Bong Joon-ho with the Sydney Film Prize. (Photo: Enzo Amato)
Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite has won the Sydney Film Festival’s $60,000 Sydney Film Prize.
The dark comedy, which also won the Palme D’or at the Cannes Film Festival, was selected out of 12 competition films.
Bong Joon-ho, who was in attendance at the festival, accepted the award at last night’s Closing Night Gala awards ceremony at the State Theatre, ahead of the Australian premiere screening of Danny Boyle’s Yesterday.
Accepting the award, he said: “This festival is really amazing, especially the audience… really special and extraordinary. This is the most meaningful prize for me – in this beautiful city and beautiful theatre, and one of the most beautiful audiences in the world.”
The festival jury was comprised of Australian producer John Maynard (president); Australian filmmaker Ana Kokkinos; Brazilian actor and director Wagner Moura; Kiwi filmmaker Gaylene Preston; and Indian artist and filmmaker Ritu Sarin.
Of the winner, Maynard said: “Parasite has an outrageous disregard for genre conventions – it is tender and brutal; beautiful and harsh; funny and tragic and a masterwork in its exploration of class.”
Indigenous director Erica Glynn was awarded the $10,000 Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary’s for She Who Must Be Loved, a portrait of her mother Freda Glynn, the co-founder of the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA).
The jury for the documentary prize consisted of Australian filmmaker Robert Nugent, Chinese director Jialing Zhang, and producer Toni Stowers.
In a joint statement, they said: “This year’s collection of Australian documentaries has taken us across the world and deeper into Australia.
“We would like to emphasise how difficult it was to make a final decision with such passionate films. We would like to thank all the filmmakers for sharing thought-provoking stories that make us laugh, cry, disagree and care. The beauty of storytelling lies in its creative diversity yet sadly we have to pick one winner.
“The film is a reminder of the continued work and importance that of reflective representation of Indigenous communities to all platforms of media. Traversing through very personal and dark moments, the documentary is a poignant yet intimate firsthand testament, yet still find moments to laugh.
“It’s a gracious and close-to the-heart documentary that encompasses both the strength and spirit of Freda Glynn, a pioneer of Indigenous film and TV. The filmmaker’s dance between both personal and social history and the importance of recognising and recording all experiences and not leaving anyone behind.”
Kaye Harrison’s Sanctuary received a Special Mention, for its “bold yet intimate look at the traumas of punitive border-protection institutions and bureaucratic policies caused in asylum seekers”.
Of the Dendy Awards for Australian Short Films, Charles Williams took home two for All These Creatures: the $7,000 Dendy Live Action Short Award, and the $7,000 Rouben Mamoulian Award for Best Director. The film previously won the Short Film Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2018.
All shorts jury comprised Australian film editor Dany Cooper, New Zealand International Film Festival former director Bill Gosden, and Macedonian filmmaker Teona Strugar Mitevska.
The $5,000 Yoram Gross Animation Award went to Lee Whitmore’s Sohrab and Rustum.
The Event Cinemas Australian Short Screenplay Award, a $5,000 prize for the best short screenwriting, was awarded to Michael Hudson of Ties That Bind, for its “narrative simplicity and complex perspective on family violence”. Victoria Hunt’s Take received a Special Mention for its “weaving of found material and dance into a powerful story about the repatriation of stolen Indigenous art”.
The $10,000 Sydney-UNESCO City of Film Award, bestowed by Create NSW to a “trail-blazing NSW-based screen practitioner”, went to Darren Dale, Rachel Perkins and Miranda Dear of Blackfella Films.
Accepting the award, Darren Dale said: “It is humbling and thrilling to be acknowledged for making work that we are so passionate about. We consider ourselves incredibly fortunate to be able to do what we love every day. This acknowledgement is not only of Blackfella Films, but of all the incredible collaborators – the actors, writers, directors, artists, crews, the list goes on – who are so integral to any success we may have.”
Perkins said: “Blackfella Films was established during a time of Indigenous cultural-resurgence. We are proud to be a part of the broader wave of Indigenous film and television that Australia rightly embraces as some of our best cultural expression. Twenty-five years on Blackfella Films is still going strong and we are working towards a more unified nation through storytelling.”
The prize also includes up to four-weeks’ residence at Charlie’s, a hub for the Australian filmmaking community in Los Angeles, opened by Australians in Film, in partnership with Create NSW, AFTRS, Screen Queensland, Film Victoria and South Australian Film Corporation.
Create NSW Executive Director Investment & Engagement, Elizabeth W. Scott said: “Blackfella Films have been responsible for some of this country’s most outstanding and innovative content including First Australians and Redfern Now. Each year they continue to expand their film and television slate in new and exciting ways and we are delighted to celebrate their ongoing success with this award.”
According to Sydney Film Festival CEO Leigh Small, this year’s event had the highest attendance of any iteration to date, with some 188,000 people coming out, and there were 160 sold out sessions.
Sydney Film Festival director Nashen Moodley said: “This year, the festival presented a great number of superb films from emerging and acclaimed filmmakers like Bong Joon-ho who was with us at the festival to present Parasite. Our juries have been nothing short of astonished by the calibre of storytelling. It’s a testament of the Festival’s spirit of championing impactful films that leave lasting impressions, long after you’ve left the cinema.”
“From impassioned standing ovations to wonderful red carpets graced with screen icons, these 12 days have seen filmmakers from across the globe and eager festival audiences alike laughing and crying together, celebrating important stories that deserve to be told.”