AFI Awards moving to Sydney

Sydney also applying for UNESCO 'City of Film' status

SYDNEY -- The Sydney Opera House will be the venue for Australia’s most prestigious film and television industry awards, the Australian Film Institute Awards from 2011, New South Wales premier Kristina Keneally announced Friday. 

The awards will relocate to Sydney from their current home in Melbourne for the first time since 2000, under a three-year deal worth AUS$1.7 million ($1.5 million) a year, between the NSW Government and the AFI. 

At the same time Keneally announced that NSW had applied to UNESCO for a listing for Sydney as a City of Film under UNESCO’s Cultural Cities initiative that would give it access to cultural exchange and work experience programs and sister city relationships with other UNESCO creative cities such as Edinburgh, Buenos Aires and Berlin. 

“This bid is about ensuring if international filmmakers plan on making a film in Australia -- Sydney and NSW is their first consideration,” Keneally said. 

“The NSW screen industry contributes more than AUS$430 million ($395 million) to the state economy each year, which is more than 60% of total national production,” she added. 

“Mad Max 4,” “Happy Feet 2” and “Guardians of Gahoole” are currently being made in NSW.

The U.K. city of Bradford is the only other City Of Film on the UNESCO list. 

AFI ambassador Cate Blanchett, who last month extended her contract as co-creative director of the Sydney Theatre Company until 2013, said: “A City of Film badge of honor will acknowledge artistic and technical achievement while encouraging broader support for this vital industry."

AFI chair Morry Schwartz said moving the awards was part of a reinvigoration strategy. 

“The AFI is aiming high on our determination to make the AFI’s more entertaining and influential. We intend it to be an event that will even more appropriately showcase the national and international achievements of our local screen industry,” he said. 

While the AFI Awards are considered the country’s most prestigious and the awards ceremonies attract a lot of local media attention, with hosts in recent years including Geoffrey Rush and Russell Crowe, they haven’t struck a chord with the general public and in particular TV audiences, with broadcaster the Nine Network screening a cut-down package of highlights on delayed telecast in the out of ratings season in recent years. 

Reports here said the Victorian government elected not to continue to help fund the awards after 10 years.
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