Presented by Foxtel, the seventh AACTA Awards brought together stars of the big and small screen together on Wednesday night at the Star Event Centre in Sydney, to celebrate Australia’s top screen achievements this year.
Riding high on its successful innings this awards season, Oscar-nominated Lion once again made a clean sweep, winning in all five of its nominated categories. Starting from Best Film to bagging the Best Direction for Garth Davis, the film also got Dev Patel his Best Supporting Actor due, despite the actor having already earned the AACTA International Award for his role earlier this year. The star of the evening was, however, nine-year-old Sunny Pawar, who received the AACTA Award for Best Lead Actor, becoming the youngest winner in the category after Simon Burke, who was 15 at the time when he received the award for The Devil’s Playground in 1976.
Not stopping there, the inaugural AACTA Award for Best Asian Film also went to the highly-acclaimed Indian film Dangal, starring Aamir Khan, Zaira Wasim and Fatima Sana Sheikh.
On the home-front, Nicole Kidman too appeared to be on a roll, as she took home awards for Best Supporting Actress for Lion and Best Guest Actress in a Television Drama for Top of the Lake: China Girl, nailing both the sections she was nominated for. Then there was Simon Baker pinching the AACTA Trailblazer Award, followed by Emma Booth taking home her first AACTA award after 10 years for Best Lead Actress for her gripping turn as serial killer Evelyn White in Hounds of Love.
The highest screen accolade – the Longford Lylell Award – went to Australian film director, Philip Noyce this year as he was met with touching tributes from Harrison Ford, Michael Caine, Jeff Bridges, Gillian Armstrong, David Stratton, Liev Schrieber, Thora Birch and Chris Haywood among others.
Other highlights of the Ceremony included the presentation of the Byron Kennedy Award to filmmakers Martin Butler and Bentley Dean, Guy Sebastian’s opening performance of Bloodstone, a medley of hits from Aussie-rock legends The Angels and a touching In Memoriam tribute from Anthony Callea.
Guests and nominees attending included, Margaret Pomeranz, Radha Mitchell, Best Asian Film Grand Jurors Shabana Azmi, Anupam Kher and Ye Liu, David Berry, Jessica McNamee, Samara Weaving, Debra Lawrance, Jack Thompson, Jacqueline McKenzie, Lincoln Lewis, Shaynna Blaze, Abby Earl and Adam Liaw.
Congratulating this year’s Award recipients, AFI | AACTA CEO Damian Trewhella said, “In a year that saw our industry deliver some of the strongest and most diverse stories we’ve ever seen, we are delighted to see such a varied slate of productions, people and performances recognised.
“Tonight’s recipients serve as an inspiration to the industry and audiences alike. In particular, I’d like to congratulate our inaugural Best Asian Film Award winner, Dangal, and our individual Award recipients: Phillip Noyce, Simon Baker, Martin Butler and Bentley Dean.”
NSW Minister for the Arts Don Harwin said the AACTA Awards are supported by the NSW Government via its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW. “Film and television are part of our national culture and identity, and the AACTAs take this to the world by promoting our best screen productions and creative talent. The depth of our screen talent is extraordinary, as this year’s winners have shown, with our creative individuals rightly taking their place alongside the very best in the world.”
What made a difference to the evening was however that fact that several presenters chose to address the issue of sexual harassment and the practice of abuse cover-up prevalent in the industry. From Jacqueline McKenzie to Rachel Griffiths to Russell Crowe, all the stars discussed the need to properly pay heed to victims’ claims and not try to brush things under the carpet when such matters are being reported.