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A film still from Close shows two boys in a field picking flowers
Photograph: Supplied/SFF | Close

A beautiful look at boyhood friendship wins the 2022 Sydney Film Festival’s top prize

Plus more winners, the snubbed masterpieces, and extra screenings to see this week

Alannah Maher
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Alannah Maher
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The winners have been announced for the 69th Sydney Film Festival, which lit up cinemas this June, the first full-scale iteration after three years of disruptions. Coming out on top of the 12 films in official competition, out of over 200 flicks in the program, the prestigious Sydney Film Prize was awarded to Close by Belgian filmmaker Lukas Dhont, a beautiful examination of boyhood friendship which also recently won the Grand Prix at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. The $60,000 cash prize recognises the most ‘audacious, cutting-edge and courageous' film, and was selected by a prestigious international jury headed by David Wenham.

At the Closing Night Gala yesterday, Dhont said: “We wanted to make a film about friendship and connection after a moment in time where we all understood its necessity and power. I decided to use cinema as my way to connect to the world. And tonight I feel incredibly close and connected to all of you.”

Australian filmmaker Luke Cornish was presented with the Documentary Australia Award’s $10,000 cash prize for Keep Stepping, about two remarkable female performers training for Australia’s biggest street dance competition.

Other winners include the animated short Donkey, directed by Jonathan Daw and Tjunkaya Tapaya, which won the AFTRS Craft Award (a $7,000 cash prize) in the Dendy Awards for Australian Short Films, as well as the $5,000 Yoram Gross Animation Award. In the short, three Anangu women of different generations tell the story of how donkeys came to be valuable friends and helpers in the desert communities in the APY lands of northern South Australia.

Both the $7,000 Dendy Live Action Short Award and $7,000 Rouben Mamoulian Award for Best Director were presented to Luisa Martiri and Tanya Modini for The Moths Will Eat Them Up. You can find all this year’s winners over here.

In addition to the official winners, Time Out Sydney's arts and culture editor Alannah Maher would also like to acknowledge another film from the official competition this year that is deserving of some attention. Two-time Archibald Prize-winning artist Del Kathryn Barton’s feature film debut Blaze blew us away – filmed in Sydney, it’s a confronting but cathartic masterpiece that follows a young girl as she escapes into her imagination after witnessing a horrific attack. Read our five-star review in preparation for the wider release in August. 

Time Out's film critic Stephen A Russell also tips Australian-Macedonian director Goran Stolevski’s astonishing debut, You Won't Be Alone (read our five-star review), a visually spectacular supernatural tale about a young shape-shifting witch trying to understand what it means to be human. There is a bonus screening of this coming up on Tuesday, June 21, and you can get tickets here.

If you’re fiending for some flicks, there are more movies getting extra screenings this week at Dendy Cinemas in Newtown and Palace Cinemas, Norton Street between Monday 20 and Thursday, June 23. This includes the bloody fun new Aussie horror-comedy Sissy (read our review), which takes a stab at wellness influencers, and bittersweet Aussie doco Everybody’s Oma (read our review). Find all the rest of the films at sff.org.au.

Let us entertain you, here are the best shows to see in Sydney this month

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