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Winners Announced for 71st Sydney Film Festival

The 71st Sydney Film Festival awarded its largest ever prize pool at its Closing Night ceremony, including the prestigious Sydney Film Prize to the Italian film There’s Still Tomorrow directed by and starring Paola Cortellesi.

The 71st Sydney Film Festival awarded the prestigious Sydney Film Prize to Italian filmmaker Paola Cortellesi for her film There’s Still Tomorrow, a moving, empowering melodrama about an industrious woman in post-WWII Rome. Cortellesi directs and stars in the film, which became a box office phenomenon in Italy, outperforming the likes of Barbie and Oppenheimer.

The winner of the $60,000 cash prize for ‘audacious, cutting-edge and courageous’ film was selected by a prestigious international jury headed by Bosnian writer and director Danis Tanović.

The announcement was made at the State Theatre ahead of the Australian Premiere screening of Cannes hit The Substance.

The Sydney Film Prize

On awarding the Sydney Film Prize to Italian filmmaker Paola Cortellesi’s There’s Still Tomorrow, the Jury said in a joint statement:

“We had the honour and great pleasure to experience the 12 outstanding films that comprised this year’s Official Competition. At times loud and bombastic, while at others, fiercely intimate, this selection is a testament to theatrical cinema’s contemporary power.

“We commend the entire team at Sydney Film Festival for this year’s wonderfully curated selection of films. We congratulate every filmmaker here, with gratitude to their tireless work. Each film in Competition embraced the human spirit with uncompromising artistry, unafraid. Sitting together with the audience at the gorgeously preserved State Theatre, for us this was a path breaking journey of new encounters that conjured cinematic traditions from around the world.

“We award the prize to a film that welcomes audiences into one of the historic cradles of cinema. Set in post-War Italy, Paola Cortellesi’s debut feature, C’è ancora domani (There’s Still Tomorrow) feels intensely relevant today. We relive every woman’s struggle for equality through Cortellesi’s “Delia,” we face the brutal cycles of domestic violence with an immense empathy that ultimately proclaims and affirms the virtues of democracy. C’è ancora domani deftly weaves humour, style, and pop music into a dazzling black-and-white cinematic event, then it delivers an ending that will take your breath away.”

A box office phenomenon in its native Italy, where it outperformed Barbie and Oppenheimer, There’s Still Tomorrow is a moving, empowering melodrama about an industrious woman (played by the director herself) in post-WWII Rome.

The Festival Jury was comprised of Bosnian writer and director Danis Tanović as Jury President, joined by Indonesian director Kamila Andini, Australian producer Sheila Jayadev, US producer Jay Van Hoy, and Australian director Tony Krawitz.

Previous winners: The Mother of All Lies (2023); Close (2022); There Is No Evil (2021); Parasite (2019); The Heiresses (2018); On Body and Soul (2017); Aquarius (2016); Arabian Nights (2015); Two Days, One Night (2014); Only God Forgives (2013); Alps (2012); A Separation (2011); Heartbeats (2010); Bronson (2009); and Hunger (2008).

The competition is endorsed by FIAPF, the regulating body for international film festivals, and is judged by a jury of five international and Australian filmmakers and industry professionals.

The Documentary Australia Award

The $20,000 Documentary Australia Award, proudly supported by Documentary Australia, was awarded to James Bradley for Welcome to Babel. The Jury comprising Bhutanese director and producer Arun Bhattarai, and Australian directors and producers Dean Gibson and Pat Fiske, said in a joint statement:

“The jury would firstly like to commend all the filmmakers who reached the finals of the Documentary Australia Award for 2024. The high calibre of films and diverse storytelling was remarkable. However, we felt one film made a distinct impression.”

“The Jury felt that Welcome to Babel’s intimate story of artist Jiawei Shen was a beautifully made and thoughtful film that demonstrated the ambition to tell a global story through the intimate relationship of Jiawei and his wife, Lan. The cinematography and editing were exceptional and tonally perfect for the story. Congratulations to Welcome to Babel.”

Previous winners: Marungka Tjalatjunu (Dipped in Black) (2023); Keep Stepping (2022); I’m Wanita (2021); Descent (2020); She Who Must Be Loved (2019); Ghosthunter (2018); The Pink House (2017); In the Shadow of the Hill (2016); Only the Dead (2015); 35 Letters (2014); Buckskin (2013); Killing Anna (2012); Life in Movement (2011); and The Snowman (2010). In 2009 the inaugural prize was shared between Contact and A Good Man, and each film received a $10,000 cash prize.

