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December 14th 2009 print

Ainu Campbell-Barracks

AFI AWARDS: The Nite of Nites

The real surprise at the AFI Awards was that Cate wasn’t nominated for anything. I mean, this is Cate we’re talking about.

Philippa Martyr is on holiday [again!!]. This contribution was coopted from ebullient Sydney socialite and environmental crusader Ainu Campbell-Barracks.

The Gold Standard: AFI Awards Night 

How could anyone say that Australian film is depressing? I can’t believe it. I mean, who on earth says that you can’t make serious film about serious issues that affect all Australians? And as for making films which people actually want to go and see – well, that’s honestly just the most telling evidence that Australian film is still suffering from the cultural cringe. That our independent, critical and important local film industry should feel obliged to ape the commercialism, populism and vast success of British and American independent film is just ludicrous

And no less a judge of quality film than the AFI Awards, thank you very much, backs me up completely. Just look at the excellent drama which won there last Friday night. Samson and Delilah – what a great Australian film. I mean, she is a young Indigenous starry eyed idealist, he is a young Indigenous hopeless petrol sniffer, she ends up enslaved to him and living a drifter’s life in the inner city slums, while he continues to ruin her life and his own. It just doesn’t get any more uplifting than this. 

And as for Packed to the Rafters, well, what drivel. Fancy thinking that anyone could make quality drama about a white family with boring issues like adoption, middle-aged pregnancy, domestic disputes that don’t end in bloodshed, and intergenerational conflicts that get resolved peacefully with humour and common sense? How utterly cliché-ridden. Certainly no-one I know watches it. I can’t believe it was even nominated for anything

But I do think we should all stop talking down our film industry, and instead start acknowledging our product is cutting-edge: internationally competitive and vividly realistic. How can anyone say that people won’t pay to see this kind of thing? I mean, my dear friend and independent film-maker Baz Pakistan has just been awarded a very substantial arts grant to make a pilot for a mini-series about a small fringe sect of Kurdish honour killers operating out of a Sydney suburb in 2005. So obviously someone wants to see it, and that’s hardly surprising, since I can’t think of a topic which could be any more relevant to the lives of all Australians today. 

I suppose for me the real surprise at the AFI Awards was that Cate wasn’t nominated for anything. I mean, this is Cate we’re talking about. Not even a mention, when surely the very existence of someone like Cate is proof positive that the Australian film industry is bursting with internationally recognised talent? I think they should at least have had a category for ‘Most Internationally Recognised Australian Actor’, only that Hugh Jackman would go and win that, simply because he took his shirt off as Wolfman or something. So what about, next year, an award for ‘Most Internationally Acclaimed Blonde Australian Actor Who Won an Oscar Once’? I’m sure the judges would see their way to making sure this ended up in the right hands (and not Nicole Kidman’s either). 

A sincere vote of thanks to the AFI Awards, for reaffirming all that is most unique to the Australian film industry. I mean, these are quality awards. You won’t find the backstabbing and palm-greasing and toadying you’d get at the Oscars. I mean, it had Julia Zemiro from Rockwiz! The Oscars would never have dared do anything as quirky as that – they’d have gone for the obvious, like a highly successful black comedienne like Whoopi Goldberg, or a highly successful lesbian comedienne like Ellen Degeneres. But not the AFI Awards – they really pushed the envelope. (My partner Derryn said that they should have chosen someone more representative of authentic home-grown Australian media, like Humphrey Bear, but that’s just because the bar staff wouldn’t serve him any more mojitos). 

So thrilling. I can’t wait for next year’s!