'Bronson' slams door on Sydney fest

Shorter festival declared a success by organizers

SYDNEY -- A British prison drama won the Sydney Film Festival's official competition for the second year in a row, with Danish director Nicholas Winding Refn's "Bronson" announced Sunday as the winner of the AUS$60,000 ($48,000) Sydney Film Prize.

Jury president Rolf De Heer said "Bronson" "demonstrated the competition's criteria of emotional power and resonance, audacity, cutting-edge, courage and going beyond the usual treatment of its subject matter."

"Bronson," starring Tom Hardy, is a look at the U.K.'s most notorious prisoner, Charles Bronson (no relation to the American actor) who's been in solitary confinement for the last 30 of his 34 years behind bars.

Elsewhere, judges were unable to decide on a single winner for the inaugural documentary prize with local films, "Contact" and "A Good Man" sharing the award.

"Contact," directed by Bentley Dean and Martin Butler, tells the story of an Aboriginal woman whose first contact with white people was filmed in 1964. Now at 62, she tells the story behind the footage.

"A Good Man," directed by Safina Uberoi, is about a struggling Australian farmer who also cares for his quadriplegic wife, and his plans to open a brothel to make ends meet.

"Together, 'Contact' and 'A Good Man' embody the amazing new breadth of subject matter and style of Australian documentary making," the judging panel said.

The announcement of the winners of the official competitions and a screening of jury member Lone Scherfig's "An Education" wrapped the 12-day festival, which organizers rated a success with 85 screenings sold out, and despite some early glitches with online ticket bookings. Details of attendance numbers will be announced later this week they said.

"The response of the people of Sydney to the 2009 Festival has been overwhelmingly positive," Mark Safarty, SFF CEO said. "A shorter festival has clearly struck the right chord with the audience, with a total of 85 sellout sessions, including seven sell-outs at the State Theatre, representing an increase of 35% on 2008.