Australia

AACTA Awards: Filmmaker Warwick Thornton takes aim at offshore detention

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Sweet Country cleaned up at the AACTA Awards on Wednesday night and director Warwick Thornton used the spotlight to slam the government.

Celebrated Indigenous director Warwick Thornton used the 60th Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Awards on Wednesday to take aim at the government's offshore detention policy.

Thornton, whose film Sweet Country won both best film and best direction, used an acceptance speech to call the policy "disgusting ".

"My family has been looking after boat people for 200 years, why are we doing this again?" he told the audience.

The cast of Sweet Country with director Warwick Thornton (fourth from left).
The cast of Sweet Country with director Warwick Thornton (fourth from left).
AAP

"This prison that we've created for these people – this idea that they can't come here because legally we have to look after them … why is society being this childish?

"As a country, we should grow up."

Thornton and several other members of the arts industry wore blue ribbons as part of a campaign urging politicians to bring all asylum seeker children detained on Nauru to Australia. 

Sweet Country, the story of an Indigenous man who kills a white station owner in self defence, was the big winner of the night with six awards.

Indigenous actor Hamilton Morris won best lead actor for his portrayal of the film's protagonist, Sam.

The film was shot in just 22 days using mostly locals from Alice Springs.

Aaron Pedersen, star of television series Mystery Road which took out three awards on the night, said he was pleased the industry was slowly embracing a wider variety of roles.

"People should just be storytellers and that's how they should be treated and cast, it shouldn't matter what you look like," Pedersen said.

"It's good to see roles that reflect a diverse range of people."

Nicole Kidman after winning the award for Best Supporting Actress at the AACTA Awards.
Nicole Kidman after winning the award for Best Supporting Actress at the AACTA Awards.
AAP

Nicole Kidman and Simon Baker won the trophies for best supporting actress and actor respectively. 

For his directorial debut Baker adapted the classic Tim Winton novel Breath saying it was a story he knew well. 

"I personally really understood the story growing up in similar circumstances on the coast, I had a lot of mentors while I was trying to understand who I was and what kind of man I wanted to be," Baker said.

Kidman won for her role in Boy Erased adapted from Garrard Conley's memoir about his forced stay at a conversion therapy camp.

She worked closely with Garrard's mother Martha while learning the part.

"The thing about Martha, she is so open and so willing to admit her mistakes because she didn't realise what she was doing and I think that's what makes her story so amazing," Kidman said.

Simon Baker arrives at the AACTA Awards.
Simon Baker arrives at the AACTA Awards.
AAP

Other big winners on the night included 17-year-old Angourie Rice for her lead role in Ladies In Black, while Joel Edgerton won Best Adapted Screenplay for Boy Erased.

Tributes poured in for Bryan Brown who was honoured for his outstanding contribution to Australian cinema with the Longford Lyell Award.

Via video message, Sigourney Weaver spoke about their time on-set filming Gorillas In The Mist while Cocktail co-star Tom Cruise sent a personal message praising the veteran actor as a "national treasure" while ex-wife Kidman watched on.

Additional reporting: AAP

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