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The SciFi Film Festival has named Prospect the 2018 Best Film winner at an informal ceremony on the Closing Night of the 4-day event in Sydney. Set for a November 2 launch in the U.S. but still awaiting a distribution deal in Australia, Christopher Caldwell’s and Zeek Earl’s retro-futuristic thriller/coming-of-age drama also earned the Best Actress trophy for star Sophie Thatcher, the teenage actress headlining her first feature.

Jury member Jonathan Ogilvie, who adjudicated alongside fellow filmmakers Julietta Boscolo and Brian Trenchard-Smith on the three-person festival jury, praised Prospect for the homage it paid to the great westerns of Hollywood’s heyday. “[It is] a tense and involving space film that mines the same vein of greed and betrayal that the earthbound The Treasure of Sierra Madre did so many years ago,” he noted, adding, “Sophie Thatcher is terrific in the lead role.” (Pictured, below; Sophie Thatcher in Prospect)

The Best Actor honour was awarded to Australian character actor Robin Queree for his frightening and fierce performance as ‘The Clown’ in Luke Sullivan’s divisive dystopian drama, Reflections in the Dust, opposite Best Actress nominee Sarah Houbolt. “Wow, this is heavy,” said the actor, referring to the weighty crystal trophy but also clearly surprised and moved by the honour. Addressing his young director, 23 year-old Luke Sullivan, Queree declared, “This all belongs to us. Me, you, Sarah, the cast, everybody was fantastic.”   

Hector Valdez’ blackly-funny time-travel romp Peaches led the Best Music/Sound category, with composer Fran Villalba and sound designer David Mantecón set to share the award. The Best Visual Effects honour, one of the most prized categories at an event celebrating the fantastical, went to U.K. filmmaker Daniel Prince for his short Invaders, a delightfully mischievous spin on ‘alien invasion’ mythology that wore its Spielberg-ian influences proudly on its sleeve. (Pictured, below; Robin Queree, in Reflections in the Dust) 

Tasked with choosing two standouts from the vast short film line-up at the festival, jury members singled out Lebanese filmmaker Fadi Baki Fdz’s steampunk-influenced automaton fable Manivelle: The Last Days of The Man of Tomorrow for the Best International Short. Young Victorian filmmakers Shane Gardam and Xavier Brydges took Best Australian Short for Westall, a recounting of this country’s most well documented yet eternally mysterious UFO encounters. 

In the wake of a particularly strong field of performances by actresses across the 2018 screening schedule, program director Simon Foster created a special Festival Director’s Award for French actress Zoe Garcia for her lead role in Charlotte Cayeux’s short Those Who Can Die. “There were several great acting turns by women in this year’s films, contributions that reflect a strength that has always been central to the best that this genre has to offer,” he said, citing Sarah Houbolt (Reflections in the Dust), Maria Guinea (Peaches) and Kestrel Leah (the short Andromeda) as some of the festival’s other highlights. “Ms Garcia’s performance was one of forceful yet dignified resistance in the face of oppression, which is both timely and timeless,” he said.

The 5th annual celebration of local and international speculative film fiction entertained an enthusiastic and committed audience sector, despite squally Harbour City thunderstorms that kept the inner-city hordes huddled indoors at key moments on the schedule. The Closing Night feature, a retro-themed screening of 1989’s Miracle Mile, was introduced by director Steve de Jarnatt in a spot pre-recorded especially for the event at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, one of the key locations from the film. (Pictured, above; Zoe Garcia from Those Who Can Die)

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