Paper Planes wins Australia’s richest film prize at CinefestOZ

23 August, 2014 by Emily Blatchford

A scene from winning film Paper Planes. 


Robert Connolly’s family feature Paper Planes has taken out Australia’s richest film prize of $100,000 at the seventh annual CinéfestOZ Film Festival on Saturday night. 

Paper Planes follows 11-year old Dylan (Ed Oxenbould) whose life changes after winning a place in the regional paper planes competition in Sydney. This achievement takes him far from his country home and depressed father (Sam Worthington), all the way to the World Paper Plane Championships in Japan.

The film beat out five other contenders; Matt Saville’s Felony, Stephen Lance’s My Mistress, Julius Avery’s Son of a Gun, John V Soto’s The Reckoning and Russell Vines’ documentary The Waler – Australia’s Great War Horse. (All finalist synopses listed below).

“I’m so, so happy,” Connolly said of his win. “I’m really excited because we are planning for a Christmas/January release and we’ll use this money to get our actors all over the world and help us build as big a profile as possible.”

“We want it to be a hit for Australian kids, and something like this is a massive, massive help.”

The decision was made by a jury led by Bruce Beresford; consisting of producer Sue Milliken, actress Marta Dusseldorp, film critic Margaret Pomeranz and Directors’ Fortnight film selector Benjamin Illos. CinéfestOZ did not assign specific criteria for the jury members, choosing instead to allow them to carve out their own process

Beresford announced the winner at the CinéfestOZ Closing Night Gala held tonight at the Orana Cinema in Busselton, WA, after a jury deliberation that took much of the afternoon.

“Paper Planes is a delightful and amusing film with a charming cast of children that achieves its aim of being entertaining and uplifting,” Beresford said. “As a director I am jealous of the enormous skill and flair Robert brought to this project.”

“It was a tough decision and I hope the people who haven’t won don’t hate us all. To the producers of those films, please keep me in mind to direct any future projects as I’m available.” 

It is the first year CinéfestOZ has offered a film prize in its seven year history, though its development has been in the works over the last three years. It is also the only cash prize focused on Australian films.

“We initiated at one of our previous film festivals a shareholder workshop and got some people around the table to discuss growth opportunities, to build something new that would be unique and valuable and would meet our needs as well as the needs of the Australian industry,” CinéfestOZ Chairman, David Barton, tells IF. “It seemed there was a hole [in Australia] for a Festival to carry a significant prize; one that would change distribution, one that would enable us to lock in great films and people, to enable us to build our programme and positioning and to step away from this sort of WA asset and move towards being a national asset in the film industry context.”

Held in the Busselton, Bunbury and Margaret River regions in southern Western Australia, CinéfestOZ prides itself on being a unique destination film festival (receiving support from both Tourism WA and Screen West), yet acknowledges that destination itself, no matter how remarkable, may not be enough to lure filmmakers all the way from the Eastern Coast. The new $100K prize, however, has already proved an effective drawing card, with CinéfestOZ receiving over 20 submissions in 2014 – a number that is expected to grow in coming years.

The criterion for entry is that films must be Australian or an Australian co-production (using the Screen Australia guidelines). The final six are selected by Barton, CinéfestOZ Vice-Chairman Helen Shervington and CEO Melinda Nixon; interestingly, none of whom possess a film background. It was a decision Barton says was made very deliberately.

“The film people on our board… we were very keen not to have involved in the selection,” he says. “I suppose from the autonomy side of things, the independence of that process was critical. Helen has been the programmer of this Festival since year one and she was the lead of that internal panel, and I’m really happy with the way that evolved.”

CinéfestOZ receives support from Tourism WA’s Regional Events Program, which is funded by Royalties for Regions, as well as ScreenWest.
The Festival commenced on Wednesday, August 20 and concludes on Sunday, August 24.

Paper Planes is also one of four children’s films chosen to screen at Toronto International Film Festival next month.


Detective Malcolm Toohey (Joel Edgerton) becomes embroiled in a web of deceit after a drunken driving accident leaves a young boy in critical care. With the help of his supervisor (Tom Wilkinson) Mal covers up his culpability, but the new detective on the block (Jai Courtney) has other ideas.
Director: Matthew Saville
Producer: Rosemary Blight, Joel Edgerton and Michael Benaroya.

My Mistress
A beautiful and seemly innocent affair between a teenage romantic (Harrison Gilbertson) and a French S&M mistress (Emmanuelle Béart) evolves into something much more dangerous.
Director: Stephen Lance
Producer: Leanne Tonkes and Steve Kearney.

Paper Planes (WINNER)
Paper Planes follows 11-year old Dylan (Ed Oxenbould) whose life changes after winning a place in the regional paper planes competition in Sydney. This achievement takes him far from his regional home and depressed father (Sam Worthington), all the way to the World Paper Plane Championships in Japan.
Director: Robert Connolly
Producer: Robert Connolly, Maggie Miles and Liz Kearney.

Son of a Gun
Son of a Gun follows Brenton Thwaites as JR, a young man serving six months prison time when he meets (and comes to be under the protection of) notorious criminal Brendan Lynch (Ewan McGregor). However JR soon discovers Brendan’s protection doesn’t come free, and is expected to help the felon once on the outside.
Director: Julius Avery
Producer: Timothy White and Janelle Landers

The Reckoning
A surprise discovery at the crime scene of his murdered partner (Luke Hemsworth) puts Detective Robbie Green (Jonathan LaPaglia) on the trail of two teenage runaways whose documentary footage may provide the identity of the killer. What Robbie doesn’t anticipate is that the pair is on their own quest for revenge.
Director: John V Soto
Producer: Deidre Kitcher

The Waler: Australia’s Great War Horse
This documentary looks at the 135,000 war horses that left Australia for World War One. Most were walers; a breed that can withstand great heat, travel long distances and perform great feats in battle. None came home. The Waler: Australia’s Great War Horse, takes a look at their story.
Director: Russell Vines
Producer: Marian Bartsch