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The 6th annual SciFi Film Festival wrapped in Sydney tonight with an informal award ceremony that honoured ambitious future visions from global independent cinema. Bestowing equal worth upon both feature- and short-film qualifiers, fifteen films from nine countries earned laurels in seven categories.

The German production Das letzte Land (The Final Land), a crowdfunded project written and directed by Marcel Barion, won Best Feature Film. The honour continues a successful festival roll-out for the gritty, thrilling deep-space two-hander, starring Milan Pešl and Torben Föllmer (pictured, above) as disparate personalities in a desperate situation; to date, the film has earned kudos at the Berlin Independent Film Festival and Italy’s Oltre Lo Specchio Film Festival.

The Best Short Film award went to Yohan Faure’s French-Canadian mini-feature Orage par ciel clair (Thunder From a Clear Sky), a riveting examination of the global existential crisis that one advanced civilization must consider when faced with an alien world similar to its own. Starring Fayolle Jean, Mathieu Lepage and Édith Côté-Demers (pictured, right), Faure’s richly cinematic, remarkably accomplished work is a thrilling commentary on media, morality and modern society.

Best Actress honourees went to two of the youngest leads in the 2019 festival lineup. As ‘Una’, the pre-teen adventurer determined to bring her family back together in the Croatian feature Moj dida je pao s Marsa (My Grandpa is an Alien), Lana Hranjec won for a warm, emotional portrayal that called upon her to appear in almost every scene of co-directors Marina Andree Skop and Drazen Zarkovic’s crowdpleaser. Australian actress Emma Wright earned top actress honours for Chris Elena’s short Audio Guide, her performance a largely silent one that captured bouts of wonder, glee, panic and dread with acute insight.

U.S. indie effort Norman, a time travel drama rich in complex narrative beats and DIY filmmaking bravado, was the night’s only double honouree. In his first motion picture lead performance, Stephen Birge took the Best Actor trophy as the title character, a desperate loner consumed with righting a multi-dimensional wrong

all his own doing. Fellow feature debutant Joel Guelzo, who spent more than seven years shepherding his passion project to the screen, earned Best Director, the filmmaker on hand to accept his bevy of local culinary delights in lieu of an actual gong.

Best Actor in a short film went to Yang Jin for his role as social agitator ‘Joe’ in Bo Wei bleak dystopic A.I. vision Ideal Homeland. Australian director Adrian Powers was named Best Director (Short Film) for the Indigenous-themed near-future thriller Brolga, which had its World Premiere on the Opening Night of the festival.

The hotly contested Best Animation category went to two diverse, left-field but richly deserving visions. Feature honours went to Eric Power’s paper-cut masterpiece Attack of the Demons, a giggly, gruesome reworking of the kind of 50s smalltown sci-fi tropes made famous by such B-classics as The Blob and Invasion of The Body Snatchers. Recognised in the Best Animated Short category was Spanish artist Diego Porral, whose caustic social commentary works Monsters Walking and A Day in The Park were highlights of Saturday evening’s Animation Showcase.

The technical categories rewarded works breaking new ground in their chosen field. Best Visual Effects (Feature) went to German auteur Daniel Raboldt’s exciting War of The Worlds-meets-A Quiet Place survival adventure A Living Dog. The VFX short film place-getter was too tight to call, with Luka Hrgović and Dino Julius’ Blade Runner-inspired practical effects spectacle Slice of Life splitting the honour with Alejandro Damiani’s Trump-takedown, M.A.M.O.N.

The mega-budgeted Japanese anime blockbuster Human Lost, from director Fuminori Kizaki, and Gonçalo Almeida’s mystical night-time canine odyssey short Thursday Night won feature and short-film honours respectively in the Best Sound/Music category.

The 2019 SciFi Film Festival was held September 6-8 at the Event Cinemas George Street complex in Sydney.

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