Aac­tas 2018: Warwick Thorn­ton hits out at off­shore de­ten­tion as Sweet Coun­try wins big

The Guardian Australia - - Headlines - Stephanie Con­very

Indige­nous tal­ent and queer pol­i­tics dom­i­nated the Aus­tralian film and tele­vi­sion in­dus­try awards in Sydney on Wed­nes­day night.

The Warwick Thorn­ton-di­rected Sweet Coun­try swept the film cat­e­gories, win­ning a to­tal of six gongs at the 60th an­nual Aus­tralian Academy of Cin­ema and Tele­vi­sion Arts (Aacta) awards, in­clud­ing the cov­eted award for best film, beat­ing Boy Erased, Breath, Cargo and Ladies in Black for the top award, while Thorn­ton won the award for best di­rec­tion.

New­comer Hamil­ton Mor­ris won best lead ac­tor for his por­trayal of Sam, Sweet Coun­try’s Indige­nous stock­man per­se­cuted for killing a white sta­tion owner in self-de­fence, which was based on the true story of screen­writer David Tran­ter’s great-grand­fa­ther. Sweet Coun­try also won for best edit­ing, screen­play and cin­e­matog­ra­phy at the in­dus­try lunch and first round of awards pre­sented on Mon­day.

Mean­while Riot, the ABC TV’s minis­eries about the 1970s LGBT rights move­ment in Aus­tralia, which was nom­i­nated in 11 cat­e­gories, won best tele­fea­ture or minis­eries, and Da­mon Her­ri­man and Kate Box won best lead ac­tor and ac­tress in a tele­vi­sion drama.

In an im­pas­sioned and mov­ing ac­cep­tance speech for her best ac­tress in a drama se­ries award for Riot, Box paid trib­ute to the LGBT com­mu­nity and the ac­tivists that paved the way for queer rights in Aus­tralia.

“We shot Riot in the lead-up to the mar­riage equal­ity vote, which was a pretty rough time for a lot of peo­ple in the [LGBT] com­mu­nity, and hav­ing a place of work to go to that hon­oured this com­mu­nity was ac­tu­ally a com­plete life­saver to me,” Box said.

“To the 78ers, I thank you for your fight and I’m deeply sorry for your pain. And to Nicole, play­ing your mum was truly one of the greatest priv­i­leges of my life. Marg [McCann] was the first gay Aus­tralian to win un­con­di­tional cus­tody of their kids. Nicole, be­cause of the fight that you put up as a fierce, young, awe­some girl, my fam­ily is safe, and I will never take that for granted.”

Her­ri­man, ap­pear­ing by video mes­sage, also ded­i­cated his award to the 78ers and the LGBT com­mu­nity.

In fur­ther nods to LGBT pol­i­tics, Han­nah Gadsby took out the best per­for­mance in a tele­vi­sion com­edy for her Net­flix spe­cial, Nanette, while Nicole Kid­man took out the award for best sup­port­ing ac­tress for Boy Erased, a film about gay con­ver­sion ther­apy.

Joel Edger­ton’s script for Boy Erased also won the award for best adapted screen­play. “One of the big things we hope is we’re go­ing to end con­ver­sion ther­apy,” Edger­ton said.

It wasn’t the only time pol­i­tics came to the fore through the evening: the cast and crew of Sweet Coun­try, like many ac­tors and in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als who walked the Aac­tas red car­pet on Wed­nes­day night, wore blue rib­bons as part of a cam­paign to bring all asy­lum seeker chil­dren detained on Nauru to Aus­tralia.

Thorn­ton called Aus­tralia’s de­ten­tion of asy­lum seek­ers and refugees on Nauru and Manus Is­land “dis­gust­ing and child­ish and ridicu­lous”.

“As a coun­try, we should grow up,” Thorn­ton said. “This prison that we’ve cre­ated for these peo­ple – this idea that they can’t come here be­cause legally we have to look af­ter them … why is so­ci­ety be­ing this child­ish? We’re not that dumb. We know the a dif­fer­ence be­tween right and wrong. We’re just be­ing told by cer­tain peo­ple who cre­ate fear in our his­tory that this is bad … Who gets an award be­cause they stop the boats?”

More than 700 arts in­dus­try fig­ures have signed an open let­ter call­ing for all asy­lum seeker chil­dren detained on Nauru to be brought to Aus­tralia, which was pre­sented to the prime min­is­ter, Scott Mor­ri­son, and the op­po­si­tion leader, Bill Shorten, on Mon­day.

“Af­ter five years of in­def­i­nite de­ten­tion, we must bring these hu­man be­ings to safety and en­sure they re­ceive the med­i­cal treat­ment they need,” the let­ter said.

More Indige­nous tal­ent re­ceived recog­ni­tion with the awards for best drama se­ries go­ing to the Rachel Perkins-di­rected Mystery Road, which also won awards for best edit­ing and best orig­i­nal score on Mon­day. Mystery Road also re­ceived fur­ther recog­ni­tion with Deb­o­rah Mail­man win­ning best guest or sup­port­ing ac­tress in a TV drama for her role in the se­ries, and Wayne Blair win­ning best sup­port­ing ac­tor in a TV drama for his.

Gur­ru­mul, the doc­u­men­tary about the late Indige­nous mu­si­cian Ge­of­frey Gur­ru­mul Yunupingu, was awarded best fea­ture doc­u­men­tary.

An­gourie Rice won the award for best lead ac­tress for her per­for­mance in Ladies in Black, a film that she said was “about what girls can do when they’re sup­ported and en­cour­aged, and I’ve been sup­ported and en­cour­aged my en­tire life and I’m so grate­ful for that”. Si­mon Baker won the award for best sup­port­ing ac­tor in Breath, an adap­ta­tion of Tim Win­ton’s novel that was also the ac­tor’s di­rec­to­rial de­but.

The cer­e­mony was punc­tu­ated by trib­utes to Bryan Brown, who was an­nounced as the re­cip­i­ent of the pres­ti­gious Long­ford Lyell award ear­lier this month.

“I wanted to be an ac­tor be­cause I didn’t want a ca­reer,” said Brown af­ter re­ceiv­ing the award. “I ended up with a ca­reer.”

Sell­ing Houses Aus­tralia took out the award for best life­style pro­gram, Aus­tralian Sur­vivor: Cham­pi­ons vs Con­tenders won best re­al­ity se­ries and The Weekly with Char­lie Pick­er­ing won best en­ter­tain­ment pro­gram.

Warwick Thorn­ton ac­cepts the Aacta award for best film for Sweet Coun­try. He called calledAus­tralia’s de­ten­tion of asy­lum seek­ers and refugees on Nauru and Manus Is­land ‘dis­gust­ingand child­ish and ridicu­lous’. Pho­to­graph: Mark Met­calfe/Getty Images for AFI

The ABC TV minis­eries Riot won best tele­fea­ture or minis­eries, best lead ac­tor forDa­mon Her­ri­man and best ac­tress in aTV drama for Kate Box, right. Pho­to­graph:Mark Rogers/ABC

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