Special Feature : The A.F.I Awards 2002

If this year’s Oscars were a coup for African American let this year’s A.F.I Awards be a representation for all things indigenous, because in between Isla Fisher sipping wine like there were an impending shortage and howls of glee as Joel Edgerton cruised the media room, there was a little Awards ceremony going on, and unbeknownst to the native Australian filmmakers and actors in attendance they’d be the one’s who’d be walking away with the statuettes. CLINT MORRIS mingled with the crowd.

Most of the films on the ballot sheets this year had something to do with aboriginal culture. Had you not made a film about the latter heritage, suffice to say, it wasn’t going to be your night. Australia’s primary people deservedly owned the night.

“Rabbit Proof Fence” picked up three awards including Best Film, Best Musical Score and Best Sound, “Beneath Clouds” picked up two one for best cinematography and one for Best Direction, “The Tracker” earned it’s star, David Gulpilil the Best Actor statue, “Waking on Water” picked up a staggering 5 including Best Actress and Best Original Screenplay, whilst in the Television category “Kath and Kim” came out jovial winning three, Joel Edgerton snagged best actor and the rumoured-to-be-in-attendance but notably absent Mel Gibson accepted his award – albeit via satellite- for AFI Global Achievement.

Notables in attendance this year included Eric Bana, Guy Pearce, Isla Fisher, Rose Porteous (oh the stories), Phil Noyce, and the habitual emit of faces ranging from “Secret life of Us” cast members to “Always Greener” and “All Saints” notables and up comers like Delta Goodrem, Clayton Watson and Pia Miranda.

The fervour of the winners went from one extreme to the other. Some simply grinned, accepted and left, whilst others genially clutched their globe like it was the beginning and end of all – David Gulpili (“The Tracker”) was one, who entertained the media room with his poignant little guy chronicle. “I’d done a lot of movie, television, telemovie ever since 1969 film Walkabout but its different playing co-star to someone else”, Gulpilil says. “This time it was different”.

Gulpilil says it’s him you see on the screen, never a character. “I don’t act. I do the job. It’s me. I’m a natural”, says the self-confessed bush boy turner conurbation dreamer.

Best Director Ivan Sen (“Beneath Clouds”) simply said winning the AFI – and a $10,000 cheque he nabbed days before for his craft – was predominately a way to pay his overdue rent. “I’ve got three screenplays on the boil and I’m writing another one so I’m going to use it to pay the rent”, says Sen. “The best reward is to stay home and party”.

Phil Noyce, who won Best Film, says he might never have directed “Rabbit Proof Fence” had Christine Olsen and John Winter never persisted. “I said stop calling, I’m not going to make it. I’ve got bigger films to do. But I’m glad they did. I spent so long in Hollywood making other people’s stories it was good to do a movie that was so close to my heart”, says Noyce.

Other highlights of the stellar evening included an impromptu media-only “Kath and Kim” recital, photographers bemused at some of Rose Porteous’s contractual restrictions about who gets to snap her, and “Neighbours” newie – as well as No.1 hit single spinner – Delta Goodrem making a very nice first impression with crowds, Looking ever so striking and being ever so giving to mug snappers.

And while the stars may have been gauche and ditzy from over consumption circa media room, imagine the stories that could be very bare come the after party at federation square where the bubbly flowed into the wee hours. Oh, the stories….