documentary

• FORBIDDEN LIE$ - Vanessa Milton and Alison Croft

AFI Award for Best Sound in a Documentary

• Global Haywire – Sam Petty

AFI Award for Best Screenplay in a Short Film

• Crossbow – David Michτd

AFI Award for Outstanding Achievement in Short Film Screen Craft

• Mark Lapwood ACS (Cinematography) - Eclipse

Published December 7, 2007

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Romulus, My Father

The Home Song Stories


George Miller

David Hannay

Jill Bilcock

Eclipse, by Mark Lapwood

No, the tv categories are not there to suck up to the networks so they telecast the awards. They were introduced 20 odd years ago to recognise the realities of a screen industry that often shared its people. Today, that decision has become a tumour, growing every year and threatening the awards with unnecessary friction.

The AFI, while primarily a FILM Institute, can not realistically jettison the tv awards, even if it wanted to. But it can refine the split in the presentation of the awards. My suggestion is to separate the film and tv award categories and hold the presentations a few weeks apart. Each would retain its own identity and integrity, practitioners in neither medium would feel belittled and greater kudos –as well as coverage - may be generated for all concerned.
- Andrew L. Urban

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