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'Samson & Delilah': Aborigine-Centered Drama Tops Australian Film Institute Awards

Samson and Delilah 2009 with Marissa Gibson Rowan McNamara: Warwick Thornton drama tops AFI AwardsSamson & Delilah: 2009 film toplining newcomers Marissa Gibson and Rowan McNamara was the big winner at the Australian Film Institute (AFI) Awards, collecting eight statuettes, among them Best Film, Best Director (Warwick Thornton), Best Original Screenplay (also Thornton), Best Cinematography (Thornton once again), and two Young Actor awards for Gibson and McNamara. Both performers had also been in the running in the Best Actress/Best Actor categories, but they lost to, respectively, Frances O'Connor for Blessed and Anthony LaPaglia for Balibo.

Aborigine-focused drama 'Samson & Delilah' tops Australian Film Institute (AFI) Awards

Written and directed by Warwick Thornton, and starring newcomers Rowan McNamara and Marissa Gibson, Samson & Delilah was the big winner at the 2009 Australian Film Institute (AFI) Awards held at Melbourne's Regent Theatre in two consecutive evenings, Dec. 11 (“industry” categories) and Dec. 12 (top awards).

Thornton's feature film debut took home a total of eight statuettes: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography (also Thornton), Best Sound, the AFI Members' Choice Award, and two Young Actor Awards for newcomers McNamara and Gibson. (Both McNamara and Gibson had also been shortlisted in the Best Actor/Best Actress categories.)

Winner of the Caméra d'Or at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and the Best Film choice at the Asia-Pacific Screen Awards – in addition to being Australia's submission for the 2010 Best Foreign Language Film Academy AwardSamson & Delilah is a coming-of-age drama set in a remote Aboriginal community in Central Australia, where two teenagers attempt to cope with a life of violence, poverty, and substance abuse. Following a particularly brutal confrontation, the young couple set out on their own, facing various obstacles along the way.

Samson & Delilah is the second film focusing on Australia's Aborigines to win the AFI's top prize in the last four years. In 2006, Rolf de Heer and Peter Djigirr's Ten Canoes, set among Aborigines of long ago, also came out victorious.

East Timor political drama & welfare recipient Frances O'Connor

Another major AFI winner was Robert Connolly's Balibo, which bagged awards in the Best Actor (Anthony LaPaglia), Best Supporting Actor (Oscar Isaac), Best Adapted Screenplay (Connolly & David Williamson), and Best Editing (Nick Meyers) categories. In this political drama, LaPaglia plays war correspondent Roger East, who traveled to East Timor in the mid-1970s to attempt to find five missing journalists.

Frances O'Connor was voted Best Actress for her portrayal of a distraught welfare-recipient mother in Ana Kokkinos' Blessed, while Rachel Griffiths was Best Supporting Actress for Beautiful Kate, actress-turned-director Rachel Ward's family drama about two siblings (Griffiths and Ben Mendelsohn) who share a deeply buried secret in their past.

Australians abroad: Russell Crowe & Toni Collette

The AFI International Award for Best Actor went to Russell Crowe for the box office disappointment State of Play. For her multiple impersonations in the made-for-television The United States of Tara, Toni Collette was Best Actress in that particular category for Australians working abroad, whether in film or on TV.

Visual effects expert Nathan McGuinness, for his part, was given the International Award for Excellence in Filmmaking. McGuinness was cited for his work on five films: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, Terminator Salvation, The Unborn, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Special Award winners: Costly blockbuster 'Australia' & Geoffrey Rush

Winner of the Highest Grossing Film Award, Baz Luhrmann's $130 million-budgeted local blockbuster Australia – a late 2008 box office disappointment in the U.S. and Canada – also collected three other AFI Awards: Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, and Best Visual Effects. Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman star.

Earlier this year, Geoffrey Rush (Best Actor Oscar winner for Shine, 1996) was handed the Raymond Longford Award for his contribution to Australian cinema.

Australia 2008 with Nicole Kidman Hugh Jackman: Highest-grossing movie of the yearAustralia: 2008 film starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman won the 2009 Australian Film Institute Awards for Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, and Best Visual Effects; in addition to a special award given to the highest-grossing movie of the year. Directed by Baz Luhrmann, the $130 million-budgeted Australia – a sprawling mix of romance, adventure, and drama – grossed $26.5 million in Australia and $211.3 million worldwide. AFI-winning costume designer Catherine Martin received an Oscar nomination earlier this year; at the AFI Awards, she shared her win with co-designer Eliza Godman.

