Sidebar: Two of Somersault's wins were for Abbie Cornish and Sam Worthington's performances. The former is on the cusp of Oscar and the latter on the cusp of global fame and worship. You could do worse than seeing where these two learnt the ropes.
This year's AFI awards, however, are a much different story. 2009 has been a stellar year for Australian cinema - perhaps the best ever - and my country's version of the Oscars (as they like to be called) certainly showed why.
Samson & Delilah's creator Warwick Thornton walked away with three of the AFI's glass statues winning for Best Cinematography (he has been a cinematographer for 25 years prior to directing S&D), Best Direction and Best Original Screenplay. The film also took hope Best Film for producer Kath Shelper (who I've seen loitering around the comment sections here at The Film Experience!) Australia's entry into the Best Foreign Language Film category at next year's Academy Awards also won for Best Sound and the film's two stars, Rowan McNamara and Marissa Gibson, took the Young Actor Award.
Robert Connelly's Balibo took the honours for Best Actor (Anthony LaPaglia), Best Supporting Actor (Oscar Isaac) and Best Adapted Screenplay. Rhonda Epinstalk herself, Rachel Griffiths, won a Best Supporting Actress gong for her role in Rachel Ward's directorial debut Beautiful Kate. Frances O'Connor, she of constant almost-fame in America, won her first AFI Award from five nominations for her role in Ana Kokkinos' Blessed. Kokkinos couldn't direct a good movie if it fell into her lap, and Blessed was no different, but O'Connor has a scene - and anyone who has seen it will know which one - that ranks as one of the most emotionally devastating scenes you're ever likely to see. She deserved the prize for that scene alone.
And what happened to Baz Luhrmann's Australia? Well, it was snubbed for nominations in the top categories, but took home trophies for Costume Design, Production Design and Visual Effects as well as a special AFI in honour of it's astronomical box office. All good for a night's work, I say.
What do these wins mean for Samson & Delilah's Oscar hopes? Not much at all, sadly. Three years ago Ten Canoes won the big prize, but wasn't able to make any headway in the Foreign Language league. Adam Elliot's Mary and Max, a shortlisted title for Best Animated Feature, was nominated for several awards, including Best Film, but failed to win any. Meanwhile The Cat Piano and Miracle Fish won Best Animated Short and Best Short Fiction Film respectively. Both are on Oscar's shortlist and shouldn't be ignored. Check out The Cat Piano below, I guarantee you'll love it!