For 69 years, the Sydney Film Festival has screened and celebrated the latest and greatest in international cinema in the Harbour City. Since 2009, it has also handed out a prestigious award to the absolute best of the best. The list of flicks that’ve won the fest’s Sydney Film Prize for “audacious, cutting-edge and courageous” movies is impressive, including everything from Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bronson and Only God Forgives through to Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite. Now, at the 2022 festival, Lukas Dhont’s Close has joined them.
Fresh from nabbing the Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Dhont’s sophomore feature has picked up this year’s SFF $60,000 gong from a lineup of 12 contenders. Close dives into a teenage friendship between two 13-year-olds that’s tested when they’re teased and taunted about their closeness by their classmates — and also marks the filmmaker’s second movie to screen at the Sydney fest, after Girl in 2018.
“I want to express my incredible gratitude for the recognition that our film Close receives at this year’s Sydney Film Festival. Thank you to the festival for expressing its love for the film, the jury for choosing it among all these outstanding pieces, and its first Australian audience for opening hearts and spirits to a film that comes from deep within,” said Dhont.
“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.”
This year’s Sydney Film Prize was decided by a jury comprised of Australian actor David Wenham (The Furnace), the SFF Official Competition Jury President, plus Jennifer Peedom (director of River and Sherpa), Mostofa Sarwar Farooki (the Bangladeshi filmmaker behind No Man’s Land, which screened at SFF 2022), Semih Kaplanoğlu (the Turkish director-producer of Commitment Hasan, also screening at this year’s SFF) and Yuka Sakano (Executive Director of Tokyo’s Kawakita Memorial Film Institute).
In winning the Sydney Film Prize, Close follows in the footsteps of the aforementioned Parasite, the 2019 recipient, as well as fellow past winners There Is No Evil (2021), The Heiresses (2018), On Body and Soul (2017), Aquarius (2016), Arabian Nights (2015), Two Days, One Night (2014), Only God Forgives (2013), Alps (2012), A Separation (2011), Heartbeats (2010), Bronson (2009) and Hunger (2008).
Announced as the Sydney Film Prize-winner at SFF’s 2022 closing ceremony, Close is just one of this year’s award recipients. The street dancing-focused Keep Stepping won the $10,000 Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary, while Filipino doco Delikado nabbed the fest’s second-ever $10,000 Sustainable Future Award.
Also, the $20,000 Deutsche Bank Fellowship for First Nations Film Creatives went to filmmaker and performer Kylie Bracknell (Fist of Fury Noongar Daa), and film composer Caitlin Yeo (Wakefield, Valerie Taylor: Playing with Sharks) received the $10,000 Sydney-UNESCO City of Film Award.
And, in the Dendy Short Film Awards, Donkey won the Yoram Gross Animation Award and the AFTRS Craft Award, while The Moths Will Eat Them Up scored the Dendy Live Action Short Award and the Rouben Mamoulian Award for Best Director. Four shorts were highly commended, too: 2166 in the Yoram Gross Animation Award field, Ghosted in the Dendy Live Action Short Award category, and Stonefish and Yao Yao Goes to Little Bay for the Best Director prize.
The 2022 Sydney Film Festival ran from Wednesday, June 8–Sunday, June 19, with the festival screening four days of encores until Thursday, June 23.