Miriam Margolyes named Byron Bay Film Festival judge

Icon of both British and Australian screen, Miriam Margolyes will judge the doco section of the Byron Bay Film Fest this October.

Well-loved film and television actor Miriam Margolyes is to be a judge in the Best Documentary category at the Byron Bay Film Festival (BBFF) in October.

The 82-year-old character actor, British by birth but an Australian citizen since 2013, is no stranger to the Byron Bay Film Festival. She appeared in the feelgood Australian film H is for Happiness at the Festival in 2019 as an eccentric but inspirational teacher.

Margolyes is perhaps most known to Australian audiences for playing Prudence Stanley in the TV series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and for her explorations of the Australian psyche in two series, Miriam Margolyes: Almost Australian, and Miriam Margolyes: Australia Unmasked.

Read: Miriam Margolyes: Australia Unmasked – review

Making her first screen appearance in 1969, Margolyes has become world famous for her roles in television series such as Blackadder and as Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter film series.

In 1994 she received a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance in Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence.

The job of judging films must be taken seriously, Margolyes believes: ‘It’s about the maintenance of standards and the pursuit of excellence. So much in our lives is second-rate,’ she says. ‘Let us protect our imaginations from decline and be proud judges.’

BBFF Director J’aimee Skippon-Volke says Margolyes is ‘a unique and inspirational actress who has always trodden her own path.’

‘She stands as a beacon of individuality in the world of film and theatre. Her contributions to acting are undeniable, but it’s her unfiltered approach to life that truly sets her apart.

‘As a documentarian, Miriam dives deep into subjects, blending her distinctive wit with a profound empathy. Her quest to uncover and share stories resonates with the ethos of the Byron Bay Film Festival and it’s fitting that she graces BBFF this year as a judge for the documentary award.’

Margolyes is the latest in a long line of entertainment icons who have supported the Byron Festival, Skippon-Volke says.

‘BBFF has attracted the endorsement and backing of a constellation of influential figures from the film and music fields over the years. We are grateful to have Miriam join this prestigious list, accentuating the festival’s growing prominence.

‘Australian cinema giant Jack Thompson has consistently lent his voice and presence, amplifying BBFF’s commitment to cinematic distinction.

‘The music industry’s powerhouse, the late Michael Gudinski, recognised the festival’s potential as a melting pot of artistic expression. Surfing legend Layne Beachley’s involvement echoes the festival’s deep connection to the vibrant culture of Byron Bay, a sentiment further echoed by another surfing icon, Bob Hurley. All three were judges at the 2020 Festival.

Read: Neighbours review: let’s twist again

‘Notably also, Paul Wiegard of Madman – a judge last year – has been the driving force behind many of Australia’s most influential films over the past decade, and his association with BBFF highlights its commitment to showcasing groundbreaking cinema.

‘The unwavering support from these industry trailblazers elevates the Festival’s stature and reinforces its dedication to fostering creativity, diversity, and excellence in the cinematic world.’

The 17th Byron Bay International Film Festival runs from 20-29 October, with screenings at Byron Palace Cinemas and other North Coast venues.

Silvi Vann-Wall is a journalist, podcaster, and filmmaker. They joined ScreenHub as Film Content Lead in 2022. Twitter: @SilviReports