'Lion' Sweeps Australia’s Academy Awards With 12 Wins

Courtesy of The Weinstein Company

‘Lion’s’ Sunny Pawar became the youngest ever best actor winner while Nicole Kidman received two awards across film and TV, for 'Top of the Lake: China Girl.'

Nicole Kidman, Elizabeth Moss and Lion stars Dev Patel and Sunny Pawar took away major awards at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards, held in Sydney on Wednesday.

Nine months after its Oscars campaign, Lion swept Australia’s top film and TV awards, winning all five of its nominated categories, including Best Film, Best Direction for Garth Davis and Best Supporting Actor for BAFTA Award winner Dev Patel, who received the AACTA International Award for his role earlier this year. In total Lion won all 12 of the AACTA categories it was nominated for this year, taking out seven other honors at the AACTA craft awards Monday.

The film’s nine-year-old star, Sunny Pawar, received the AACTA Award for Best Lead Actor, becoming the youngest winner in the category.

Nicole Kidman rounded out her stellar year by winning the double for her film and TV work: She took Best Supporting Actress for Lion, for which she won the AACTA International Award earlier this year, and Best Supporting Actress in a TV Drama for Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake: China Girl.

Ten years after receiving her first AACTA Award, Emma Booth was honored as Best Lead Actress for her gripping turn as serial killer Evelyn White in the thriller Hounds of Love.

Hugo Weaving received his first AACTA Award in a television category, winning Best Lead Actor in a TV Drama for ABC TV’s Seven Types ff Ambiguity.

But it was Campion’s second season of Top of the Lake: China Girl that dominated the television categories, receiving four awards, including Best TV Drama. Elisabeth Moss and Ewen Leslie took home the awards for Best Lead Actress in a TV drama and Best Guest or Supporting Actor in a Television Drama, respectively, joining Kidman as winners for the series.

Celia Pacquola’s performance in ABC TV/Sundance series Rosehaven saw her take home the Award for Best Performance in a TV Comedy.

Other television awards went to: Sunshine for Best Telefeature or Mini Series, Australian Ninja Warrior for Best Light Entertainment Series, Selling Houses Australia for Best Lifestyle Series, Seven Types of Ambiguity for Best Screenplay in Television and Masterchef Australia, which won Best Reality Television Series for the third consecutive year.

The inaugural AACTA Award for Best Asian Film was awarded to Indian sports drama Dangal, which beat out Chinese box- office juggernaut Wolf Warrior 2, among others.

In previously announced awards, director Phillip Noyce was honored with Australia’s highest screen accolade, the Longford Lyell Award.

Actor and newly minted director Simon Baker accepted the AACTA Trailblazer Award, which recognizes the achievements of an Australian screen practitioner whose body of work has served as an inspiration to others.

Other highlights of the ceremony included the presentation of the Byron Kennedy Award to filmmakers Martin Butler and Bentley Dean, who were honored for their body of work including First Footprints, Contact and Tanna. The Byron Kennedy Award celebrates outstanding creative enterprise within the Australian screen industry and is given to an individual or organization whose work embodies the qualities of innovation, vision and the relentless pursuit of excellence.

Congratulating the winners, AACTA CEO Damian Trewhella said, “In a year that saw our industry deliver some of the strongest and most diverse stories we’ve ever seen, we are delighted to see such a varied slate of productions, people and performances recognized.

“Tonight’s recipients serve as an inspiration to the industry and audiences alike. In particular, I’d like to congratulate our inaugural Best Asian Film Award winner, Dangal, and our individual Award recipients: Phillip Noyce, Simon Baker, Martin Butler and Bentley Dean.”

This year's awards were held in the shadow of the global discussion of sexual harassment in the industry.

Notable this year was the absence of AACTA president Geoffrey Rush, after he stepped aside following allegations of "inappropriate behavior," which he has vigorously denied. Actress Rachel Griffiths noted that "nobody likes to be tried in the public square."

"The fact that we are discussing things in the 'marketplace' shows that processes and procedures have not been adequate," Griffiths said.

"Geoffrey Rush is not Harvey Weinstein and I have had more than a handful of interactions with Harvey Weinstein," she added.

Accepting the award for best film for Lion, producer Angie Fielder commended the "incredible bravery of the women" who had spoken out about sexual harassment in the screen industry.

"Hopefully this marks a time of change, it's really great to see the industry taking a stand."

Director Gillian Armstrong, presenting an award, told young women to “take off their high heels, put on gumboots and be the boss." 

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