Last night’s AACTA Awards saw a trifecta for Jennifer Kent, who took home Best Film, Best Direction and Best Screenplay for The Nightingale, with star Aisling Franciosi also winning Best Lead Actress.
Set in 1825, The Nightingale follows a young, female Irish convict (Franciosi) who chases a British officer through the Tasmanian wilderness bent on revenge after he committed an act of violence against her family, and who along the way enlists the help of an Aboriginal tracker. It premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2018, with Kent the only female director in competition. It won the Special Jury Prize and Baykali Ganambarr the Marcello Mastroiaani Award for his debut performance.
Produced by Causeway Films’ Kristina Ceyton, Made Up Stories’ Bruna Papandrea and Steve Hutensky, and Kent, the period tale beat out The King, Judy & Punch, Hearts and Bones, Ride Like A Girl and Top End Wedding for the Best Film prize. Kent is the first woman to win all three AACTAs for Best Film, Best Screenplay and Best Direction.
Accepting the Best Film, Ceyton dedicated the award to the Tasmanian Aboriginal people, in particular associate producer and Indigenous consultant Jim Everett, “for allowing us to tell this shared story.”
Everett, a Plangermairreener man, accepted both Best Direction and Best Screenplay for Kent, who was not present, and noted this film had added to an ongoing discussion that needs to be had in Australia.
“This film is a hard film to make. A hard film to take. I got no happiness from it. But it’s a story that had to be told. The strength of conviction to do this film by Jennifer carried us all through,” he said.
Last night’s accolades add to the two prizes for the film awarded at Monday’s Industry Luncheon, with Nikki Barrett recognised for Best Casting and Magnolia Maymuru named Best Supporting Actress for her debut performance.
Damon Herriman – who was nominated four times on the night – took home Best Lead Actor for his role in Judy & Punch. The actor was effusive in his praise for writer-director Mirrah Foulkes.
“This was one of the best scripts I ever read. I did not even imagine I’d get to audition for it, let alone do it… if I never get to do a better role in my life, I will die a happy man,” he said.
Best Documentary was awarded to Good Thing Productions/Passion Pictures The Australian Dream, which explored the racial vilification of former Sydney Swan co-captain Adam Goodes.
“This was not just about Adam Goodes. It was about the two centuries that led up to the booing of Adam Goodes. The two centuries that hang still so heavily over this room tonight, and hang still so heavily over our country,” said Stan Grant, who wrote the film, upon accepting the award.
In television, ABC/Blackfella Films’ Total Control took home three awards, including Best Drama, Best Lead Actress in Deborah Mailman and Best Supporting Actress in Rachel Griffiths.
“I’m so proud of this show. It’s the most beautiful, well-drawn, complicated character I’ve ever played,” said Mailman, who has now won six AFI/AACTA Awards.
Lingo Pictures/Foxtel’s Lambs of God won Best Telefeature or Mini Series, capping off the seven prizes it already won earlier this week. The second season of The Letdown took home two gongs including Best Comedy Program and Best Performance in a Television comedy for star and co-creator Alison Bell. Scott Ryan was named Best Lead Actor in a Television Drama for Mr Inbetween, while Richard Roxburgh won Best Guest or Supporting Actor in a Television Drama for The Hunting. SBS On Demand’s Robbie Hood, from Since 1788 Productions and Ludo Studio, won Best Online Drama or Comedy.
Best Documentary or Factual Program was won by Endemol Shine Australia/ABC’s Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds, and Best Factual Entertainment Program You Can’t Ask That.
The recipient of the Byron Kennedy Award, which celebrates outstanding creative enterprise within the screen industry, was assistant director P.J Voeten, with AACTA noting in particular his work on Mad Max: Fury Road, Aquaman and Lambs of God.
Sam Neill was presented with the Longford Lyell Award – AACTA’s lifetime achievement award – by Dr. George Miller, with tributes from Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Stephen Fry, Gillian Armstrong, Rachel Griffiths and Stephen Fry.
Accepting the award, the Kiwi actor said he’d kept asking the organisers if they’d “made a mistake”.
