‘Top End Wedding’, ‘Hearts and Bones’ and ‘The King’ are among the 34 longlisted films. 

Some 34 feature films will compete for nominations for this year’s AACTA Awards, and the longlist covers a diverse range of titles, from box office earners like Top End Wedding and Storm Boy, through to critically lauded films like The Nightingale and micro budget indies such as Suburban Wildlife.

However, perhaps the most notable inclusion in the longlist is David Michôd’s Netflix Original The King, which premiered at Venice Film Festival last week to an eight-minute standing ovation.

Typically, to be eligible for AACTA Awards, a film – even when made for a streaming platform – must have paid cinema screenings in Australia or local festival play (that is, Sydney Film Festival, Melbourne International Film Festival, etc).

AACTA has made an exception for The King, which is not due to play in Australian cinemas or in festivals before its release on Netflix later this year, because of the “significant reach of its distribution strategy and recognition at major international film festivals.” It is the first time the Academy has made an exception of this kind.

Another Netflix Original, Grant Sputores’ I Am Mother, is also eligible for awards, however it had a work-in-progress screening at Adelaide Film Festival last year and at Sydney Film Festival.

Shot across Hungary and the UK, The King was produced by Australian companies Porchlight Films and Blue-Tongue Films in partnership with Netflix and Plan B Entertainment. AACTA has deemed the film Australian given there are Aussies in key creative roles including writer/director/producer Michôd, writer/producer/star Joel Edgerton and producer Liz Watts. Ben Mendelsohn is also among the film’s stars, and many of the heads of department are also Australian, including cinematographer Adam Arkapaw, sound designer/supervising sound editor Robert Mackenzie, and production designer Fiona Crombie.

The number of film’s on this year’s AACTA longlist is only slightly down from last year’s record 38 films, with the number of films in competition for the awards significantly expanded since eligibility guidelines were broadened two years ago, and the introduction of the award for Best Indie Film last year (under $2 million).

The full list of films are: Acute Misfortune, Angel Of Mine, Animals, Bilched, Book Week, Buoyancy, Celeste, Chocolate Oyster, The Combination Redemption, Danger Close: The Battle Of Long Tan, Emu Runner, Escape And Evasion, Hearts And Bones, Hotel Mumbai, I Am Mother, Judy & Punch, Juvenile Delinquents, The King, Locusts, The Naked Wanderer, Nekrotronic, The Nightingale, Outback, Palm Beach, Pimped, Promised, Reflections In The Dust, Ride Like A Girl, Sequin In A Blue Room, Slam, Storm Boy, Suburban Wildlife, Top End Wedding and Undertow.

This longlist will then be narrowed down to a list of nominees, with round one voting open now. Round two voting will then take place after the announcement of the nominees in late October.

Director Heath Davis has two films vying for nominations, Book Week and Locusts, and a significant number of the films in this year’s longlist are from first time feature directors, such as Anthony Maras’ Hotel Mumbai,  Sputore’s I Am Mother; Rachel Griffiths’ Ride Like A Girl; Mirrah Foulkes’ Judy & Punch; Rodd Rathjen’s Buoyancy; Ben Lawrence’s Hearts and Bones; Thomas M. Wright’s Acute Misfortune; Samuel Van Grinsven’s Sequin in a Blue Room and Imogen McCluskey’s Suburban Wildlife.

The competition list itself is also an interesting glimpse at who are among the industry’s most prolific practitioners. For instance, casting director Kirsty McGregor worked across five of the longlisted films, Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan (with Stevie Ray); Hearts and Bones (with Gemma Brown); Judy and Punch; Palm Beach and Top End Wedding, and Nikki Barrett four, Ride Like A Girl, The Nightingale, Nekrotronic and I Am Mother. Cinematographer Bonnie Elliott shot three films: Undertow, Slam and Palm Beach. The Oscar-winning Robert MacKenzie has done sound on The King, Top End Wedding, The Nightingale and Judy and Punch, Pete Smith on Animals, I Am Mother, The Nightingale and Top End Wedding and Chris Goodes sound on three films in Ride Like A Girl, Acute Misfortune and Angel of Mine. Composer Antony Partos has written four scores: Top End Wedding, Hearts and Bones, Celeste and I Am Mother.

“It’s an incredibly interesting year for the Australian film industry, with an increasing amount of cinema quality films opting for digital distribution models. From large-scale productions to those vying for our Best Indie Film award, on-demand viewing is fast becoming a viable option for productions to have their work seen by a wide audience, which is expanding our creative relationships globally,” said AFI | AACTA CEO Damian Trewhella.

“The quality and diversity of each of the feature films in competition is reflective of the Australian industry’s distinct ability to reinvent itself. The amount of women in key creative roles among this year’s slate of films in competition offers fresh takes on traditional genres and storytelling from unique perspectives. We look forward to seeing how the Australian industry votes in what is another fantastically competitive year.”

Winners will be announced across The Industry Luncheon December 2, followed by the AACTA Awards Ceremony & Official After Party on December 4. All longlisted films will be available for AACTA/AFI members to view online via AACTA TV from today.

The full list of films in competition, including synopses and cast and crew eligible for awards, can be viewed here.

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