Zach's Ceremony is one of films nominated for the AACTA Award for Best Feature Length Documentary.

‘Zach’s Ceremony’ is one of five films nominated for the AACTA Award for Best Feature Length Documentary.

A record number of feature films are in competition for this year’s AACTA Awards, while the five films nominated for Best Feature Length Documentary have also been revealed.

The 35 feature films on this year’s longlist are: 2:22; A Few Less Men; Ali’s Wedding; Australia Day; Bad Blood; Bad Girl; Berlin Syndrome; Better Watch Out; Blue World Order; The Butterfly Tree; The Colour of Darkness; Dance Academy; The Death and Life of Otto Bloom; Don’t Tell; Drama; Ellipsis; Emo: The Musical; Event Zero; Hounds of Love; Jasper Jones; Jungle; Killing Ground; The Legend of Ben Hall; The Lego Batman Movie; Lion; One Less God; The Osiris Child: Science Fiction Volume One; Red Dog: True Blue; Rip Tide; Skin Deep; The Space Between; That’s Not Me; Three Summers; What If It Works? and Zelos.

The record number of films competing follows AACTA’s decision earlier this year to broaden feature film eligibility, a move made with the aim to improve selection transparency about how films are selected and recognise non-traditional releases.

AACTA faced criticism last year over a perceived lack of transparency around the process by which films without a traditional theatrical release were selected for the competition. In particular, WIFT NSW argued that the AACTA’s “opaque selection process” resulted in a disproportionately low representation of female-driven and focused films nominated in 2016, and the membership organisation stormed the red carpet of last year’s awards ceremony dressed as sausages to protest the lack of gender equity in the industry.

The subsequent changes made by AACTA to the feature film eligibility process have not only seen an increase in the number of films and filmmakers competing this year, but a 74 per increase in the number of female filmmakers. There’s also an increase in the number films from emerging filmmakers.

Warner Bros’ The Lego Batman Movie’s inclusion in the longlist is on the basis that production design, editing and sound were completed in Australia or by Aussie teams, and as such it can only be nominated in those three categories.

The features in competition will be narrowed down by a two-step voting process. To aid members in making their decision, this year the academy will run the Festival of Australian Film – For Your Consideration. The full program will screen over four weeks from late August in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. The nominees for Best Feature Length Documentary, Best Short Film and Best Short Animation will also screen in Perth September 4-11. The majority of feature films in competition, as well as feature length documentaries and short films will be available to watch online.

Documentary nominees

AACTA also today announced the five nominees in the feature length documentary category: Casting JonBenet; David Stratton: A Cinematic Life; Deep Water: The Real Story, Whiteley and Zach’s Ceremony.

The academy also made changes to the nomination process for documentaries this year, opening the jury process to all AACTA members with a documentary credit. Previously the documentary jury consisted of only 8-10 industry experts.

“By engaging with the larger documentary community, we’ve seen overwhelming engagement and an increase in votes, which showed five clear nominees from our thriving documentary industry,” said AFI | AACTA CEO Damian Trewhella.

Zach’s Ceremony creator and associate producer Alec Doomadgee told IF that he was proud and emotional to be nominated. The doco, which Doomadgee worked on for over a decade, follows his son Zach as he transitions to manhood and comes to grips with his Aboriginal cultural identity. It won Most Popular Documentary at last year’s Melbourne International Film Festival, the Audience Award for Best Documentary at Sydney Film Festival, Best Documentary and Best Film at Byron Bay International Film Festival, and had a theatrical release via Umbrella and Fan Force earlier this year.

“When I got the phone call [about the nomination]… I had a bit of a moment; I got very teary and cried a little bit, because it’s been a long journey for this film,” Doomadgee said.

“It’s been a dream of mine since I was a little boy to make something of this importance. To get the recognition and nomination amongst my peers in the Australian film industry is a big nod of approval.

“I’m very honoured and proud. But I’ve got to say, it took a lot of courage to make this this film. Myself and my son Zach, we laid it out there bare.”

The full list of AACTA Award nominees will be announced in October. The 7th AACTA Awards’ Industry Luncheon will be held on December 4, and the Ceremony December 6.

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