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Miguel Gomes’ ‘Arabian Nights’ Wins Sydney Festival Top Prize

The Sydney Film Festival (June 3-14) wrapped on Sunday night by awarding its top prize to “Arabian Nights,” directed by Miguel Gomes.

The three part, six-hour film, which uses fiction to retell true stories, had its premiere in the Directors Fortnight section of Cannes last month. It examines Portugal’s social and financial woes through the perspective of a contemporary Scheherazade figure.

The Sydney competition jury, head by producer Liz Watts, said that its decision was unanimous. Other jurors included Japanese program consultant Hiromi Aihara, Australian screenwriter Andrew Bovell, Thai filmmaker Pen-ek Ratanaruang, and the Austrian Film Commission’s Martin Schweighofer comprised the full Festival jury.

The jury described “Arabian Nights” as “a film of ambition and political vision which confronts, frustrates, and spellbinds – and ultimately reminds us that cinema continues to be a powerful vehicle to examine the human condition.” The prize is worth A$62,000 (US$48,000).

The closing night gala featured the world premiere screening of Neil Armfield’s “Holding the Man,” and was held at the State Theatre.

Journalist Michael Ware and two-time Oscar winner Bill Guttentag were awarded the Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary, an A$10,000 cash prize, for “Only the Dead”; with a special mention going to “The Lost Aviator,” directed by Andrew Lancaster.

The Event Cinema Australian Short Screenplay Award was awarded to “Bluey,” written and directed by Darlene Johnson, who received an A$5,000 cash prize.

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