First Nations Award Proudly Supported by Truant Pictures

This year, Sydney Film Festival launched the inaugural First Nations Award, proudly supported by Truant Pictures. This Award establishes the world’s largest cash prize in global Indigenous filmmaking, rewarding $35,000 to the winning First Nations filmmaker.

The winner of the First Nations Award is New Zealand filmmaker Awanui Simich-Pene’s short film First Horse. Set in 1826 with Aotearoa on the cusp of colonisation, the film follows a young Māori girl who encounters a dying man and his horse, exposing her to the best and worst of her rapidly changing world.

The Jury comprising of producer and programmer Jason Ryle, Australian producer Kath Shelper and Australian First Nations producer Erica Glynn, said in a joint statement:

“Members of the jury were thrilled with the quality and variety of the works programmed for the inaugural First Nations Competition, noting the power and beauty in the collection of these storytellers’ films which represent all types of cinematic art. The jurors also celebrate the launch of this meaningful prize and congratulate the Festival for making it a reality.

“In awarding the winning work, the jury recognises its originality, elegance, and cinematic achievement in story and form. In a few short minutes, the talented creative team has crafted a deeply impactful film with a resonant emotional punch.”

Sustainable Future Award

The 2024 recipient of the Sustainable Future Award was presented to the documentary Black Snow directed by American filmmaker Alina Simone. The jury also Highly Commended The Feast (director Rishi Chandna) and Wilding (director David Allen).

The Award is presented to a film that explores the social, economic, political, and environmental consequences of climate change and highlights the urgent need for action to mitigate its effects.

Black Snow follows a Siberian eco-activist, dubbed the ‘Erin Brockovich of Russia’, who fights for her community in a remote Russian mining town where black snow falls due to the extreme pollution.

Dendy Awards for Australian Short Films

A jury composed of producer Liz Watts, Hong Kong filmmaker Ray Yeung, producer Finbar Watson, and filmmaker Alec Green judged the Festival’s short film awards.

The Dendy Awards for Australian Short Films were awarded to Die Bully Die, directed by Nathan and Nick Lacey (Best Live Action Short), Darwin Story, directed by Natasha Tonkin (Yoram Gross Animation Award), Pernell Marsden, director of The Meaningless Daydreams of Augie & Celeste (Rouben Mamoulian Award for Best Australian Director), Chloe Kemp, screenwriter of Say (AFTRS Craft Award for Best Practitioner), and Bridget Morrison, lead actor of Say (Event Cinemas Rising Talent Award).

The Jury provided the following statements for each prize:

The Event Cinemas Rising Talent Award

Winner: Bridget Morrison, lead actor of Say.

“A compelling performance that captures so effectively the pain and anger of a woman trapped in an abusive relationship.”

AFTRS Craft Award for Best Practitioner

Winner: Chloe Kemp, screenwriter of Say

“A beautifully nuanced script done in a naturalistic style full of tension and relevance.”

Yoram Gross Animation Award for Best Australian Animation

Winner: Darwin Story.

“A wonderfully executed story with poignant sentiment utilising a rich artistry craft in its animation.”

Best Live Action Short

Winner: Die Bully Die.

“A poignant and yet entertaining story of bullying and revenge done with great style, fun and wit.”

Rouben Mamoulian Award for Best Australian Director

Winner: Pernell Marsden, director of The Meaningless Daydreams of Augie & Celeste.

“A lovely glimpse into the mind of children told with skill and a vision that marks this director as one to watch.”

The competition for the Australian Short Films was established by the Festival in 1970. Winners of the Best Live Action Short Film Award and the Yoram Gross Animation Award (sponsored by Sandra and Guy Gross in memory of the late Yoram Gross) are Academy Award-eligible, opening new pathways for many Australian filmmakers.

2024 Sydney UNESCO City of Film Prize

Winner: Debbie Lee

This annual award recognises a trailblazing NSW-based screen practitioner whose work stands for innovation, imagination and high impact. Screen NSW awarded a $10,000 cash prize to Debbie Lee at SFF’s Closing Night ceremony on Sunday 16 June. Previous winners include Chris Godfrey, Karina Holden, Warwick Thornton, Leah Purcell, and Lynette Wallworth.

Visit https://www.sff.org.au/

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