AACTA Winners & Nominees

AFI Past winners

Another battle between two well-pedigreed films played out in 1980. The South Australian Film Corporation had supplied the best film winner in 1974-75 (Sunday Too Far Away) and again in 1977 (Storm Boy). This year’s entry, Breaker Morant, had already won an acting prize at Cannes. The New South Wales Film Corporation had been the principal investor in Newsfront and My Brilliant Career, which had won in the previous two years. This year, they had supported Stir, directed by Stephen Wallace (his first feature) and produced by Richard Brennan.

The film dealt with a prison riot and was written by Bob Jewson, himself a former inmate. As well as competing for Best Film and Best Direction, the films were pitted against each other in the categories of Best Screenplay, Best Lead Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Editing and Best Sound.

10 feature films were entered in the awards and the four Best Film finalists (Breaker, Stir, The Chain Reaction and Manganinnie) secured 37 of a possible 52 nominations. The other major nominee was Harlequin, which was nominated in six categories including Best Direction for Simon Wincer. Unsurprisingly, neither Breaker Morant nor Stir had nominations in the categories of Best Lead Actress and Best Supporting Actress. Tracy Mann won Best Lead Actress for Hard Knocks and Jill Perryman was awarded Best Supporting Actress for Maybe This Time.

The battle between the heavyweights proved very one-sided. In the weeks leading up to the awards, the received wisdom was that Breaker Morant would dominate, but that Stir would receive about three awards, possibly including a Best Lead Actor nod to Bryan Brown. One newspaper claimed to have been leaked this information.

Breaker Morant received 13 nomination, while Stir received 11. This imbalance occurred when three of the cast of Breaker Morant were nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category, leaving Dennis Miller as the sole representative of Stir in that quartet.

Each award for Breaker Morant was accompanied by a fanfare of ‘Soldiers of the Queen’ and its music echoed through Sydney’s Regent Theatre for much of the night. Breaker Morant's achievement was unprecedented. It won each of the 10 awards categories in which it had been nominated.

Jack Thompson had won an acting award at Cannes as Best Supporting Actor for his performance. At the AFI Awards, the category was successfully switched to Best Lead Actor. Bruce Beresford received his second award for Best Direction and Matt Carroll his third for Best Film.

Another Breaker Morant award went to Bryan Brown as Best Supporting Actor. Brown was also in contention as Best Lead Actor for his performance in Stir. Don McAlpine’s award for Best Cinematography was his second in successive years. Editor William Anderson won his second Best Editing award. Best Screenplay was shared by Jonathan Hardy, David Stevens and Bruce Beresford. David Copping’s art direction, Anna Senior’s costumes and Gary Wilkins, William Anderson, Jeanine Chialvo and Phil Judd's sound design rounded out the total for Breaker Morant.

Stir retired empty-handed and would remain the most nominated film not to receive an award for many years. It was The Color Purple of its era. The Chain Reaction was nominated in seven categories without success. Of the four Best Film finalists, apart from Breaker Morant only Manganinnie tasted victory with Peter Sculthorpe winning the Best Original Music award for his work on the film.

Kirk Douglas lightened the mood of the losers with a witty speech that he would repeat over the years. He announced that he had been a three-time Academy Award nominee, without ever winning. On each occasion, he walked away buoyed by his conviction that he had written the best acceptance speech.

David Bradbury’s award for Best Documentary for Frontline was a harbinger of things to come. The film would be nominated in the documentary category at the 1981 Academy Awards and David would be recognised as one of Australia’s foremost documentary makers.

The Raymond Longford Award went to a reluctant Tim Burstall, who likened the award to a retirement gift that he did not want to accept.

1980 Winners & Nominees