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Aussie films gain recognition at Sydney festi -

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Aussie films gain recognition at Sydney festival

The World Today - Tuesday, 17 June , 2008 12:50:00

Reporter: Antonette Collins

EMMA ALBERICI: It may have been more Cairns than Cannes at the Sydney Opera House last night, but
Australia's first internationally accredited film prize will hopefully one day compete with the
prestigious Palme d'Or.

The inaugural Sydney Film Prize appears to have revived the fortunes of the 55-year-old Sydney Film
Festival, attracting film heavyweights and sales agents looking for the next big commercial hit.

While the UK film "Hunger", took out the $60,000 award, two Australian films selected for
competition also gained important recognition.

Antonette Collins reports.

ANTONETTE COLLINS: It was a small and intimate gathering at the Opera House last night, the dress
code was black tie, but it came with a laid-back Sydney twist: open necked shirts and cocktail
dresses were de rigueur ahead of wing tip collars, bow ties and ball gowns.

But despite the iconic Australian setting, it was a movie from Northern Ireland which stole the
show.

PRIZE ANNOUNCER: The winner of the inaugural prize for the Sydney Film Festival is "Hunger".

ANTONETTE COLLINS: "Hunger" is a movie about Bobby Sands, an IRA activist who died in prison during
a hunger strike. It was directed by Steve McQueen and its producer is Laura Hastings Smith.

LAURA HASTINGS SMITH: This is what you dream of, is getting this kind of accolade and so it's a
wonderful moment.

ANTONETTE COLLINS: But for the Australian film industry last night was about more than just awards.

The Sydney Film Festival's executive director Clare Stewart, says the prize gives a much needed
boost to Australia's footing on the world film stage.

CLARE STEWART: It really positions us internationally in terms of there being a lot more interest
from sales agents, film makers, distributors in participating in the festival but also very
importantly it does two things on the home front. It really enriches the actual experience for the
audience in the sense of having a bit more glitz and glamour but also a real opportunity to engage
with film makers.

ANTONETTE COLLINS: Ms Stewart says while the Sydney Film Prize is yet to attain the prestige of the
Cannes Film festival, she does have high hopes for the future.

CLARE STEWART: Well of course everyone is using the C-word but (laughs) I mean, Cannes has been in
such a strong leadership role for such a long time, I don't think we're going to take that over,
overnight. But I think what it really has done is put us in the same level of thinking in terms for
film makers and sales agents about what kind of, you know, where their films will play.

ANTONETTE COLLINS: Australian filmmakers didn't miss out entirely.

"Three Blind Mice" by Australian writer, director and actor Matthew Newton, received special
commendation.

To him, it's a thrill just being listed alongside the likes of British director Mike Leigh.

MATTHEW NEWTON: Not to be coy, but I never thought of it like a competition. I just, to me it was a
selection of 12 films from around the world that represented where we are cinematically today and I
was like, beyond honoured to be included.

ANTONETTE COLLINS: Australian director Gillian Armstrong is best known for her work directing films
such as "My Brilliant Career" and "Oscar and Lucinda".

She knows just how tough it is for Australian auteurs to break through. She says the festival
provides the perfect forum for filmmakers to show their wares.

GILLIAN ARMSTRONG: You know how you become better as a film maker? Seeing what everybody else does
and seeing and thinking about movies. So that's what's good for Australian film makers.

EMMA ALBERICI: Gillian Armstrong, film maker and president of the Sydney Film Prize jury, ending
that report from Antonette Collins.