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The Sapphires dominates AACTA Awards
The Sapphires dominates AACTA Awards

The populist bent of Australia's version of the Oscars continues, with the hit Vietnam-era musical The Sapphires blitzing more serious-minded contenders to dominate this year’s Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Awards.

The Sapphires took out almost all of the important categories at last night’s glittering ceremony at Sydney’s Star Event Centre, including best picture, best director (Wayne Blair) and three out of the four acting prizes.

Last night’s gold rush took The Sapphires’ overall tally at this year’s AACTA Awards to 11 (the film also scooped most of the technical prizes given out earlier in the week), completing a fairytale run for Wayne Blair’s adaptation of Tony Briggs’ stage musical which premiered to a standing ovation in Cannes in May last year.

Such was the dominance of The Sapphires that the relatively inexperienced Jessica Mauboy beat bigger name actors Essie Davis (Burning Man), Rebecca Gibney (Mental) and fellow Sapphire Deborah Mailman (Mental).

Predictably, Mailman and Irish comic Chris O’Dowd took out the acting prizes. Their chemistry and the soaring vocals of pop princess Mauboy are the keys to the success of The Sapphires, which has taken almost $17 million at the Australian box office since its release in August last year.

The only major prize The Sapphires failed to pick up was best supporting actor simply because it had no entry in that category. It went to Antony Starr for Burning Man.

The Sapphires victory follows up last year’s surprise winner Red Dog, signalling the newly established AACTA Awards (this is its second edition of the AFI Awards replacement) will favour crowd-pleasers over artistic ambition.

The WA presence was not high at this year’s AACTAs. However, fast-rising Perth filmmaker Zac Hilditch won best screenplay for his short Transmission and popular export Mandy McElhinney (aka Rhonda in the AAMI commercials) best support actress for Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War in the television strand of the awards.

AACTA Awards winners
Feature Film

BEST FILM
The Sapphires, Rosemary Blight, Kylie du Fresne

BEST DIRECTION
The Sapphires, Wayne Blair

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Wish You Were Here, Kieran Darcy-Smith, Felicity Price

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Sapphires, Keith Thompson, Tony Briggs

BEST LEAD ACTOR
Chris O’Dowd, The Sapphires

BEST LEAD ACTRESS
Deborah Mailman, The Sapphires

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Antony Starr, Wish You Were Here

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jessica Mauboy, The Sapphires

BYRON KENNEDY AWARD
Sarah Watt

BEST YOUNG ACTOR
Saskia Rosendahl, Lore

Television

BEST TELEVISION DRAMA SERIES
Puberty Blues, John Edwards, Imogen Banks, Network Ten, SBS

BEST TELEFEATURE OR MINI SERIES
Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War, John Edwards, Mimi Butler, Nine Network

BEST DIRECTION IN TELEVISION
Jack Irish, Bad Debts, Jeffrey Walker, ABC1

BEST SCREENPLAY IN TELEVISION
Redfern Now - Episode 6 'Pretty Boy Blue', Steven McGregor, ABC1

BEST LEAD ACTOR IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
Richard Roxburgh, Rake – Season 2, ABC1

BEST LEAD ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
Leah Purcell, Redfern Now, ABC1

BEST GUEST OR SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
Aaron Jeffery, Underbelly Badness – Episode 3 ‘The Loaded Dog’, Nine Network

BEST GUEST OR SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
Mandy McElhinney, Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War – Part 2, Nine Network

BEST REALITY TELEVISION SERIES
The Amazing Race Australia, Michael McKay, Trent Chapman, David Gardner, Matt Kowald, Seven
Network

AUDIENCE CHOICE AWARD FOR MOST MEMORABLE SCREEN MOMENT
The Sapphires