Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook and Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner tied for best film at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) awards in Sydney.
That’s the first joint award for best film in AFI/AACTA history. Kent also collected the awards for best director (Crowe wasn't nominated in that category) and original screenplay.
Telecast on Network Ten, the awards drew just 297,000 viewers in the five metro cities last night, proving more popular in Melbourne (107,000) than Sydney (80,000).
Playmaker Media’s conspiracy thriller The Code collared the awards for best TV drama, lead actor in a TV drama (Ashley Zukerman), supporting actress (Chelsie Preston Crayford) and direction in a TV drama or comedy (Shawn Seet).
The Longford Lyell Award, named for Australian cinema pioneers Raymond Longford and Lottie Lyell, went to screenwriter Andrew Knight, whose credits as head writer or co-writer include Fast Forward, Full Frontal, The D-Generation, Sea Change, After The Deluge, The Water Diviner and Spotswood.
The award was presented by Adam Zwar and Dave O’Neil with tributes from Eric Bana and Shaun Micallef.
Director-producer-writer Amiel Courtin-Wilson won the $10,000 Byron Kennedy Award for outstanding creative enterprise in film and television. His credits include the documentaries Chasing Buddha and Bastardy and the films Hail (the first Australian feature film in 10 years selected for the Venice International Film Festival) and Ruin (which won Courtin-Wilson and co-director/co-producer Michael Cody a special jury prize at Venice in 2013).
The Byron Kennedy Award jury said: "We have chosen Amiel Courtin-Wilson for his risk taking and evocative storytelling. Amiel has been patiently searching for truth and beauty at the margins of society, making films which have captured the attention of international audiences.”
As previously announced, actress Rose Byrne (Damages, Bridesmaids) received the inaugural AACTA trailblazer award, which recognizes an individual’s achievements, abilities and successes in the domestic and global film and television industries.
The best feature-length docu was Kitty Green’s Ukraine is Not a Brothel.
David Gulpilil was named best lead actor for Charlie’s Country and Sarah Snook was best lead actress for Predestination. Susan Prior was judged best supporting actress for The Rover and Yilmaz Erdogan best supporting actor for The Water Diviner.
The Railway Man’s Frank Cottrell Boyce and Andy Paterson took the award for best adapted screenplay.
The prize for best visual effects or animation went to The LEGO Movie’s Chris McKay, Amber Naismith, Aidan Sarsfield and Grant Freckelton.
Recognized as best telefeature or mini- series was Devil’s Playground, produced by Matchbox Pictures for Foxtel.
Shine Australia’s The Voice (Nine Network) was best reality TV series and Hamish and Andy’s Gap Year South America (Nine) was best light entertainment or reality series.
Josh Thomas’s Please Like Me, a Pigeon Fancier/John & Josh International production for ABC that screens in the US on Pivot, was prized for best performance in a TV comedy (Debra Lawrance) and TV screenplay (Thomas).
Commissioned by ABC, Working Dog Productions’ Utopia was named best TV comedy series.
Marta Dusseldorp was feted as best lead actress in a TV drama for Screentime’s legal drama Janet King and Eamon Farren was best supporting actor in a TV drama for Story Ark’s Carlotta (both ABC).
AFI/AACTA CEO Damian Trewhella said: “Tonight’s awards recognise the outstanding achievements of the hundreds of people whose skill, passion and commitment continues to put Australia on the world map for film and television excellence.
“Australians are celebrated for our talents in front of and behind the camera, and the AACTA Awards play an important role in promoting this talent to both our international industry peers and audiences here and at home. Our stories are best captured on the big and small screens, and this year our industry produced a diverse slate of Australian stories across all genres including reality TV and documentaries through to dramas, comedies and features."