MIFF announces $300,000 prize pool, film awards, nominees and juries

A new First Nations Film Creative Award is announced, honouring talent from across creative departments, as well as the nominees for the Blackmagic Innovation Award.

Ahead of opening night on Thursday 3 August, Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) has announced a total prize pool of over $300,000 across a suite of six award categories, together with the juries and nominees for two significant competition awards. These are: the inaugural First Nations Film Creative Award, and the return of the Blackmagic Design Australian Innovation Award, which recognises an outstanding Australian creative within a film from the 2023 MIFF program.

Read: MIFF 2023 program – gala and international highlights

First Nations Film Creative Award

The inaugural First Nations Film Creative Award supports First Nations talent and storytelling, with the recipient awarded a $20,000 cash prize and $25,000 worth of financial services in collaboration with Kearney Group.

The pool of award contenders are drawn from across all film creative departments including directing, producing, screenwriting, composing, editing, cinematography, acting, production design, art direction and sound design. The nominees of the First Nations Film Creative Award in collaboration with Kearney Group are:

  • John Harvey – Katele (Mudskipper) – Director
  • Lelarnie Hatfield-Yasso, Aunty Nicky Hatfield, and Margaret Hornagold – Generations of Men – Screenwriters
  • Derik Lynch and Matthew Thorne – Marungka Tjalatjunu (Dipped in Black) – Co-Directors
  • Adrian Russell Wills and Gillian Moody – Kindred – Co-Directors
  • Tyson Mowarin and Mark Coles Smith – Keeping Hope – Director, Featured subject
  • Douglas Watkin – Rebel with a Cause: Neville Bonner – Director

The first-time prize will be awarded to the creative deemed to have demonstrated excellence and commitment in their relevant craft, with the eventual winner selected by a film jury of celebrated Australian First Nations creatives including Yidinji, Meriam woman and esteemed actor and director Rachael Maza AM (Radiance, Cosi, Lillian’s Story); Yorta Yorta, Wurundjeri (Woiwurrung) acclaimed screen and stage practitioner and Birrangga Film Festival Artistic Director, Tony Briggs (The Sapphires, The Warriors, Force of Nature); and Yorta Yorta, Dja Dja Wurrung artist, academic and director Tiriki Onus (Ablaze, MIFF 2021).

Speaking about the new award, Rachael Maza said: ‘I’m very proud and inspired by this next generation of incredible First Nation filmmakers. I’d like to acknowledge MIFF and the Kearney Group in establishing this Award in recognition of these artists who will be our future leading storytellers. It’s an honour to be a part of the jury.’

Blackmagic Design Australian Innovation Award

Following its inaugural awarding last year, the Blackmagic Design Australian Innovation Award returns with a $70,000 cash prize to recognise an outstanding Australian creative within a festival film. Last year’s winner was writer-director Jub Clerc for her work on the uplifting coming-of-age outback road trip film, Sweet As.

A wide range of roles were eligible for award consideration, including director, technical or creative lead and other cinema craft positions. The nominees of the 2023 Blackmagic Design Australian Innovation Award are:

  • Andrew Robinson – Mercy Road – Lead VFX Supervisor
  • Jeni Thornley – Memory Film – Director
  • Nathan Jurevicius – Scarygirl – Production Designer
  • Soda Jerk – Hello Dankness – Director

The rest of the line-up

The newly announced award nominees join the line-up of films already announced for the Bright Horizons Competition, MIFF’s recently established breakthrough filmmaking prize that recognises first and second-time directors with a $140,000 prize going to the winning filmmaker, supported by VicScreen, making it one of the most substantial film prizes in the world.

Last year’s Bright Horizons winner, Neptune Frost – directed by 2023 co-Jury presidents Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman – was recognised from among an exciting crop of fresh filmmaking talent, including Charlotte Well’s Aftersun, which later received Oscars recognition, and Thomas M Wright’s The Stranger, which proved an international hit following its wider streaming release in late 2022.

Bright Horizons

The full slate of 2023 Bright Horizons nominees includes:

  • Ama Gloria directed by Marie Amachoukeli
  • Animalia directed by Sofia Alaoui
  • Banel & Adama directed by Ramata-Toulaye Sy
  • Disco Boy directed by Giacomo Abbruzzese
  • Earth Mama directed by Savanah Leaf
  • How to Have Sex directed by Molly Manning Walker
  • Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell directed by Pham Thien An
  • The Rooster directed by Mark Leonard Winter
  • Shayda directed by Noora Niasari
  • The Sweet East directed by Sean Price Williams
  • Tótem directed by Lila Avilés

The Jury

The 2023 jury panel for both the Blackmagic Design Australian Innovation Award and the Bright Horizons Competition includes: US filmmaker, musician, poet, writer and actor co-Jury President Saul Williams; Rwandan filmmaker, actor and playwright co-Jury President Anisia Uzeyman; Swiss documentary filmmaker, pop culture historian and cinema cognoscente Alexandre O Philippe (You Can Call Me Bill, MIFF 2023); revered Singaporean filmmaker and prior Camera d’Or winner Anthony Chen (The Breaking Ice, Drift, MIFF 2023); and Indonesian director Kamila Andini (Before, Then & Now, MIFF 2021; Yuni, MIFF 2021).

Winners across long-form awards categories will be announced at MIFF’s Closing Night Gala event, presented by Champagne Duperrey, on Saturday 19 August, including the recipient of the MIFF Audience Award, which gives punters the chance to vote for their favourite flick from across the program.

The MIFF Schools Youth Jury will also name their category winner at the Closing Night Gala, with a panel of three young filmmakers – selected from Top Screen 2023’s best and brightest – deliberating on the best title from the MIFF Schools program.

The 62nd edition of the MIFF Shorts Awards, presented by Campari, will be held earlier in the festival on Saturday 12 August at ACMI. The 2023 shorts jury members are: filmmaker Alena Lodkina (Petrol, MIFF Premiere Fund 2022; Strange Colours); curator and artist Kate ten Buuren; and Head of Production and Partner, Virginia Whitwell of Good Thing Productions.

MIFF 2023 will take place in cinemas from 3-20 August, with regional screenings from 11-13 and 18-20 August; and from 18-27 August via the festival’s online viewing platform, MIFF Play. More information.