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The big surprise in this year’s nominations list for the publicly rated If Awards is the presence of Cedar Boys among the three Best Film nominations; and it’s a good surprise, showing that audiences recognise quality filmmaking even when the film doesn’t enjoy a big release.* Mao’s Last Dancer and Charlie & Boots may well figure in next year’s If Awards … as well as this year’s AFI Awards, due to the cut off dates for the two awards being out of synch. Andrew L. Urban tries to cut through the confusion.

All current Australian films (features, short films, feature-length documentaries, short documentaries and short animations) that have screened publicly in a cinema or at an Inside Film Awards accredited film festival between 14 September 2008 and 18 September 2009 are eligible for the 2009 Inside Film Awards. While in the AFI Awards this year, the eligibility period has been extended: all films released in Australia for the first time between 2 October 2008 – 14 October 2009 are eligible – which means Mao’s Last Dancer (opened October 1, 2009) is eligible for AFI voting in 2009 but not for the If awards.

This may be confusing for the public, who are not looking at the fine print of the But as If Awards General Manager Clare Sawyer points out, the If Awards represents a completely different demographic to the AFIs and that differentiation “makes us stronger”. Sawyer also explains that while the rating system delivers more fairness than a simple voting system, it has to be juggled by a complex set of algorithms (the auditors do that) to avoid imbalances; one film with a very small number of maximum ratings does not automatically become a winner; some degree of relativity has to be imposed. This may well be why the very Charlie & Boots did not figure in this year’s If Awards nominations: it had only opened on September 3, just two weeks before ratings closed (and had not had an earlier festival screening to give it a bigger ratings base). It may now pop up in next year’s If Awards …

It gets even more confusing considering that both Stone Bros and Van Diemen’s Land were released on September 24 – a week after the If Awards cut off, yet both are eligible. Ah, but that’s because screening at an If accredited festival also counts towards eligibility.

With six more new features to be released this year that are not being considered in the If Awards, it is arguable that a September cut off is illogical. Both our major screen award systems have got stuck in the odd cycle that is neither calendar year nor financial year related. So they float about through October/November, representative of neither a whole year’s output nor any other well defined period. I believe this is potentially detracting from their kudos value, inviting derisory comments about their respective credibility. Sometimes negative perceptions can be more influential than positive realities …

Samson & Delilah led the 2009 nominations count with mentions in eight categories, closely followed by Balibo with nominations in seven and Mary & Max with four. These nominations come in a year of heavy competition and with 191,433 individual ratings being recorded, more than three times the number recorded last year. The day of the If Awards announcement coincided with the announcement of the 2009 Asia Pacific Screen Awards, in which Samson & Delilah is also one of the five nominated films vying for Best Film.

It was a great year for the indigenous film community with audiences embracing both indigenous culture and stars. Along with Samson & Delilah’s success, the short film category was also dominated by indigenous talent. The nominees in this category are the Deborah Mailman directed Ralph, Jacob produced by Darren Dale and Aunty Maggie and the Womba Wakgun directed by Leah Purcell.

The Showtime IF Award for Best Feature Film
• Balibo
• Cedar Boys
• Samson & Delilah

The IF Award for Best Actor

• Anthony LaPaglia – Balibo
• Rowan McNamara – Samson & Delilah
• Hugo Weaving – Last Ride

The IF Award for Best Actress
• Marissa Gibson – Samson & Delilah
• Sasha Horler – My Year Without Sex
• Frances O’Connor – Blessed

The Jameson IF Award for Best Script
• Mary & Max – Adam Elliot
• Samson & Delilah – Warwick Thornton
• Balibo – Robert Connolly, David Williamson

The Dinosaur Design IF Award for Best Music
• Mary & Max – Dale Cornelius
• Balibo – Lisa Gerrard
• Samson & Delilah – Warwick Thornton

The National Film & Sound Archive IF Award for Best Direction
• Mary & Max – Adam Elliot
• Samson & Delilah – Warwick Thornton
• Beautiful Kate – Rachel Ward

The Zig Zab Lane IF Award for Best Sound
• Australia – Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer, Wayne Pashley, Guntis Sics
• Balibo – Sam Petty, Emma Bortignon, Phil Heywood, Ann Aucote
• Samson & Delilah – Liam Egan, David Tranter, Robert Sullivan,
Tony Murtagh, Yulia Akerholt

The AVID IF Award for Best Editing
• Balibo – Nick Myers
• Beautiful Kate – Veronika Jenet
• Blessed – Jill Bilcock

The Dyson IF Award for Best Production Design
• Australia – Catherine Martin, Ian Gracie, Karen Murphy, Beverley Dunn
• Blessed – Simon McCutcheon
• Mary & Max – Adam Elliot

The Sony IF Award for Best Cinematography
• Balibo – Tristan Milani
• Beautiful Kate – Andrew Commis
• Samson & Delilah – Warwick Thornton

The Resolution Design Independent Spirit IF Award
• Lake Mungo - Director , Joel Anderson
• The 10 Conditions of Love - Director, Jeff Daniels
• My Tehran for Sale – Director, Granaz Moussavi

The EFilm IF Award for Rising Talent
• Dominic Allen
• Darren Dale
• Rene Hernandez

The Holding Redlich IF Award for Best Short Film
• Aunty Maggie & The Womba Wakgun - Directed by Leah Purcell
• Ralph – Directed by Deborah Mailman
• Jacob – Directed by Dena Curtis

The Autodesk IF Award for Best Animation
• The Cat Piano – Eddie White & Ari Gibson
• Tin Can Heart – Rodney March
• Chicken of God – Frank Woodley

The Production Book IF Award for Best Short Documentary
• Mankind is No Island – Jason Van Genderen
• The Love Market – Shalom Almond
• Searching for Michael Peterson – Jolyon Hoff

The FACB IF Award for Best Documentary
• The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce – Michael James Rowland
• Yes, Madam, Sir – Megan Doneman
• A Good Man – Safina Uberoi

Published October 13, 2009

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* Cedar Boys opened on July 30 on 33 screens, ran for 5 weeks and grossed $204,160. Samson & Delilah has grossed over $3.2 million in 6 months, and Balibo (49 screens) has been in cinemas for 2 months, taking over $1 million.

Cedar Boys

Samson and Delilah

David Wenham at the launch

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