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Aussies honor Heath Ledger

'Castle,' 'Balloon' win big at AFI Awards

Heath Ledger was posthumously bestowed the international award for actor, “The Castle” was declared Australia’s favorite film of all time, and “The Black Balloon” converted 11 nominations into five trophies, including best film, at the 50th Australian Film Institute Awards at Melbourne’s Princess Theater Saturday .

“Balloon,” about a family with an autistic son, also won director for Elissa Down and script for Down and Jimmy Jack. “Strictly Ballroom’s” Tristram Miall produced the pic.

Taking supporting thesp nods were Toni Collette, who played the mother in the pic, and Luke Ford, who played the son.

Some 1,500 industryites attended the peer-judged, black-tie kudocast honoring film and television, hosted by thesp Stephen Curry and broadcast via time delay on the Nine Network.

Peter Duncan’s “Unfinished Sky,” a remake of Dutch pic “The Polish Bride,” took adapted screenplay and won leading actor trophies for William McInnes and Monic Hendrickx.

Cate Blanchett drew the international award for actress for her work in “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” while Ledger’s award was accepted by his parents and sister to a standing ovation. Hit Nine Network series “Underbelly” topped the television prize pool, winning six of the eight categories in which it was nominated including drama series, direction, lead actor (Gyton Grantley), lead actress (Kat Stewart), supporting actor (Damian Walshe-Howling) and supporting actress (Madeleine West).

George Miller presented the Byron Kennedy Award for creative enterprise, named after his onetime creative partner, to Chris Lilley for his two hit comedy series “We Can Be Heroes” and “Summer Heights High.”

“Summer Heights High” also drew the television comedy nod, and Lilley, who plays all three leads in the series, took the performance in a television comedy kudo.

“The Castle” was announced as favorite Oz film, based on an online poll run by kudos org the AFI to celebrate 50 years of the awards.

Rounding out the top five are “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” “Muriel’s Wedding,” “Lantana” and “Gallipoli.”

In a preliminary ceremony at the Princess Theater on Friday. technical kudos were awarded to Robert Humphreys’ cinematography, Andrew Plain’s sound and Antony Partos’ score in “Unfinished Sky.”

Veronika Jenet won for editing “The Black Balloon,” Cappi Ireland took costume design for “The Tender Hook” and Gemma Jackson production design for “Death Defying Acts.”

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