He was unable to personally collect his latest honour at the first-ever presentation ceremony of the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA), held over lunch at the Westin Hotel in Sydney, because he is currently in China writing and researching the film Loveland.
His producer, David Jowsey, accepted the award on his behalf and later told SBS Film that Loveland will tell the story of a romance between a nightclub singer and an assassin while exploring the nature and commodification of love.
The film is likely to be made in Mainland China and Hong Kong and is bigger in scale than Sen's work to date, which also includes the documentary Yellow Fella (Un Certain Regard - 2005). Loveland is unlikely to go into production until 2013 or 2014, but cameras are likely to roll mid-year in Queensland on another collaboration, the murder mystery Mystery Road, Jowsey said.
Sen practically made Toomelah (Un Certain Regard - 2011) on his own, enabling him to capture a dramatisation of real life on the Aboriginal community on the Macintyre River on the border of Queensland and New South Wales; officially he won the $10,000 Byron Kennedy Award for “his unique artistic vision and for showing, by his resourceful multidisciplinary filmmaking, that telling stories on screen is in reach of all who have something consequential to say”.
The AACTA Awards are the revamped Australian Film Institute Awards. The members' choice award went to producers Nelson Woss and Julie Ryan for Red Dog. It is not always the case that the most popular film of the year also wins this award but, with the good-hearted outback doggie drama earning attracting $21.3 million in ticket sales, it certainly was this year.
Another film that earned a lot of fans in cinemas, as indicated by its $1.16 million gross was Mrs Carey's Concert. The documentary, set in a private school in Sydney, earned the awards for best feature-length documentary for the producers Bob Connolly, Helen Panckhurst and Sophie Raymond. Connolly, a veteran explorer of real life topics, and Raymond, also won the award for best direction in a documentary.
In the craft awards for feature films, The Eye of the Storm (production design, costumes), The Hunter (cinematography, music) and Snowtown (editing, sound) each received two awards and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ha'Hoole (visual effects) received one.
The lunch made much of veteran cinematographer Don McAlpine winning the Raymond Longford Award, as announced last year.
Unlike the AFI Awards, the AACTAs will recognise the best international films. The inaugural nominees were announced by Jackie Weaver, beamed in from a simultaneous Los Angeles event, held each year to boost Australia's filmmaking reputation in the US. We Need to Talk about Kevin and Melancholia lead the nominations with four each.
The second and final batch of awards will be presented at the Sydney Opera House on January 31 and broadcast on the Nine Network.
More information can be found here.