Melbourne Film Festival: Offering Rich Prizes Adds First Nations Award

The Melbourne International Film Festival has confirmed that it will provide $202,000 (A$300,0000 of cash prizes, making it one of the world’s most generous film events.

Nearly half of the prize pool $95,000 (A$140,000) will go to the winner of its Bright Future competition for features by first- and second-time directors. Bragging rights to being the richest film competition in the country previously belonged to the smaller CinefestOZ festival in West Australia, which follows later in August.

The Melbourne festival (in cinemas Aug. 3-20) has this year added two significant prizes: the inaugural First Nations Film Creative Award in collaboration with Kearney Group, and the return of the Blackmagic Design Australian Innovation Award, worth $47,500 (A$70,000) recognizing an outstanding Australian creative within a film playing in the Melbourne 2023 program.

Winners across long-form awards categories will be announced at Melbourne’s closing night gala on Aug. 19, These will include the juried prizes and the MIFF Audience Award.

The First Nations Film Creative Award supports First Nations talent and storytelling with the recipient awarded a $13,500 (A$20,000) cash prize and $16,900 (A$25,000) worth of financial services.

The award contenders are drawn from across all film creative departments including directing, producing, screenwriting, composing, editing, cinematography, acting, production design, art direction and sound design. Nominees are: John Harvey for “Katele” (“Mudskipper”) director; Lelarnie Hatfield-Yasso, Aunty Nicky Hatfield, and Margaret Hornagold (“Generations of Men”) screenwriters; Derik Lynch and Matthew Thorne for “Marungka Tjalatjunu” (“Dipped in Black”), co-directors; Adrian Russell Wills and Gillian Moody for “Kindred,” co-directors; Tyson Mowarin and Mark Coles Smith for “Keeping Hope,” director and featured subject, respectively; Douglas Watkin for “Rebel with a Cause: Neville Bonner,” director.

The first-time prize will be selected by a jury of Australian First Nations creatives including Rachael Maza (“Radiance,” “Cosi,” “Lillian’s Story”), Tony Briggs (“The Sapphires,” “The Warriors,” “Force of Nature”) and Tiriki Onus (“Ablaze”).

Maza said: “I’m very inspired by this next generation of incredible First Nation film makers. I’d like to acknowledge MIFF and the Kearney Group in establishing this award in recognition of these artists who will be our future leading storytellers.”

“The MIFF film awards recognize and amplify the vitality of our screen industry, and those who move it forward; from the Bright Horizons competition as a space for global breakthrough, to the recognition and celebration of excellence in craft amongst individual screen practitioners, in the Blackmagic Design Australian Innovation Award and First Nations Film Award,” said Al Cossar, MIFF artistic director.

2023 Bright Horizons Competition films :

“Ama Gloria,” dir. Marie Amachoukeli
“Animalia,” dir. Sofia Alaoui
“Banel & Adama,” dir. Ramata-Toulaye Sy
“Disco Boy,” dir. Giacomo Abbruzzese
“Earth Mama,” dir. Savanah Leaf
“How to Have Sex,” dir. Molly Manning Walker
“Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell,” dir. Pham Thien An
“The Rooster,” dir. Mark Leonard Winter
“Shayda,” dir. Noora Niasari
“The Sweet East,” dir. Sean Price Williams
“Tótem,” dir. Lila Avilés.

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