Filmmakers honoured at Sydney Film Festival’s Closing Night Gala

20 June, 2016 by Jackie Keast

Dan Jackson (right) was the winner of the Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary

The 63rd Sydney Film Festival closed last night at the State Theatre, with the festival’s award winners announced before a screening of Whit Stillman’s Love and Friendship.


Brazilian filmmaker Kleber Mendonça Filho was the recipient of the $63,000 Sydney Film Prize for Aquarius.

Jury president Simon Field said the film, starring Sonia Braga, had “effortless verve and intelligence.”

Aquarius is a compelling and relevant statement about contemporary Brazil, and the power of the individual standing up for what she believes,” he said.

Sydney filmmaker Dan Jackson picked up the $15,000 Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary for his debut feature In the Shadow of the Hill, also set in Brazil.

Jackson lived in Rio De Janeiro slum Rocinha, which has been under police occupation since 2011, for over a year, documenting the story of a local family’s fight for justice.

“This is a vibrant, cinematic and masterfully structured film which fully immerses the viewer in the dangerous world of the occupied favelas. The judges were unanimous in their praise of Jackson’s remarkable and courageous achievement,” said the Documentary Australia Foundation jurors.

Destination Arnold, directed by Sascha Ettinger Epstein, also received a special mention.

The Dendy Awards for Australian Short Films were also announced; awarding Slapper, directed and written by Luci Schroder, The Dendy Live Action Short Award; The Crossing, directed and written by Marieka Walsh, The Yoram Gross Animation Award; and Goran Stolevski, the Rouben Mamoulian Award for Best Director, for You Deserve Everything.

The $5,000 Event Cinema Australian Short Screenplay Award was given to Spice Sisters, written and directed by Sydneysider Sheila Jayadev. The film was recognised by jurors for its “beautifully satisfying script form and a unique story world that we don’t often see.”

Artist and VR filmmaker Lynette Wallworth was recognised for “innovation, imagination and high impact”, awarded the inaugural $10,000 Sydney UNESCO City of Film Prize by Screen NSW.

Wallworth’s most recent work is virtual reality film Collisions, which tells the story of an atomic test in outback South Australia in the 50s.

“Lynette Wallworth’s pioneering work in immersive experiences and virtual reality is unequalled. She is an internationally renowned visionary, a prolific artist who showcases the stories and challenges, passions and pain of some of the world’s most vulnerable yet inspiring communities both here and internationally,” said Screen NSW CEO Courtney Gibson.

In addition to the cash prize, Wallworth will be one of the first NSW-based practitioners to take a desk at ‘Charlie’s’, the new hub for the Australian film-making community in Los Angeles, opened last week by Australians in Film.

Last week, the festival also awarded four filmmakers $50,000 to make a short film through the inaugural Lexus Short Film Fellowship.

Sydney Film Festival CEO Leigh Small said this year’s event had more sell out sessions than ever before, and attendance figures had exceeded last year at almost 180,000.