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31 Jan 2013 - 9:47 AM  UPDATED 31 Jan 2013 - 9:47 AM

Australia's major film and TV awards made some popular choices but that didn't translate to sizable ratings for the telecast.

Giving The Sapphires the major gongs says that we want to make
popular films too, and we're not necessarily obsessed with dark, morbid
movies that no one wants to see.

“It's been a great year for indigenous films and television,” declared Russell Crowe when he hosted the second annual Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards in Sydney last night.

That's fitting recognition for The Sapphires, which won 11 out of 12 possible AACTAs, Redfern Now (which garnered the best TV screenplay trophy and lead actress in a TV drama for Leah Purcell) and the Mabo documentary.

It's just a shame Network Ten's hour-long 9.30 pm telecast drew a relatively small audience of 318,000 viewers. The network said that was 9.3 percent up on last year's broadcast on Nine; there was no telecast in 2011.

Ten's show was beaten by Nine's Miss Congeniality 2, which averaged 489,000 viewers
and Seven's Forrest Gump with 646,000 viewers, which both started earlier. Ten says
it's in discussions with the Academy over the 2014 awards.

Overall, the awards ceremony at the Star casino's new Event Centre won plaudits from attendees and those who watched on TV. “Great night at the AACTAs,” said Screen Australia head of development Martha Coleman. “Rusty did a great job hosting, our movie stars graced their home town with their down-to-earth, glamorous, good humoured presence, not a hint of self-conscious, self-deprecation in sight...perfectly pitched. Great year for film and TV, great year for indigenous storytelling in particular, great year for The Sapphires. Congrats all nominees. You all done us proud.”

Filmmaker Bill Bennett supported the multiple gongs for Goalpost Pictures' musical drama, rating it as the best Australian film of 2012. He told SBS Film, “It's terrific for the industry when a popular film that a lot of people have seen gets the major awards. What it tells the audience is that the industry is of a like mind. The audience is suspicious of Australian films. They've been disappointed too many times before. Giving The Sapphires the major gongs says that we want to make popular films too, and we're not necessarily obsessed with dark, morbid movies that no one wants to see.”

Producer Antony Ginnane noted there were a few minor technical problems in the room but he gave the presentation 9/ 10 and lauded Crowe's MC'ing as “the right mix of gravitas and Aussie casual.” Crowe gave a shout-out to ACTAA chairman Alan Finney, who is ill.
Among the presenters were AACTA president Geoffrey Rush, Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman, Joel Edgerton, Hugo Weaving and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters leads Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton.

Exhibitor/distributor Natalie Miller thought the show ran at a good pace but she'd have liked the acceptance speeches to have been less of a roll call of thanks and bigger on content, like Daniel Day-Lewis does. Time constraints may have been a factor there. “Speeches weren't great but that's usual,” said Paramount M.D. Mike Selwyn, who liked Renner's comments about all the Australians working in Hollywood.

Producer Marion Pilowsky loved Jessica Mauboy's performance and the presentation of the real Sapphires, opining, “That was a world-class moment and really nicely produced. I thought I was at the Oscars for a tiny minute.”

Ginnane's only gripe was the after-party, observing, “The venue was broken into boxy sections, which made catching up with people tricky. The noise level was over the top and catering pretty low rent, although all of that may be due to financial constraints.”

Last night The Sapphires nabbed the honours for best film, director (Wayne Blair), lead actress (Deborah Mailman), lead actor (Chris O'Dowd), supporting actress (Jessica Mauboy) and adapted screenplay (Keith Thompson, Tony Briggs). That's in addition to five craft awards presented on Monday.

Thriller Wish You Were Here took the original screenplay award for husband-and-wife creative team Kieran Darcy-Smith and Felicity Price, and supporting actor for Antony Starr. Teenage German actress Saskia Rosendahl was named best young actor for Cate Shortland's German-language drama Lore. The Byron Kennedy Award, named after George Miller's late producing partner, honoured director/animator Sarah Watt (Look Both Ways, My Year Without Sex), who died of cancer in 2011, aged 53. Matt Day presented the award to her son Clem McInnes.

Southern Star John Edwards' Puberty Blues got the best TV drama series accolade and his Howzat! Kerry Packer's War won best telefeature/mini-series.

For the full list of winners click here.