Warwick Thornton took home the top gong at last night’s Australian Directors’ Guild (ADG) Awards for outback Western Sweet Country.
It joins a slew of other prizes for the film, which follows an Aboriginal stockman who a kills white station owner in self-defence, including the Venice Film Festival Special Jury Prize, the Toronto International Film Festival Platform Prize, and six AACTA Awards, including Best Film and Best Direction.
Competing against Thornton for Best Direction in a Feature Film (budget $1 million or over) were Joel Edgerton for Boy Erased, Anthony Maras for Hotel Mumbai, and Garth Davis for Mary Magdelene.
The ADG Awards were held at Sydney’s City Recital Hall, with presenters including Rachel Griffiths, Claudia Karvan, Bryan Brown and Rachel Ward.
This year also saw the guild divide the feature film category for the first time, introducing the prize for Best Direction in a Feature Film with a budget under $1 million. That was taken home by Dustin Feneley for Stray – an indie film that was financed via crowdfunding. Other nominees included Christopher Kay for Just Between Us, Donna McRae for Lost Gully Road and Jason Perini for Chasing Comets.
Griffiths presented both feature film awards, and used the platform to call for greater diversity in the industry.
“I know it’s really uncomfortable to hear that when an Indigenous director gets a gig, it takes a white person’s job; when an Asian director gets a gig, it takes a white person’s job, and when a woman gets a gig as a director, it takes a white male’s job, often. I want us to find a way to be comfortable with that. I know if you’re a white male that’s possibly scary. But the upside of it is that Indigenous women and men, Asian men and women, people with disabilities have stories to tell also – and women, that we also create and animate content,” she said.
“So white men, don’t be afraid. You’re not being replaced – well, just a little bit. So don’t get complacent, because the more we have inclusive people directing and diverse directors, I think the better content that we make.”
Paul Damien Williams took home Best Direction in a Documentary Feature for Gurrumul, beating out Ben Lawrence for Ghosthunter; Catherine Scott for Backtrack Boys; Mark Joffe for Working Class Boy; Matthew Sleeth for Guilty and Richard Todd for Dying to Live. Williams dedicated his award to the film’s subject, the late blind Indigenous musician Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, who died just three days after the film wrapped.
In television, Rachel Perkins was awarded Best Direction in a TV or SVOD Drama Series episode for Indigenous crime drama Mystery Road, and Jeffery Walker Best Direction in a TV or SVOD Mini Series and Telefeature for Riot, about Australia’s Gay Rights Movement in the 197os,
Nicholas Verso took home Best Direction in a Children’s TV or SVOD Drama Program for Grace Beside Me (Series 1, Episode 4), Scott Major for Best Direction in a TV or SVOD Drama Serial episode for his work on episode 7776A of Neighbours, Cian O’Clery won the Best Direction in a Documentary Series award for his work on Employable Me and Best Direction in a TV or SVOD Comedy Program episode went to to Colin Cairnes for True Story with Hamish and Andy (Episode Lisa).
Very honored to score one of these babies tonight! Thanks to the team for inviting me to be a part of this story. Yes these are my pants. pic.twitter.com/Gz0xJOqBvB
— Nicholas Verso (@NickVerso) May 6, 2019
The full list of winners:
Best Direction in a Feature Film (Budget $1M or over)
o Warwick Thornton for Sweet Country
Best Direction in a Feature Film (Budget under $1M)
o Dustin Feneley for Stray
Best Direction in a Short Film
o Alyssa McClelland for Second Best
Best Direction in a Student Film
o Simon Direen for A Life Together
Best Direction in a Documentary Feature
o Paul Damien Williams for Gurrumul
Best Direction in a Documentary Series
o Cian O’Clery for Employable Me (Series 1, Episode 1)
Best Direction in a Documentary Short Subject
o Richard Jasek for Making a Mark
High Commendation: Annamaria Talas for The Kingdom: How Fungi Made Our World
Best Direction in a Children’s TV or SVOD Drama Program
o Nicholas Verso for Grace Beside Me (Series 1, Episode 4)
Best Direction in a TV or SVOD Drama Series episode
o Rachel Perkins for Mystery Road (Series 1)
Best Direction in a TV or SVOD Drama Serial episode
o Scott Major for Neighbours (Episode 7776A)
Best Direction in a TV or SVOD Mini Series and Telefeature
o Jeffrey Walker for Riot
Best Direction in a TV or SVOD Comedy Program episode
o Colin Cairnes for True Story with Hamish & Andy (Episode “Lisa”)
Best Direction in a Online Drama Series
o Billie Pleffer for Deadlock
Best Direction in a Online Comedy Series
o Zoe Pepper for The Big Spaghetti
Best Direction in an Animation Project
o Andrew Goldsmith and Bradley Slabe for Lost & Found
Best Direction in Commercial Content
o Nicholas Carlton for I Am Mehreen Faruqi (The Australian Greens)
Best Direction in a Commercial Advertisement
o Tim Bullock for Armoured Truck (Lotto NZ)
Best Direction in a Music Video
o Kate Halpin for Sympathy (Artist: Iluka)
Best Direction in an Interactive or Immersive Title
o Lynette Wallworth for Awavena