THE medals were out on Saturday (November 9) night for the announcement of awards at the fifth Veterans Film Festival at the Australia War Memorial.
The top Red Poppy Award for “Best Film” was unanimously awarded by the jury to Australian film “Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan”.
Producer Michael Schwarz was on hand to pick up the distinctive “poppy” trophy crafted by Canberra glass artist Annette Blair. He praised the many real-life veterans who had participated both on and off screen in the film, which depicted 108 young and inexperienced Australian and New Zealand soldiers fighting for their lives against 2500 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers in a Vietnamese rubber plantation during 1966.
President of the festival committee, Warwick Young, a veteran himself and an award-winning filmmaker, told those present that the festival’s new co-patrons, Governor General David Hurley and his wife Linda, had attended a screening and Q&A of “Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan” and that Linda had remarked how screening such films had the ability to show the rest of the community what veterans had been though.
Chief of Joint Capabilities, Air Marshal Warren McDonald was on hand to announce the Red Poppy Award for “Best Short Film”, which went to “#3 Normandy Lane”, a US film about loss in which an army wife and young mother’s life is altered when visitors arrive on her doorstep.
A commended went to the New Zealand film “Milk”, where a young widow on a lonely farm confronts two crewmen from a German submarine who have come ashore to get fresh milk.
David Petersen, project manager for Beyond Blue, announced that the winner of the 2019 Beyond Blue Award for a film best promoting hope and resilience was Australian film “Escape and Evasion”, by Storm Ashwoo, in which after his men are killed in Burma, a lone soldier returns home in search of solace.
Adam Shepherd, CEO of US firm Go Energistics, appeared on screen from the US to announce that the GoE Bridging the Borders Award, had gone to the Iranian film “The Sea Swell”, directed by Amir Gholami. The award, proposed to the Veterans Film Festival by LA independent cinema organisation, Cinema without Borders, will be sent to the director in Iran.
Among the new awards at the 2019 festival was the Student Short Film Award, which went to Australian film “Escape by Sea”, directed by Eero Heinonen, in which two Scandinavian soldiers flee the French Foreign Legion by jumping ship in the Straits of Malacca.
An unusual new award for the best film school, went to the Australian Film Television and Radio School, of which, quite coincidentally, Young is a graduate.
The newly-named Harry Julius Animation Award, announced by Geoff Robertson, a descendant of the late celebrated Australian artist, advertiser and animator, went to the full length French film, “The Swallows of Kabul” (Les hirondelles de Kaboul), described by one onlooker as “the best animated film I have ever seen”.
The inaugural Joseph Cecil Thompson Award For Music, named in honour of the cornet-playing head stretcher in 9th Battalion of the 1st AIF serving at Gallipoli and the Somme, was presented by family member Mark Thompson and went to “Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan” with music by composer Caitlin Yeo.
“Best Male Actor” went to Josh McConville for his role as Seth in the feature, “Escape and Evasion”, while commendations for acting went to Olivier Treiner for his role in the French WWI film “Borrowed Time” (Sursis) and Daniel Webber as Private Paul Large in “Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan”.
“Best Female Actor” went to Scottie Thompson as Sarah in “#3 Normandy Lane”, while New Zealander Jodie Hillock was commended for her role in “Milk”.