“Maybe they’d got me confused with somebody else – Hugo Weaving or someone like that. But no, it turned out to be me. So I’m really pleased and chuffed. I’d prefer if it was called the Longford Lyell-Halfway There Award because the lifetime thing sounds a little terminal. I hope they don’t mean it’s the end, because I’m not done. I’d still like to put a few more runs on the board.”
The full list of winners:
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST LEAD ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
Deborah Mailman TOTAL CONTROL – Blackfella Films (ABC)
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST GUEST OR SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
Richard Roxburgh THE HUNTING – Closer Productions (SBS)
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST ENTERTAINMENT PROGRAM
LEGO® MASTERS AUSTRALIA David McDonald, Eoin Maher, AJ Johnson – Endemol Shine
Australia (Nine Network)
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTION
THE NIGHTINGALE Jennifer Kent – Causeway Films, Made Up Stories
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SCREENPLAY
THE NIGHTINGALE Jennifer Kent – Causeway Films, Made Up Stories
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY OR FACTUAL PROGRAM
OLD PEOPLE’S HOME FOR 4 YEAR OLDS Debbie Cuell, Brooke Hulsman – Endemol Shine
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY
THE AUSTRALIAN DREAM Daniel Gordon, Sarah Thomson, Nick Batzias, Virginia Whitwell, John Battsek – GoodThing Production Company, Passion Pictures
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST FACTUAL ENTERTAINMENT PROGRAM
YOU CAN’T ASK THAT Kirk Docker, Aaron Smith, Frances O’Riordan – Australian Broadcasting
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST TELEFEATURE OR MINI SERIES
LAMBS OF GOD Jason Stephens, Helen Bowden, Sarah Lambert, Elisa Argenzio – Lingo
Pictures (Foxtel – Showcase)
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST PERFORMANCE IN A TELEVISION COMEDY
Alison Bell THE LETDOWN – Giant Dwarf (ABC)
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST ONLINE DRAMA OR COMEDY
ROBBIE HOOD Dylan River, Tanith Glynn-Maloney, Meg O’Connell, Charlie Aspinwall – Ludo
Studio, Since1788 Productions
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST LEAD ACTOR
Damon Herriman JUDY & PUNCH – Vice Media LLC, Blue-Tongue Films, Pariah Productions
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST LEAD ACTOR IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
Scott Ryan MR INBETWEEN – Blue-Tongue Films, Jungle Entertainment, Pariah Productions (Foxtel – Showcase)
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST COMEDY PROGRAM
THE LETDOWN Linda Micsko, Julian Morrow, Sarah Scheller, Alison Bell – Giant Dwarf (ABC)
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST LEAD ACTRESS
Aisling Franciosi THE NIGHTINGALE – Causeway Films, Made Up Stories
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST GUEST OR SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
Rachel Griffiths TOTAL CONTROL – Blackfella Films (ABC)
THE BYRON KENNEDY AWARD
THE LONGFORD LYELL AWARD
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST ASIAN FILM PRESENTED BY EUREKA INTERNATIONAL GROUP (EIG)
PARASITE Bong Joon-Ho, Young-Hwan Jang, Yang-kwon Moon, Kwak Sin-ae – Barunson E&A
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST DRAMA SERIES
TOTAL CONTROL Darren Dale, Miranda Dear, Rachel Griffiths – Blackfella Films (ABC)
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST LIFESTYLE PROGRAM
LOVE IT OR LIST IT AUSTRALIA Karen Warner, Geoff Fitzpatrick, Howard Myers – Beyond Productions (Foxtel – Lifestyle)
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST REALITY PROGRAM
AUSTRALIAN SURVIVOR: CHAMPIONS V CONTENDERS Amelia Fisk, Adam Fergusson – Endemol Shine Australia (Network Ten)
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST FILM PRESENTED BY FOXTEL
THE NIGHTINGALE Kristina Ceyton, Bruna Papandrea, Steve Hutensky, Jennifer Kent – Causeway Films, Made Up Stories