The 2009 Australian Film Institute Award nominations were announced on Oct. 28.

FEATURE FILM NOMINEES

AFI AWARD FOR BEST FILM
Balibo. John Maynard, Rebecca Williamson.
Beautiful Kate. Leah Churchill-Brown, Bryan Brown.
Blessed. Al Clark.
Mao's Last Dancer. Jane Scott.
Mary and Max. Melanie Coombs.
* Samson & Delilah. Kath Shelper.

AFI AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTION
Balibo. Robert Connolly.
Beautiful Kate. Rachel Ward.
Mao's Last Dancer. Bruce Beresford.
* Samson & Delilah. Warwick Thornton.

AFI AWARD FOR BEST LEAD ACTOR
* Anthony LaPaglia. Balibo.
Ben Mendelsohn. Beautiful Kate.
Hugo Weaving. Last Ride.
Rowan McNamara. Samson & Delilah.

AFI AWARD FOR BEST LEAD ACTRESS
Sophie Lowe. Beautiful Kate.
* Frances O'Connor. Blessed.
Sacha Horler. My Year Without Sex.
Marissa Gibson. Samson & Delilah.

AFI AWARD FOR BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Brandon Walters. Australia.
Damon Gameau. Balibo.
* Oscar Isaac. Balibo.
Bryan Brown. Beautiful Kate.

AFI AWARD FOR BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Bea Viegas. Balibo.
Maeve Dermody. Beautiful Kate.
* Rachel Griffiths. Beautiful Kate.
Mitjili Gibson. Samson & Delilah.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Cedar Boys. Serhat Caradee.
Mary and Max. Adam Elliot.
My Year Without Sex. Sarah Watt.
* Samson & Delilah. Warwick Thornton.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
* Balibo. Robert Connolly, David Williamson.
Beautiful Kate. Rachel Ward.
Blessed. Andrew Bovell, Melissa Reeves, Patricia Cornelius, Christos Tsiolkas.
Mao's Last Dancer. Jan Sardi.

AFI AWARD FOR BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Balibo. Tristan Milani ACS.
Beautiful Kate. Andrew Commis.
Last Ride. Greig Fraser.
* Samson & Delilah. Warwick Thornton.

AFI AWARD FOR BEST EDITING
* Balibo. Nick Meyers ASE.
Blessed. Jill Bilcock ACE, ASE.
Mao's Last Dancer. Mark Warner.
Samson & Delilah. Roland Gallois.

AFI AWARD FOR BEST ORIGINAL MUSIC SCORE
Australia. David Hirschfelder, Felix Meagher, Baz Luhrmann, Angela Little.
Balibo. Lisa Gerrard.
* Mao's Last Dancer. Christopher Gordon.
Samson & Delilah. Warwick Thornton.

AFI AWARD FOR BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
* Australia. Catherine Martin, Ian Gracie, Karen Murphy, Beverley Dunn.
Balibo. Robert Cousins.
Mao's Last Dancer. Herbert Pinter.
Mary and Max. Adam Elliot.

AFI AWARD FOR BEST COSTUME DESIGN
* Australia. Catherine Martin, Eliza Godman.
Balibo. Cappi Ireland.
Lucky Country. Mariot Kerr.
Mao's Last Dancer. Anna Borghesi.

AFI AWARD FOR BEST SOUND
Australia. Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer, Wayne Pashley MPSE, Guntis Sics.
Balibo. Sam Petty, Emma Bortignon, Phil Heywood, Ann Aucote.
Mao's Last Dancer. David Lee, Andrew Neil, Yulia Akerholt, Mark Franken, Roger Savage.
* Samson & Delilah. Liam Egan, David Tranter, Robert Sullivan, Tony Murtagh, Yulia Akerholt, Les Fiddess.

AFI MEMBERS' CHOICE AWARD
Australia. Baz Luhrmann, G. Mac Brown, Catherine Knapman.
Balibo. John Maynard, Rebecca Williamson.
Beautiful Kate. Leah Churchill-Brown, Bryan Brown.
Mao's Last Dancer. Jane Scott.
Mary and Max. Melanie Coombs.
* Samson & Delilah. Kath Shelper.

