Sydney Film Festival: 'Arabian Nights' Wins Official Competition

Arabian Nights Film Still - H 2015
Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

Arabian Nights Film Still - H 2015

Miguel Gomes' epic takes the top prize with Bill Guttentag and Michael Ware’s Iraq war film, 'Only The Dead', taking the Documentary Australia Foundation Award.

Miguel Gomes’ epic six-hour portrait of his homeland of Portugal, Arabian Nights, was named the winner of the Sydney Film Festival’s Official Competition on Sunday, following a unanimous decision by the competition jury.

The $48,000 (AU $62,000) Sydney Film Prize, now in its eighth year, is awarded for a film’s "emotional power and resonance; audaciousness, cutting-edge, courageousness; and capacity to go beyond the usual treatment of the subject matter."

Jury President, Australian producer Liz Watts said Arabian Nights is “a film of ambition and political vision which confronts, frustrates and spellbinds — and ultimately reminds us that cinema continues to be a powerful vehicle to examine the human condition.”

“A subject that is so timely — oppression and exploitation are at the heart of the film in its examination of a nation and people under extreme austerity measures. Ultimately the film reminds us that hope and endurance are fundamental to the human spirit,” she added.

Arabian Nights had its world premiere during Directors Fortnight at Cannes this year.

Accepting the award from Lapland, Finland, Gomes said he was delighted to receive news of the decision. “I am very happy with the prize. Thank you Sydney, thank you Nashen, thank you ladies and gentlemen from the jury!” he said.  Watts was joined on the jury by Japanese program consultant Hiromi Aihara, Australian screenwriter Andrew Bovell, Thai filmmaker Pen-ek Ratanaruang, and the Austrian Film Commission’s Martin Schweighofer.

The Festival’s Official Competition was established in 2008 and is endorsed by Federation Internationale des Associations de Producteurs de Films, the regulating organization for international film festivals.

Previous Sydney Film Prize winners include: Two Days, One Night (2014); Only God Forgives (2013); Alps (2012); A Separation (2011), which went on to win an Academy Award; Heartbeats (2010); Bronson (2009); and Hunger (2008).

Other festival prize winners for 2015 announced on Sunday included Oscar-winning director Bill Guttentag and former CNN correspondent Michael Ware’s, Only the Dead — an account of Ware’s time in Iraq — which won the Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary, and a special mention going to The Lost Aviator directed by Andrew Lancaster.