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'A Common Purpose' Wins Sydney Film Festival's Audience Award

Artistic director Clare Stewart exits the event after five years.

SYDNEY -- Sydney Film Festival artistic director Clare Stewart wrapped her fifth and final edition of the festival, with an uptick in attendance numbers, the festival said Friday.

Admissions at the 12-day festival that ran June 8 –19 were over 110,000, attributed to a higher number of single ticket and flexipass sales.

“Revenue targets were exceeded and total box office takings were higher than ever, despite reduced capacity due to renovations underway around the State Theatre, and having one day less in the Festival,” SFF CEO Leigh Small said.

Sold-out sessions increased to 72 in 2011 from 63 last year, and percentage capacity attendance increased significantly, resulting in nearly half of all sessions being over 95% full.

Audiences watched over 161 films and this year the Audience Award for Best Fiction Feature went to screenings of British TV drama, This Is England ’86, with DreamWorks’ Australian premiere of Kung Fu Panda 2 a close second.

 A Common Purpose was named winner of the audience award for Best Documentary.

The festival also appears to be on a more commercially viable footing. A record 27 sponsors are now signed to the festival and an injection of state government funds to underwrite the official competition and the festival itself means its future is assured.

Stewart announced she was stepping down on the eve of the festival's opening, citing a desire to move into production and distribution, and the board is currently looking for a replacement.

She’s been credited with helping build the reputation of the official competition, now in its fourth year, as well as widening audiences with a range of ticketing options and curating the festival sidebars into what she terms “experiential considerations," under the taglines "Take me on a journey," and "Push me to the edge."