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The FCCA Annual Awards for Australian Films of 2019 by Annette Willis

Continuing a long tradition established by the Film Critics Circle of Australia nearly 40 years ago, the annual Awards for the films released in 2019 were held on a warm night in Sydney in February. Critics, actors, film industry professionals, sponsors and friends gathered at Paddington RSL to celebrate another year in Australian cinema.


Longtime jobbing actor, the inimitable Les Asmussen hosted the night. Yet again, Les brought his enormous knowledge of film and a very deft touch to the event. The night would not have even happened at all without Adrienne McKibbins’ hard work, endless resourcefulness and true grit to ensure the Awards continue to be staged in what have become very tight financial times. Thanks also go to those who have volunteered their time to help Adrienne year in year out behind the scenes.


Awards were presented on the night by Robina Beard, famous for the Palmolive ad ‘you’re soaking in it’ (also the title of her memoirs); Kim Knuckey (Home and Away); Malcolm Frawley (Neighbours) and Nicholas Glenhill (Careful He Might Hear You).


The FCCA rewards originality and excellence in films in the categories of best film, best director, best actress, best cinematography, best screenplay, best editing, best original score, best actor in a supporting role, best actress in a supporting role and best feature documentary. These awards are Australia’s truly independent film awards, voted on solely by film critics, not by industry or by a section of the film going public.


From time to time, the FCCA decides to present an Acknowledgement Award for Excellence to one of Australia’s most prolific and powerful filmmakers. Past winners of this award have included Michael Pate, Russell Boyd, Cezary Skubiszewski and Judy Davis. This year the award went to Rolf De Heer, in recognition of his unique body of work and his outstanding contribution to Australian cinema over many years. Not a lifetime achievement award, but a celebration of Rolf’s contribution to cinematic storytelling to date.


Rolf has been making films and telling sometimes uncomfortable stories since the late seventies. Making films across genres and continuously challenging himself and the audience, Rolf shows no signs of slowing down. Rolf was unaware that he was going to receive this award until the night. Several people spoke about Rolf and how he had changed their careers. Gary Sweet, who first worked with Rolf in The Tracker (2002) and also worked with him on Alexandra’s Project (2003), spoke about Rolf’s enduring influence on his film career. Gary hid until the award was announced because he knew if Rolf saw him, the cat would be out of the bag and Rolf might wonder why so many past collaborators were in attendance.


Nicholas Hope, who was once defined by Bad Boy Bubby (1993), also paid tribute to Rolf’s long career and influence. David Gulpilil, a long time collaborator with Rolf in The Tracker (2002), Ten Canoes (2006) and Charlie’s Country (2013), sent a video message proclaiming Rolf to be the best director he knows. Rolf has worked with and known David Gulpilil for many years and it was moving to see him congratulate his friend, despite his own illness and poor health. Bojana Novakovic, who worked with Rolf on The King is Dead (2012), also sent a video tribute. Rolf was a very worthy winner of the Achievement Award and received a standing ovation from the audience.


Thirty films were considered for this year’s awards, continuing a rich and varied Australian cinematic storytelling history. A record number of twenty six feature length documentaries were also in consideration for an award. This year, the awards were spread across five feature films and two documentaries, reinforcing the diverse depth of talent in the Australian film industry.


The nominees for Best Film were: The Nightingale, Judy & Punch, The King, Ride Like a Girl, Buoyancy, Hotel Mumbai. The Nightingale won Best Film.


The nominees for Best Feature Documentary were: The Eulogy, The Final Quarter, In My Blood it Runs, Martha: A Picture Story, Mystify Michael Hutchence, Suzi Q. The Final Quarter and Martha: A Picture Story tied for Best Feature Documentary.


The nominees for Best Director were: Jennifer Kent, The Nightingale; Anthony Maras, Hotel Mumbai; David Michôd, The King; Rodd Rathjen, Buoyancy; Kriv Stenders, Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan. David Michôd won Best Director for The King.


The nominees for Best Actor were: Baykali Ganambarr, The Nightingale; Sarm Heng, Buoyancy; Daniel Henshall, Acute Misfortune; Damon Herriman, Judy & Punch. Damon Herriman won for Judy & Punch.


The nominees for Best Actress were: Aisling Franciosi, The Nightingale; Teresa Palmer, Ride Like a Girl; Miranda Tapsell, Top End Wedding; Mia Wasikowska, Judy & Punch. Aisling Franciosi won for The Nightingale.


The nominees for Best Cinematography were: Adam Arkapaw ACS, The King; Radek Ladczuk, The Nightingale; Michael Latham, Buoyancy; Ben Nott ACS, Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan. Ben Nott ACS won for Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan.


The nominees for Best Screenplay were: John Collee, Anthony Maras, Hotel Mumbai; Erik Jensen, Thomas M Wright, Acute Misfortune; Jennifer Kent, The Nightingale; David Michôd, Joel Edgerton, The King. David Michôd and Joel Edgerton won for The King.


The nominees for Best Editing were: Veronika Jenet ASE, Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan; Peter McNulty, Anthony Maras, Hotel Mumbai; Simon Njoo ASE, The Nightingale; Peter Sciberras, The King. Veronika Jenet ASE won for Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan.


The nominees for Best Original Score were: Volker Bertlemann, Hotel Mumbai; David Hirschfelder, Ride Like a Girl; Alan John, Storm Boy; François Tétaz, Judy & Punch; Caitlin Yeo, Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan. Caitlin Yeo won for Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan.


The nominations for Best Actor Supporting Role were: Joel Edgerton, The King; Damon Herriman, The Nightingale; Ben Mendelsohn, The King; Michael Sheasby, The Nightingale. Joel Edgerton won for The King.


The nominees for Best Actress Supporting Role were: Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Hotel Mumbai; Magnolia Maymuru, The Nightingale; Alia Shawkat, Animals; Ursula Yovich, Top End Wedding. Ursula Yovich won for Top End Wedding.