The 68th Sydney Film Festival has awarded There Is No Evil, by Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof, the prestigious Sydney Film Prize. The work was selected from 12 Official Competition films by a prestigious jury headed by David Michôd, who also awarded a Special Mention to Limbo directed by Ben Sharrock.
The $60,000 cash prize for ‘audacious, cutting-edge and courageous’ film was awarded to Rasoulof at the Festival’s Closing Night Gala awards ceremony at the State Theatre, ahead of the Australian Premiere screening of Wes Anderson’s comedy-drama The French Dispatch.
Accepting the award virtually from Tehran, Mohammad Rasoulof said, “I want to thank the jury. I am really happy there is something more than a simple appreciation in this prize. Being heard and understood is what keeps hope alive. Thank you Sydney Film Festival.”
Filmmaker Matthew Walker was awarded the Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary’s $10,000 cash prize for I’m Wanita, a no-holds-barred introduction to Tamworth’s renegade ‘Queen of Honky Tonk’ which follows her journey to Nashville to record an album. With a Highly Recommended going to Television Event from Jeff Daniels.
The Dendy Awards for Australian Short Films saw the $7,000 cash prize for the Dendy Live Action Short Award presented to Peeps directed by Sophie Somerville. The $7,000 Rouben Mamoulian Award for Best Director, going to Taylor Ferguson for tough. The $5,000 Yoram Gross Animation Award went to Olivia Martin-McGuire’s Freedom Swimmer.
The $10,000 Sydney-UNESCO City of Film Award, bestowed by Create NSW to a trail-blazing NSW-based screen practitioner, went to AACTA Award winning producer and director Karina Holden.
Filmmaker Darlene Johnson was awarded the 2021 Deutsche Bank Fellowship for First Nations Film Creatives. The Fellowship provides a $20,000 grant to an Australian First Nations film creative to further develop their skills through international placement or other professional development.
The first ever recipient of the $10,000 Sustainable Future Award, made possible by a syndicate of passionate climate activists led by Award sponsor, Amanda Maple-Brown, was Australian documentary Burning directed by Eva Orner.
Audiences are able to stream SFF award winners including Sydney Film Prize winner There Is No Evil, I’m Wanita, Peeps, tough and Freedom Swimmer nationally until November 21 as part of SFF On Demand.
“Congratulations to all the award winners. The Sydney Film Festival is one of the leading international Film Festivals and each award is significant,” said Minister for the Arts Don Harwin.
“The NSW Government is a proud supporter of the Festival investing $5 million over four years to 2024. Over the last 12 days we have also supported 16 titles screening, from Opening Night’s Here Out West, Leah Purcell’s The Drover’s Wife Legend of Molly Johnston, through to the Screenability short films.”
“As NSW roars back into action, Sydney Film Festival will deliver the best of its program to regional centres via the Travelling Film Festival. 13 NSW locations, including Ulladulla, Wagga Wagga and Tamworth will enjoy Festival highlights as part of the tour through to March 2022,” he said.
Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore said: “What a welcome, breath-of-fresh-air the Sydney Film Festival has been this year, with a really terrific selection of international and Australian productions drawing crowds back into our theatres and the city as we re-open post-lockdown.”
]“There has truly been a film for everyone this year, from the opening night offering Here Out West – a wonderful celebration of Australia’s rich multicultural heartland from young local filmmakers – to the highly anticipated closing film The French Dispatch by extraordinary auteur Wes Anderson.”
“A hearty congratulations to all this year’s winners, and to the festival for breathing life back into the city.” she said.
Sydney Film Festival CEO Leigh Small said, “After segueing to a June 2020 67th Virtual Edition and delaying the festival twice this year, SFF finally made it into cinemas two weeks after the lifting of COVID restrictions. With COVID capacity restrictions and a smaller program, we were thrilled to see cinemas over 55% full and 52 sessions sold out.”
Sydney Film Festival Director Nashen Moodley said, “This year, despite delays and challenges, the Festival presented one of its most impressive programs on record and became the first major Festival to return to cinemas in Sydney.
“Our juries have been blown away by cutting-edge works from visionary Australian filmmakers and international auteurs like 2021 Sydney Film Prize winner Mohammad Rasoulof who delivered a rousing virtual acceptance speech tonight.”
“It was incredibly rewarding to witness elated audiences entering theatres, engaging in inspired post-screening discussions and completely immersed in powerful stories from acclaimed and emerging filmmakers from across the globe.”
“This infectious enthusiasm extended to filmmakers and actors, including director Granaz Moussavi who got the chance to see her Oscar submitted film When Pomegranates Howl on the big screen for the first time and the many international filmmakers who provided captivating virtual pre-screening introductions,” said Moodley.
Image: Director Matthew Walker received the the 2021 Documentary Australia Foundation Award for I’m Wanita (supplied)