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Sydney Festival winners


A stirring, low budget Australian love drama, Blacktown, and a powerful Danish family drama, Brothers, have won the Urban Cinefile Audience Awards for Best Feature in the Sidebar Program and World Cinema respectively, concluding a strong Sydney Film Festival, in which Mad Hot Ballroom from the US was the undisputed favourite of the docos, winning in both sections, after screening at both the State Theatre and at the Dendy Opera Quays. Andrew L. Urban reports.

The word was spreading about Susanne Bier’s outstanding drama, Brothers, soon after its first screening on Monday June 13, early on in the festival; those who saw Susanne Bier’s Open Hearts weren’t surprised at this Danish filmmaker’s superb control of her medium as a tool for emotional exploration. At the end of that first week of the festival, the world premiere of Kriv Stenders’ ultra low budget and ultra-authentic romantic drama, Blacktown, drew an immediate and visceral response from audiences.

Anyone who attended the second screening of Mad Hot Balloon at the Dendy Opera Quays on Friday June 24 will attest to the effect this film has on audiences: no wonder it was the most popular doco in both its venues (it had also screened at the State the previous Sunday). Mostly underpriviliged Hispanic children tackle ballroom dancing to broaden their creative options and life choices, in an inspired addition to their curriculum.

Ryan, the animated Canadian short from Chris Landreth that has already won the Oscar, looks at Ryan Larkin, a famed filmmaker of the 60s now living on the streets, clearly touched audiences with its deep impact. Notably, the most popular short in the Sidebar Program was also animation – Journey To Mars, from Argentina’s Juan Pablo Zaramella.

Urban Cinefile’s support for this expanded and formalised awards structure is intended to elevate the films chosen by audience votes as their favourites to an official level so that the winning filmmakers can proudly display the laurels of winners. But it also serves to focus public attention on the festival itself and the winning films. In previous years, audience votes were tallied and a list of favourites read out on closing night. Now, there are six specially designed and engraved trophies that will be sent to the winners, together with a disc containing the necessary artwork for use in publicising their film and their win.

After each screening, voting slips are handed to patrons who rip the paper at the relevant score (out of 5) for the short film and the feature they have just seen. The votes are collected in boxes, sealed and delivered to the tally centre at the festival, where they are counted and scored. Nielsen EDI then conducts random spot checks for an audit.

The MC for the Closing Night ceremonies was Nell Schofield, and the inaugural Urban Cinefile Audience Awards were presented by editors Andrew L. Urban and Louise Keller immediately prior to the screening of the, Howl’s Moving Castle by Hayao Miyazaki.

Best Feature in World Cinema
Brothers - Denmark, produced by Sisse Graum Olsen and Peter Aalbaek Jensen, directed by Susanne Bier

Best Documentary in World Cinema
Mad Hot Ballroom, USA, produced by Marilyn Agrelo and Amy Sewell, directed by Marilyn Agrelo

Best Short Film in World Cinema
Ryan, Canada, produced by Steven Hoban, Mark Smith and Marcy Page, directed by Chris Landreth

Best Feature in the Sidebar Program
Blacktown, Australia, produced and directed by Kriv Stenders – who is here to accept the award.

Best Documentary in the Sidebar Program
Mad Hot Ballroom, USA, produced by Marilyn Agrelo and Amy Sewell, directed by Marilyn Agrelo

Best Short Film in the Sidebar Program
Journey To Mars, Argentina, produced and directed by Juan Pablo Zaramella

Andrew Urban

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