Sydney Film Festival 2024 award winners announced

Sydney Film Festival 2024 award winners announced
Image: Debbie Lee with the Sydney Film Festival UNESCO City of Film Award. Source: SFF


The 71st Sydney Film Festival drew to a close on June 16th, 2024, with moviegoers this year coming together to explore the diverse selection of over 400 screenings, special events, and talks. Sydney Film Festival Director Nashen Moodley commented: “Over the past 12 days, we have shared excitement, gasped at unexpected jump scares, and discovered new insights about distant places.”

At the Sydney Film Festival’s 2024 Closing Night Gala, the winners of the Festival’s awards were announced before the Australian premiere of Cannes award-winner The Substance

The Documentary Australia Award’s $20,000 cash prize was awarded to Australian filmmaker James Bradley for Welcome to Babel, which tells of artist Jiawei Shen and his mission to create a work that depicts his homeland’s tumultuous recent history. 

This year, the Sydney Film Festival launched its inaugural First Nations Award, awarding a $35,000 cash prize for First Nations filmmaking. This year’s recipient is New Zealand filmmaker Awaniu Simich-Pene’s First Horse, a short film that follows a young Māori girl who chances upon a dying man and his horse, exposing her to the good and bad side of a rapidly changing world. 

Dendy Short Film Awards

The Dendy Awards for Australian Short Films each awarded $7,000 to five short films.

The Live Action Short Award was awarded to Die Bully Die, directed by Nathan and Nick Lacey. This queer short film is a comedy-horror, depicting Max catching up to his high school bully 16 years later, not ready to let bygones be bygones.

The Yoram Gross Animation Award for Best Australian Animation is Darwin Story. This 9-minute story depicts a girl returning to Darwin after her mother becomes ill. 

Pernell Marsen, director of The Meaningless Daydreams of Augie & Celeste, is the recipient of the Rouben Mamoulian Award for Best Australian Director. The storyline is of two best friends who play a high-stakes game of imagination that takes a turn for the worse. 

Chloe Kemp, screenwriter of Say received the AFTRS Craft Award for Best Practitioner, whose script is an empowering story of 21-year-old Dana taking control for the sake of her three-year-old daughter. 

Last but not least, The Event Cinemas Rising Talent Award went to Bridget Morrison, lead actor of Say

Final Sydney Film Festival awards

Moving on, the $10,000 Sydney-UNESCO City of Film Award bestowed by Screen NSW to a NSW-based screen practitioner, went to Debbie Lee. Director of Scripted Development at Matchbox Pictures and with an impressive resume in Australian film and television, Debbie was deeply thankful to receive the award on the night.  

The 2024 recipient of the $40,000 Sustainable Future Award, the largest environmental film prize in the world, is given to a film that explores the social, economic, political, and environmental consequences of climate change.

The recipient of this award highlights the urgent need for action to mitigate the effects of climate change. This year’s award went to American filmmaker Alina Simone for her film Black Snow, a documentary about a Siberian eco-activist living in a remote Russian mining town. 

The most prestigious Sydney Film Prize went to Italian filmmaker Paola Cortellesi for her film There’s Still Tomorrow. This film, which is about an industrious woman in post-WWII Rome, sees Cortellesi both directing and starring in the film, was a major box-office success in Italy, outshining the worldwide ‘Barbenheimer’ sensation of last July in its home country. 

Even though the festival has wrapped up, make sure to add these films to your watch list, alongside the hundreds of other films that played at this year’s Sydney Film Festival.

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