In the Shadow of the Hill
In the Shadow of the Hill

The 63rd Sydney Film Festival awarded the top awards to two films with strong Brazilian themes, Aquarius, directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho, won the Sydney Film Prize, and Dan Jackson was awarded the Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary for In the Shadow of the Hill.

Sydney filmmaker Dan Jackson was awarded the Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary, a $15,000 cash prize, for In the Shadow of the Hill; with a special mention going to Destination Arnold directed by Sascha Ettinger Epstein.

In the lead up to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, the Brazilian government initiates a series of ‘pacification’ programs, aimed at retaking territories previously controlled by heavily armed drug trafficking armies. In November 2011, Rio de Janeiro’s largest slum ‘Rocinha’ is seized without a single shot fired.

Shortly after the intervention, reports begin to emerge of rampant police abuse, which culminate in the disappearance of local bricklayer Amarildo de Souza. Amarildo was last seen being taken by the police for questioning, and his family believes that he has been tortured and murdered by the police. In the face of brutal oppression, together the residents start a protest movement that will shake the Brazilian establishment to the core.

‘IN THE SHADOW OF THE HILL’ offers a fascinating and often brutal insight into life inside Brazil’s largest slum ‘Rocinha’. First time director Dan Jackson offers a stunning portrait of a community that is as vibrant and inspiring as it is violent and barbaric. It is a story of David and Goliath, of empowerment, and ultimately a celebration of the amazing fortitude and resilience of the human spirit.

The Dendy Awards for Australian Short Films were announced; awarding Slapper, directed and written by Luci Schroder, The Dendy Live Action Short Award; The Crossing, directed and written by Marieka Walsh, The Yoram Gross Animation Award; and Goran Stolevski, the Rouben Mamoulian Award for Best Director, for You Deserve Everything.

The Event Cinema Australian Short Screenplay Award was awarded to Spice Sisters, written and directed by Sheila Jayadev, who received a $5,000 cash prize, with a special mention to Matthew Vesely for My Best Friend Is Stuck On The Ceiling.

The new annual Sydney UNESCO City of Film Prize was awarded to Ms Lynette Wallworth, who received $10,000 prize awarded by Screen NSW, presented by Margaret Pomeranz AM.

Sydney Film Festival CEO Leigh Small said, “Cinemas were full again this year with an average of 73% capacity across all sessions and more sellouts than ever before. Final attendance figures will exceed last year and reach almost 180,000. We were particularly proud to present even more filmmaker and curator hosted screenings; and to see the introduction of the Lexus Short Film Fellowships.”

Sydney Film Festival Director Nashen Moodley said: “The Festival has been bolstered with an incredible line up of important films and filmmakers from around the world, with a strong selection direct from Cannes, including the winning film Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Aquarius, Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World, Oscar winning Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar’s Julieta, Singaporean Boo Junfeng’s Apprentice, and American filmmaker Matt Ross’s Captain Fantastic, French director Jean-François Richet’s Blood Father starring Oscar-winning filmmaker and actor Mel Gibson; American filmmaker Jim Jarmusch’s Gimme Danger, Oscar-winning filmmaker Steven Spielberg’s fantasy adventure The BFG; prolific contemporary Indian director Anurag Kashyap’s Psycho Raman; Korean director Park Chan-wook’s sensual, twist-filled tale The Handmaiden and Jim Jarmusch’s popular Cannes hit Paterson.

“Important voices for Australian cinema also received their world premieres at the Festival including Ivan Sen with Goldstone, Abe Forsythe’s Down Under, Stephen Sewell’s Embedded and Craig Boreham’s Teenage Kicks which screened to critical acclaim.”

“Other highlights included hosting multi Academy Award winning documentarian Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy who presented the Australian premiere of her most recent films A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, and A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers with co-director Geeta Gandbhir, to a standing ovation. On the final weekend, the festival hosted another Oscar winner, Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom), with his latest music-inspired documentary The Music of Strangers – Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble.”

“The Festival also announced the inaugural four Lexus Australia Short Film Fellowship fellows: Anya Beyersdorf, Brooke Goldfinch, Alex Murawski and Alex Ryan at the world premiere of Australian actor and filmmaker Damian Walshe-Howling’s short film MESSiAH, at the State Theatre, followed by the Australian Premiere of Blood Father, where Mel Gibson introduced his film, and the next day was in-conversation at a free public talk at the Festival Hub,” he said.

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