Chilling local thriller gets top honours from Australia's chief film critics. 
11 Apr 2012 - 12:00 AM  UPDATED 11 Apr 2012 - 12:00 AM

The fine filmmaking clearly evident in Snowtown has been recognised with a best film award for its producers Anna McLeish and Sarah Shaw.

The pair weren't on hand to collect the award personally from the Film Critics Circle of Australia (FCCA), however, as they are in New Zealand making their second film, Wellington-based directors Mark Albiston and Louis Sutherland's Shopping.

Snowtown also earned Justin Kurzel the best director honours at the ceremony held at the Australian Film, Television & Radio School in Sydney. He thanked a long list of people in a speech read out on his behalf, and noted that “The film's pulse beat because of the performances.”

One of those performers was Daniel Henshall, who was also recognised on the night with the award for best actor for his riveting central performance as serial killer John Bunting. He too thanked a long list of people but started with a tribute to the non-actors from the northern suburbs of Adelaide who were in the film in supporting roles: “Those guys gave us their all. They were so open, willing, brave and courageous.”

While Snowtown gained the most recognition with these three key awards, four other films won two awards each: The Eye of the Storm, best screenplay for Judy Morris, best supporting actress for Alexandra Schepisi; Burning Man, best editing for Martin Connor, best music score for Lisa Gerrard; The Hunter, best supporting actress for Frances O'Connor, best cinematography for Robert Humphreys; and Oranges and Sunshine, best actress for Emily Watson, best supporting actor for Hugo Weaving.

The other film honoured was Toomelah, which earned young Daniel Connors, now aged 11, the award for best performance by a young actor.

The jet lagged but still very funny Academy Award winner Adam Elliot, who has just become the FCCA's first patron, was the principal presenter and spiced up the evening with a lot of gags. The writer and director of short film Harvie Krumpet and the feature film Mary and Max returned to Australia yesterday from Paris where he has been trying to raise $12 million so that he can go into production on his second animated feature.

“Unfortunately they told us to go to Greece but we are determined to keep fighting,” he joked. He said he has almost 100 awards in his trophy cabinet but the ones that mean the most to him are from critics because they are the link to audiences. He also said he has received plenty of offers to work abroad but had not taken them up because he regards it as important that Australia retains its storytellers.

It was a low-key ceremony but when editor Martin Connor collected his award for Burning Man he said it was a “special honour to receive an award from people who really understand film”.

Best Film
Snowtown, producers Anna McLeish and Sarah Shaw.

Best Director
Justin Kurzel, Snowtown
Watch interview with Justin Kurzel and screenwriter Shaun Grant
Read Snowtown review

Best Screenplay
Judy Morris, The Eye of the Storm
Watch interview with director Fred Schepisi
Read The Eye of the Storm review

Best Actress
Emily Watson, Oranges and Sunshine
Read Oranges and Sunshine review

Best Actor
Daniel Henshall, Snowtown

Best Supporting Actress
Alexandra Schepisi for The Eye of the Storm, Frances O'Connor, The Hunter.
Read The Hunter review

Best Supporting Actor
Hugo Weaving, Oranges and Sunshine

Best Performance by a Young Actor
Daniel Connors, Toomelah
Watch interview with director Ivan Sen
Read Toomelah review

Best Cinematography
Robert Humphreys, The Hunter
Watch interview with director Daniel Nettheim and actors Willem Dafoe and frances O'Connor

Best Editing
Martin Connor, Burning Man
Read interview with director Jonathan Teplitzky and actor Bojana Novakovic
Read Burning Man review

Best Music Score
Lisa Gerrard, Burning Man