AACTA Winners & Nominees

AFI Past winners

This year, the number of feature films fell from last year's high of 16 to 12. For the first time, feature film awards were to be decided by the industry. Best Direction was chosen by the Producers and Directors Guild of Australia, Best Cinematography by the Australian Cinematographers Society, the acting awards by Actors Equity, Best Editing by the Film Editors Guild of Australia and Best Screenplay by the Australian Writers Guild. Best Film would be decided by all of the above, together with members and associate members of the AFI.

Although the numbers were down, the list included several films that would shine on the world stage. The 1976 crop included Caddie, The Devil’s Playground, Picnic At Hanging Rock, Pure Shit, End Play, The Trespassers, Promised Woman, Illuminations and Polly Me Love.

The Devil’s Playground led the way with 10 nominations in seven categories. It is a semi–autobiographical portrait of an impressionable boy’s life in a Catholic seminary during the 1950s. The film was selected to screen in the Directors' Fortnight at Cannes one month before the Awards. Its budget of $300,000 came mostly from the AFDC and from Schepisi’s own company The Film House. It had been filmed in bitter cold at Werribee Park, where Tim Burstall’s episode of LibidoThe Child, had been shot.

Unsurprisingly, The Devil’s Playground won Best Film. Simon Burke and Nick Tate shared the Best Lead Actor prize, while Schepisi himself scored the awards for Best Direction and Best Screenplay. In an upset result, Ian Baker won Best Cinematography over Russell Boyd (Picnic At Hanging Rock).

Boyd’s nomination was one of seven for Picnic At Hanging Rock that included Best Picture, Best Direction (Peter Weir), Best Screenplay (Cliff Green), Best Supporting Actress (Anne Lambert), Best Supporting Actor (Tony Llewellyn-Jones) and Best Lead Actress (Helen Morse).

Helen was in a very tough heat. The other nominations were her own performance in Caddie and Judy Morris and Briony Behets for their performances in John Duigan’s debut feature The Trespassers. Helen was the winner, but was preferred for her performance in Caddie. That film received seven nominations and dominated the acting awards. Drew Forsythe was selected as Best Supporting Actor for his role as Sonny. Melissa Jaffer and Jacki Weaver shared Best Supporting Actress for their performances. Later that year, Helen also won Best Actress at the San Sebastian Film Festival for her performance in Caddie. This was the first time an Australian actor had won an overseas award for a performance in an Australian film.

Devil’s Playground and Caddie won eight of the nine feature awards, with Best Editing going to Edward McQueen-Mason for End Play. Devil’s Playground rounded out a great evening by winning the Jury Prize.

John Ruane’s 50-minute short feature Queensland is an outstanding study of dreams and delusions. It won the Bronze Award in the Short Fiction category and is remembered as one of the three or four best of the films in this category which no longer exists, at least in this form.

The groundbreaking Pure Shit (then known as Pure S) was awarded the Silver Medallion for Cinematography and shared the Awards to Filmmakers for the two Most Creative Entries with Garry Patterson’s How Willingly You Sing.

The Raymond Longford Award, which had not been given since 1970, was bestowed on pioneer Ken G. Hall for his significant contribution to Australian film making.


Note: Up until 1970, with a few exceptions, AFI Awards were presented in recognition of films and productions, rather than the achievements of individual filmmakers and craftspeople. From 1971, an increasing number of AFI Awards were introduced recognising individual achievements and, from 1976, AFI Awards were presented on this basis across all feature films. From 1980 onwards, all AFI Awards were awarded to individual filmmakers and crafts people.

Where an Award was presented in recognition of a film rather than a filmmaker, we have also listed the producer and director of the film, where this information is available. For craft-specific awards, we have also listed the respective craftsperson where possible. These filmmakers and craftspeople are listed in brackets after the Award that their film received.

1976 Winners & Nominees