 

TELEVISION AWARDS (Partial List)

AFI AWARD FOR BEST TELEVISION DRAMA SERIES
* East West 101, Season 2. Kristine Wyld, Steve Knapman.
Packed to the Rafters. Jo Porter.
Satisfaction, Season 2. Andrew Walker, Roger Simpson.
Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities. Greg Haddrick, Brenda Pam.

AFI AWARD FOR BEST TELEFEATURE, MINI SERIES OR SHORT RUN SERIES
3 Acts of Murder. Sue Taylor.
* False Witness. Greg Haddrick, Peter Andrikidis.
The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce. Nial Fulton.
Saved. Michael McMahon, Tony Ayres.

AFI AWARD FOR BEST TELEVISION COMEDY SERIES
Chandon Pictures. Rob Carlton.
Lawrence Leung's Choose Your Own Adventure. Nathan Earl, Andy Nehl.
* Review with Myles Barlow. Dean Bates.
Very Small Business. Wayne Hope, Robyn Butler.

AFI AWARD FOR BEST LEAD ACTOR IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
Robert Menzies. 3 Acts of Murder.
Don Hany. East West 101, Season 2.
Dougray Scott. False Witness.
* Roy Billing. Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities.

AFI AWARD FOR BEST LEAD ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
* Susie Porter. East West 101, Season 2.
Rachael Blake. False Witness.
Rebecca Gibney. Packed to the Rafters.
Asher Keddie. Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities.

AFI AWARD FOR BEST GUEST OR SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
Bille Brown. 3 Acts of Murder.
Jeremy Lindsay Taylor. False Witness (Episode 2).
Richard Roxburgh. False Witness (Episode 2).
* Damian de Montemas. Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities (Episode 11, “The Brotherhood”).

AFI AWARD FOR BEST GUEST OR SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
* Anni Finsterer. 3 Acts of Murder.
Claire Forlani. False Witness (Episode 1).
Kathryn Beck. Scorched.
Kate Ritchie. Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities (Episode 4, “Business As Usual”).

 

OTHER AFI AWARDS FILM/TV (Partial List)

AFI INTERNATIONAL AWARD FOR BEST ACTOR
* Russell Crowe. State of Play.
Martin Henderson. House.
Anthony LaPaglia. Without a Trace.
Guy Pearce. Bedtime Stories.

AFI INTERNATIONAL AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS
Rose Byrne. Damages.
* Toni Collette. United States of Tara.
Melissa George. In Treatment.
Mia Wasikowska. In Treatment.

AFI YOUNG ACTOR AWARD (tie)
Brandon Walters. Australia.
Sebastian Gregory. Beautiful.
Tom Russell. Last Ride.
Toby Wallace. Lucky Country.
* Marissa Gibson. Samson & Delilah.
* Rowan McNamara. Samson & Delilah.

AFI VISUAL EFFECTS AWARD
* Australia. Chris Godfrey, James E. Price, Andy Brown, Rob Duncan.
Death of the Megabeasts. Matt Drummond, Mike Dunn.
Plastic. Sandy Widyanata, Eric So, Matthew Mackereth, Christopher Jackson.
Scorched. Bertrand Polivka, Soren Jensen.

AFI AWARD FOR BEST FEATURE LENGTH DOCUMENTARY
Bastardy. Philippa Campey, Amiel Courtin-Wilson, Lynn-Maree Milburn, Andrew de Groot.
The Choir. Chris Hilton, Michael Davie.
* Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts. Scott Hicks, Susanne Preissler.
Lionel. Lizzette Atkins.

AFI AWARD FOR BEST SHORT ANIMATION
* The Cat Piano. Jessica Brentnall, Eddie White, Ari Gibson.
Chicken of God. Jodi Satya, Frank Woodley.
The Not So Great Eugene Green. Melanie Brunt, Michael Hill.
Reach. Luke Randall.

AFI AWARD FOR BEST SHORT FICTION FILM
Burn. Anna Kaplan, David Selvarajah Vadiveloo.
Liebermans In The Sky. Jessica Redenbach, Richard Vilensky.
* Miracle Fish. Drew Bailey, Luke Doolan.
Water. Sarah Shaw, Corrie Jones.

 

Australian Film Institute website.

Australia box office info via boxofficemojo.com.

Rowan McNamara and Marissa Gibson Samson & Delilah image: Madman Entertainment.

Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman Australia image: 20th Century Fox.


         
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