'Romulus,' 'Home Song' top Aussie film awards

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SYDNEY -- Two films that deal with Australian immigrant stories -- "Romulus, My Father," set in the postwar era, and "The Home Song Stories," set in the 1970s -- shared the spoils with three awards apiece at Thursday's Australian Film Institute Awards.

"Romulus," Richard Roxburgh's directorial debut, took home best film, though Roxburgh couldn't beat out Tony Ayres for best director for "Home Song." Ayres also won best screenplay, and Joan Chen -- who reportedly came out of semi-retirement to play Shanghai nightclub signer Rose as she struggles to deal with two children in 1970s Australia -- won best actress. The wins gave "Home Song" eight AFI Awards; it received five craft awards in a separate ceremony Wednesday.

"Romulus' " other wins includes best actor for Eric Bana and best supporting actor to Martin Csokas.

Kodi Smit-McPhee, 10, who played Romulus' son Raymond, won the AFI Young Actor Award.

The best supporting actress nod went to Emma Booth for playing the feisty vixen Jill in Cherie Nowlan's "Clubland."

With Geoffrey Rush hosting and stars including Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana and Anthony La Paglia presenting, the awards are billed as a celebration of Australian film. But the celebrations were slightly tempered by the knowledge that Australian films' boxoffice pickings were slim in 2007.

"Romulus" is the top-grossing film at the Australian boxoffice this year, grossing AUS$2.6 million ($2.2 million), leading producer John Maynard to quip as he accepted the award for best film: "Not everyone saw this film, but it's now out on DVD and will make a great Christmas present for everyone's father."

The AFI International awards were handed out to Dominic Purcell, as best actor for "Prison Break," Rose Byrne as best actress for her turn in "Damages" and the global achievement award to George Miller for "Happy Feet."

Pay TV channels Showtime and TV1 took home the key TV drama awards. Showtime's "Love My Way" won best TV drama series and best actress in a TV drama (Claudia Karvan), while TV1 took away gongs for best telefeature or miniseries for biopic "The King" and best actor in a TV drama (Stephen Curry) for his portrayal of Australian TV legend Graham Kennedy.

The best documentary for 2007 was "Forbidden Lies," a profile of con artist and literary fraudster Norma Khouri.
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