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Sydney Film Festival announces historic prize for First Nations works

Jarred Cross -

Sydney Film Festival has announced the biggest single cash prize for Indigenous filmmaking to be handed out for the first time in 2024.

At $35,000, the First Nations Award is open to any First Nations creators around the world with the winner set to be named at SFF's closing night on June 16.

All works featured in the festival's First Nations program, across all categories, are up for consideration.

The awards sits this on the value bracket at its introduction, behind the $60,000 Sydney Film Prize and $40,000 Sustainable Future Award.

SFF executives said the award does more than highlight the excellence being produced at present.

Festival chair Darren Dale said the prize will "inspire, motivate and reward established and emerging First Nations filmmakers with the promise that their art is important, is valued and will be seen".

Mr Dale said the initiative is fitting, with SFF acting as a long-time champion of First Peoples storytelling.

In 2023, Yankunytjatjara artist Derik Lynch and Matthew Thorne's Marungka Tjalatjunu (Dipped in Black) backed up its Silver Bear Jury Prize, for second place in the short film category, and Teddy queer short film prize at the Berlin International Film Festival with SFF's 2023 Documentary Australia award.

SFF director Nashen Moodley, said the award "is more than a celebration of unique storytelling; it's a crucial investment in the future of Indigenous cinema".

"By offering this level of support, we hope to encourage more First Nations filmmakers to share their stories, enriching the film industry with diverse perspectives and voices," he said.

The First Nations award is supported by Truant Pictures.

Truant Pictures producer, and chief executive of parent company Animal Logic Entertainment Zarah Nalbandian said he and his wife Ping are honoured to be behind the award.

"We are excited to experience the rich tapestry of First Nations films and showcase these stories as part of the Festival in June. We hope this elevation of Indigenous voices serves as a catalyst for fostering continued dialogue, bridging cultural gaps, and empowering First Nations voices worldwide," Mr Nalbandian said.

The entry deadline for all SFF submissions is March 1.

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