Jennifer Kent’s ‘The Nightingale’ Wins Big At Australia's AACTA Awards

Director Jennifer Kent Babdook premiere - getty - H 2017
Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival

Kent made history as the first female to win three major awards for the same film in the same year at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts.

Female filmmakers and indigenous stories dominated the annual Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Awards at a ceremony in Sydney on Wednesday as Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale created history by winning four of the major awards, including best feature film, for which she won as a producer alongside Kristina Ceyton, Bruna Papandrea and Steve Hutensky. 

Kent was also awarded best direction and best screenplay for her sophomore feature, and as a result becomes the first woman to have received awards across all three categories, for the same film, in a single year. The Nightingale’s female lead, Aisling Franciosi, received the award for best actress following her first AACTA award nomination. 

In total, The Nightingale picked up six awards, with newcomer Magnolia Maymuru winning best supporting actress and Nikki Barrett winning for best casting at the AACTA Craft awards handed out at a function earlier in the week. 

The awards for The Nightingale follows a successful festival run for Kent’s colonial revenge tale, which has often divided audiences but has been a critical favorite, including at the recent Venice Film Festival where it received a special jury prize. 

Other key award winners in the feature film category included Damon Herriman, who received his first AACTA award in a feature film category, winning best actor for Judy & Punch, while Joel Edgerton won best supporting actor for Netflix-backed period drama, The King. The King also won best cinematography, best costume design and best production design. Its inclusion in the awards this year was controversial, as it was the first feature film to be produced for a streaming platform. Subsequent to its announcement as a nominee, it received a short cinema run in Australia. Hotel Mumbai and Vietnam war drama Danger Close took out one award each, for best editing and best sound, respectively. 

Buoyancy, the debut feature film from director Rodd Rathjen and Australia’s official submission for the best international feature film at the 2020 Oscars, was named best indie film. 

Other specialist awards included wins for Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite, which won best Asian film; The Australian Dream, which won best documentary for the remarkable story of Australian indigenous footballer Adam Goodes; and Luma Pictures, which won best visual effects or animation for Spiderman: Far From Home. 

New Zealand actor Sam Neill accepted the Longford Lyell lifetime achievement award, Australia’s highest screen accolade for his career that spans almost five decades, with over 130 film and television performances. Neill joked that as a New Zealander, taking out an Australian lifetime achievement award was a "terrible mistake".

“I've devoted a great deal of my life to Australia, and Australian film, so I'm very chuffed, " he said. The award was presented to Neill by Dr. George Miller, with tributes from Meryl Streep, Taika Waititi and Jane Campion, among others. 

Director P.J. Voeten received the Byron Kennedy Award, which celebrates outstanding creative enterprise within the screen industry, for his work on Mad Max: Fury Road, Aquaman and recent hit series Lambs Of God

Lambs of God, made by Lingo Pictures for paynet Foxtel, dominated the TV awards, winning in a total of eight of its nine nominated categories, including  best telefeature or miniseries. Total Control, Blackfella Films’ political thriller for the Australian Broadcasting Corp., meanwhile won best television drama, while its stars, indigenous actress Deborah Mailman and Rachel Griffiths won best actress and best supporting actress in a TV drama, respectively.

Scott Ryan won best actor in a TV drama for Mr Inbetween.