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A tale of forbidden love in a remote village in Africa has won the top prize at the Melbourne International Film Festival, worth $140,000.
Banel & Adama, a Franco-Senegalese co-production, was judged best film by a jury of international judges, with its writer-director Ramata-Toulaye Sy awarded the Bright Horizons prize, for a first- or second-time director.
Director Ramata-Toulaye Sy, whose film Banel & Adama won Australia’s richest film prize.Credit: Scott Garfitt/Invision
“It means a lot for African movies to be recognised around the world [and also here] in Melbourne, and this award really recognises the new African generation of filmmakers,” Sy said.
A lyrical tale of custom, culture, and climate, the film, made in Pulaar (one of a dozen languages spoken in Senegal) with a cast of non-professionals, Banel & Adama was chosen from a field of 11 films.
The field also included debuts from Iranian-Australian writer-director Noora Niasari (opening-night film Shayda) and local writer-director Mark Leonard Winter, who made The Rooster (starring a never-better Hugo Weaving), with wife Geraldine Hakewill producing, on and around the couple’s property in the Victorian goldfields.
Other contenders included Earth Mama from former Olympic volleyball player Savanah Leaf, and How To Have Sex – Molly Manning Walker’s tale of three young women on holiday in the Mediterranean, which won the Un Certain Regard prize for best feature debut at Cannes in May.
Australia’s richest film prize was awarded on Saturday night at the festival’s closing gala, along with five other awards, with a total prize pool of $300,000.
Mexican film Tótem, the second feature from actor-turned-director Lila Avilés, collected a special mention and a $20,000 award from the Bright Horizons jury.
The New York-based Australian duo Soda Jerk won the Blackmagic Design Australian Innovation Award ($70,000) for their feature Hello Dankness, which utilises excerpts from around 300 different film and video sources – including Wayne’s World, The Social Network and Sausage Party – to construct a freewheeling satire of contemporary US politics.
The First Nations Film Creative Award ($20,000 cash and $25,000 of financial services) went to Adrian Russell Wills and Gillian Moody as co-directors of Kindred, an autobiographical documentary about the complexities of being an Aboriginal child raised in a white world.
Thomas Charles Hyland on the set of This Is Going To Be Big, which won the festival’s audience prize.Credit: Kelly Gardner
Thomas Charles Hyland’s This Is Going to Be Big, an observational documentary about the staging of an original musical featuring the songs of John Farnham at a special school in regional Victoria, was a dual winner, collecting both the MIFF Schools Youth Jury Award and the publicly voted audience award.
The youth jury described the film as “an uproariously funny and moving celebration of individuality that captures the awkwardness and excitement of adolescence”.
Hyland said he felt “blown away” by the honours. “My feelings are vicariously filtered through the students and families and teachers and the community that really we were focusing on,” he said.
Asked why the documentary resonated with audiences, Hyland said: “I hope it’s because it feels honest, and it feels like people are sharing parts of themselves that are very real. It’s extremely powerful to show your own vulnerability and I think that lets everyone know that we’re all in this together.”
Hyland said it was a coming of age film where young people were “trying to build their confidence, work out who they are and where they’re going”.
“That’s such a universal experience that we all have, regardless of where you are in the world and how you see yourself and other people see you I think at its core that is something that we all understand.”
The in-cinema sessions of the festival finish on Sunday, with the virtual festival, MIFF Play, running online until August 27.
Details: miff.com.au. The Age is a festival media partner.
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