The little dog film that could scored the top prize at the inaugural Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Awards last night.
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1 Feb 2012 - 9:40 AM  UPDATED 26 Feb 2014 - 4:10 PM

The exemplary filmmaking behind the dark bodies-in-the-barrel drama Snowtown received the most accolades at the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House last night but it was the feel-good crowd pleaser Red Dog that won best film.

[ Read an interview with Red Dog director Kriv Stenders ]

The occasion was the inaugural Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Awards, the renamed, revamped and repositioned Australian Film Institute (AFI) Awards, which have been held in Melbourne for the past decade.

[ Watch an interview with Snowtown director Justin Kurzel and writer Shaun Grant ]

Director Justin Kurzel, writer Shaun Grant – he won the adapted screenplay category while writer/director Leon Ford was honoured for his original Griff the Invisible screenplay – lead actor Daniel Henshall, who played the charismatic real-life serial killer John Bunting, and supporting actress Louise Harris were the Snowtown AACTA Award recipients.

[ Watch an interview with Griff the Invisible director Leon Ford and actor Ryan Kwanten ]

The collaborative nature of filmmaking was emphasised by the extent of the thank-yous, with Kurzel and Grant both mentioning the support give by the communities north of Adelaide, where most of the 11 killings occurred, and at Snowtown.

Grant said that if he had written the other nominated scripts, Red Dog, Charlotte Rampling (who appeared in The Eye of the Storm) and Willem Dafoe (The Hunter), would have been shot in the first act.

[ Watch interview with The Eye of the Storm director Fred Schepisi ]

Judy Davis won best actress for her performance as the insecure daughter in The Eye of the Storm and an absent Hugo Weaving won best supporting actor for his role as one of the many British children wrenched from their families and sent to Australia in Oranges and Sunshine.

[
Watch an interview with the cast and crew of The Hunter ]

As is the tradition, many actors were also on stage to present the awards, including AACTA president Geoffrey Rush, Cate Blanchett, Richard Roxburgh, Jacki Weaver, brothers Jonathon and Anthony LaPaglia, Rachael Taylor, Don Hany, whose signature series East West 101 won its category, Asher Keddie, who was honoured for her role as Ita Buttrose in Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo, and Alex Dimitriades, who won a best actor award for The Slap, which collected a lot of praise during the evening.

As part of his presentation duties, director Stephan Elliott used the popularity of his latest film A Few Best Men, to launch a diatribe against Age critic Jim Schembri for his lack of support for Australian films. Elliott then changed tact and spoke of his support for gay marriage.

Olivia Newtown-John, who plays the mother of bride and consumes lines of cocaine and swings from the chandelier in A Few Best Men, opened the ceremony with a big song-and-dance number.

[ Watch SBS's coverage of the AACTA red carpet ]

In all, the AACTA Awards were an entertaining mix of style and substance, glamour and glitz. There was a good dollop of humour too: a clip from The King's Speech was revoiced so that King George VI seemed to be commenting to Rush about his presidency of the Academy, and several songs were adapted to provide amusing commentary on the best film nominees – Justine Clark, singing about The Hunter in Playschool mode was particularly appealing.

A first big batch of AACTA Awards were presented at a lunch two weeks ago and the five international awards, a new addition, were announced in Los Angeles several days ago. Filmed clips from these two events were shown during the evening.

The awards announced last night are as follows:

FEATURE FILM

BEST FILM
Red Dog, Nelson Woss, Julie Ryan

BEST DIRECTION
Snowtown, Justin Kurzel

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Griff the Invisible, Leon Ford

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Snowtown, Shaun Grant

BEST LEAD ACTOR
Daniel Henshall, Snowtown

BEST LEAD ACTRESS
Judy Davis, The Eye of the Storm

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Hugo Weaving, Oranges And Sunshine

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Louise Harris, Snowtown.

TELEVISION

BEST TELEVISION DRAMA SERIES
East West 101, Season 3 - The Heroes' Journey. Steve Knapman, Kris Wyld

BEST TELEFEATURE, MINI SERIES OR SHORT RUN SERIES
The Slap, Tony Ayres, Helen Bowden, Michael McMahon.

BEST LIGHT ENTERTAINMENT TELEVISION SERIES
The Gruen Transfer, Series 4, Andrew Denton, Anita Jacoby, Jon Casimir.

BEST DIRECTION IN TELEVISION
The Slap - Episode 3 'Harry', Matthew Saville.

BEST SCREENPLAY IN TELEVISION
The Slap - Episode 3 'Harry', Brendan Cowell

BEST LEAD ACTOR IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
Alex Dimitriades, The Slap

BEST LEAD ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
Sarah Snook, Sisters Of War

BEST GUEST OR SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
Richard Cawthorne, Killing Time - Episode 2

BEST GUEST OR SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
Diana Glenn, The Slap - Episode 3 'Harry'

AUDIENCE CHOICE AWARD FOR BEST TELEVISION PROGRAM
Packed To The Rafters, Seven Network

AUDIENCE CHOICE AWARD FOR BEST PERFORMANCE IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
Asher Keddie, Paper Giants: The Birth Of Cleo

YOUNG ACTOR
Lara Robinson, Cloudstreet, Part 1