'Tomorrow When the War Began' Tops IF Awards

"Mao's Last Dancer" Wins Box Office Achievement Award

SYDNEY -- Teen action feature Tomorrow When The War Began beat out the critically acclaimed Animal Kingdom for best feature film at Sunday night's Australian "people’s choice" film awards, the IF Awards, continuing to confirm what organizers say are the awards' alignment with box office results from Australian cinema-loving audiences.

Tomorrow, made for AUS$27 million ($25.7 million) by Omnilab Media -- a big budget by Australian standards -- has taken $13.3 million at the local box office, taking the top spot for a locally made feature. It was recently picked up for distribution in Canada by Entertainment One and is being released in the U.K., Russia, South Africa, Portugal and Scandinavia by Paramount Pictures.

Tomorrow won a total of four awards. Young star Caitlin Stasey beat Animal Kingdom’s Jackie Weaver, who is being touted as a possible Oscar contender, and along with seasoned Hollywood actresses Radha Mitchell (The Waiting City) and Joan Chen (Mao’s Last Dancer) for best actress.

Tomorrow’s writer-director Stuart Beattie won best screenplay for his adaptation of the John Marsden books, while the film also took out the best music award.

Animal Kingdom took home two awards: best actor for Ben Mendelsohn and best director for David Michôd, while other nods went to Beneath Hill 60 (best sound); The Waiting City (best cinematography and best editing), and Bright Star (best production design). Winners for those awards are chosen in an online poll, organized by Inside Film magazine, for which 133,000 votes were cast this year.

Several IF Awards are chosen by industry panels. They include the Living Legend Award, which was won by actor-producer Bryan Brown; the Independent Spirit Award, won by surf thriller Caught Inside; and the Rising Talent award, which went to Ariel Kleiman, based on her graduating film from the Victoria College of the Arts, Deeper Than Yesterday.

While Tomorrow will top the local films at the local box office in 2010, the honor for box office achievement went to Mao’s Last Dancer, which has taken a total of $15 million across 2009 and 2010.

For the first time, the awards also lauded TV talent in two specialist categories: the Out of the Box award for a rising TV actor who is likely to break through into features went to Ryan Corr who has appeared in top rating TV dramas Underbelly and Packed to the Rafters, while the IF award for contribution to TV went to Penny Chapman whose “career spanning 25 years, has been influential in crafting the creative perspective of Australian TV as well as producing a slate of original programs," which have included Heartland, Brides of Christ, Blue Murder, RAN: Remote Area Nurse and My Place, according to organizers.

The next major even on the Australian awards season is the prestigious Australian Film Institute Awards on December 12.