SFF 2016: ‘Aquarius’ wins Sydney Film Festival Official Competition, award winners announced

Sydney Film Festival Closing

Sydney Film Festival poster 2016AQUARIUS, Kleber Mendonça Filho’s quiet character-based exploration of changes in a beachside area of Brazil, has won the Official Competition at the 63rd Sydney Film Festival, appropriately taking a $63,000 prize as its reward. The award was given out as part of a Closing Night Gala ceremony emceed by none other than Margaret Pomeranz at the State Theatre in Sydney.

AQUARIUS is about a retired music critic played by Sonia Braga who resists the development of her apartment block by being the last holdout against the developers. Our full review of AQUARIUS is available on The Reel Bits, a film we described as being “a showcase for the strong performance of a nuanced Braga.”

“The jury was unanimous in its admiration of a strong competition this year, and wishes to award Kleber Mendonça Filho as the recipient of this year’s Sydney Film Prize, for his film Aquarius,” said Jury President Simon Field. “Aquarius is a compelling and relevant statement about contemporary Brazil, and the power of an individual standing up for what she believes,” he said.

LINK: The Reel Bits’ SFF 2016 Wrap-Up, Reviews and Reflections

Other films in contention this year were Apprentice (Boo Junking, Singapore), Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt, USA), The Childhood of a Leader (Brady Corbet, USA), The Endless River (Oliver Hermanus, South Africa), Goldstone (Ivan Sen, Australia), It’s Only the End of the World (Xavier Dolan, Canada), Land of Mine (Martin Zandvliet, Denmark), Letter from War (Ivo M. Ferreira, Portugal), Notes on Blindness (Peter Middleton and James Spinney, UK), Psycho Raman (Anurag Kashyap, India) and Viva (Paddy Breathnach, Ireland).

Other prize winners announced

Of course, it wasn’t the only award given out on the night. Sydney filmmaker Dan Jackson was awarded the Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary, a $15,000 cash prize, for In the Shadow of the Hill; with a special mention going to Destination Arnold directed by Sascha Ettinger Epstein.

The Dendy Awards for Australian Short Films were announced; awarding Slapper, directed and written by Luci Schroder, The Dendy Live Action Short Award; The Crossing, directed and written by Marieka Walsh, The Yoram Gross Animation Award; and Goran Stolevski, the Rouben Mamoulian Award for Best Director, for You Deserve Everything.

The Event Cinema Australian Short Screenplay Award was awarded to Spice Sisters, written and directed by Sheila Jayadev, who received a $5,000 cash prize, with a special mention to Matthew Vesely for My Best Friend Is Stuck On The Ceiling.

The new annual Sydney UNESCO City of Film Prize was awarded to Ms Lynette Wallworth, who received $10,000 prize awarded by Screen NSW.

Previous Sydney Film Prize winners are: Arabian Nights (2015); Two Days, One Night (2014); Only God Forgives (2013); Alps (2012); A Separation (2011), which went on to win an Academy Award; Heartbeats (2010); Bronson (2009); and Hunger (2008).

Now we begin the long wait for the 2017 festival. Revisit our full coverage of the Sydney Film Festival.