Aacta awards 2019 winners: The Nightingale and Total Control dominate Australian screen awards

Deborah Mailman and Rachel Griffiths recognised for ABC TV drama, while Jennifer Kent’s colonial horror film sweeps film categories

Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale has swept most of the film categories at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts awards in Sydney on Wednesday, winning best film, best direction, best actress and best screenplay in a night that celebrated Indigenous stories.

After the runaway success of her directorial debut, The Babadook, Kent’s colonial revenge drama drew controversy – and wide acclaim – for its confronting depiction of rape and violence during the frontier war massacres in Tasmania. The Nightingale already nabbed two awards at the Aactas’ first celebration earlier in the week: for best casting and best supporting actress for Magnolia Maymuru.

Jim Everett accepts the Aacta award for best direction on Jennifer Kent’s behalf
Jim Everett accepts the Aacta award for best direction on Jennifer Kent’s behalf. Photograph: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images for AFI

Kent was one of many winners who did not attend the ceremony; Uncle Jim Everett, a Tasmanian Indigenous elder who consulted on the film, accepted on her behalf. Aisling Franciosi won best lead actress for her role in the film.

A tearful Stan Grant accepted the award for best documentary for The Australian Dream, directed by Daniel Gordon. Grant, who wrote the screenplay and features in the film, paid tribute to its subject, the former AFL player Adam Goodes, for having the courage to go through some of his life’s darkest moments for the film.

“This was not just about Adam Goodes,” Grant said. “It was about the two centuries that led up to the booing of Adam Goodes.”

Deborah Mailman took out the first Aacta award of the night for best lead in a television drama for her role in ABC political series Total Control, which also won best drama.

Already a five-time Aacta/AFI winner, including for her supporting role in Mystery Road last year, Mailman said this was a particularly significant win given it was her first in the category.

“I’m actually really emotional, this show has meant everything to me, it’s my first lead role in a drama series,” Mailman said.

“It’s pretty amazing in terms of the diversity of people, I’ve had so many people stop me on the street, saying that they’re loving the show, that they’re watching it – it’s been fantastic.”

Mailman’s co-star Rachel Griffiths won best supporting actress for her part in the series, but it was Lambs of God that dominated this year’s TV categories, receiving eight awards in total, including for best miniseries, best direction, best cinematography, best original score and best sound.

Deborah Mailman
‘This show has meant everything to me,’ said Deborah Mailman, accepting an Aacta for her first lead role in a drama series. Photograph: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images for AFI

Sam Neill was visibly emotional when he was honoured with the Longford Lyell lifetime achievement award – with Meryl Streep, Jane Campion, Nicole Kidman and Liam Neeson among those offering tributes.

“The lifetime thing sounds a little terminal and I hope they don’t mean it’s the end because I’m not done, I would still like to put a few more runs on the board,” Neill said.

ABC parenting comedy The Letdown won in two categories – best comedy series, and best performance in a comedy, for its lead and co-creator Alison Bell.

Unbelievable! WE WON! #AACTAs pic.twitter.com/1ngSK72Urm

— The Letdown (@TheLetdownTV) December 4, 2019

Damon Herriman, who broke Aacta history with the most nominations across four different performance categories in a year, won best lead actor for the film Judy & Punch, saying it was the best script he had ever read.

Herriman was twice nominated as best supporting actor in a TV drama for his roles in Lambs of God and Mr Inbetween, but was beaten by Richard Roxburgh for The Hunting.

Best lead actor in a TV drama went to Herriman’s Mr Inbetween co-star Scott Ryan; the ABC’s You Can’t Ask That won best factual entertainment program, and Parasite continued its early sweep of awards season, winning best Asian film for its director, Bong Joon-ho.

Watching Margaret Pomeranz lose her mind with applause at Parasite winning Best Asian Film #aactas

— Que Minh Luu (@theqza) December 4, 2019

Aacta awards 2019: full winners list

Best film

Winner: The Nightingale
Hotel Mumbai
Judy & Punch
The King
Ride Like a Girl
Top End Wedding

Best director

Winner: Jennifer Kent – The Nightingale
Anthony Maras – Hotel Mumbai
Mirrah Foulkes – Judy & Punch
David Michôd – The King

Best screenplay

Winner: The Nightingale – Jennifer Kent
Hotel Mumbai – John Collee, Anthony Maras
Judy & Punch – Mirrah Foulkes
The King – David Michôd, Joel Edgerton

Best lead actress in a film

Winner: Aisling Franciosi – The Nightingale
Nazanin Boniadi – Hotel Mumbai
Teresa Palmer – Ride Like a Girl
Miranda Tapsell – Top End Wedding
Mia Wasikowska – Judy & Punch

Best lead actor in a film

Winner: Damon Herriman – Judy & Punch
Timothée Chalamet – The King
Baykali Ganambarr – The Nightingale
Dev Patel – Hotel Mumbai
Hugo Weaving – Hearts and Bones

Stan Grant
Stan Grant, screenwriter of The Australian Dream. Photograph: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images for AFI

Best documentary

Winner: The Australian Dream
The Eulogy
The Final Quarter
In My Blood it Runs
Mystify Michael Hutchence

Best Asian film

Winner: Parasite
Gully Boy
Hello, Love, Goodbye
Ne Zha
Super Deluxe
The Wandering Earth
We Are Little Zombies

Best TV drama series

Winner: Total Control (ABC)
Bloom (Stan)
Mr Inbetween (Showcase/Foxtel)
Secret City: Under the Eagle (Showcase/Foxtel)
Wentworth (Showcase/Foxtel)

Best lead actress in a TV drama

Winner: Deborah Mailman – Total Control (ABC)
Jenna Coleman – The Cry (ABC)
Essie Davis – Lambs of God (Showcase/Foxtel)
Ann Dowd – Lambs of God (Showcase/Foxtel)
Anna Torv – Secret City: Under the Eagle (Showcase/Foxtel)

Best lead actor in a TV drama

Winner: Scott Ryan – Mr Inbetween (Showcase/Foxtel)
Patrick Brammall – Glitch (ABC)
Bryan Brown – Bloom (Stan)
Ewen Leslie – The Cry (ABC)
Sam Reid – Lambs of God (Showcase/Foxtel)

Best guest or supporting actor in a TV drama

Winner: Richard Roxburgh – The Hunting (SBS)
Damon Herriman – Lambs of God (Showcase/Foxtel)
Damon Herriman – Mr Inbetween (Showcase/Foxtel)
Ewen Leslie – Fighting Season (Showcase/Foxtel)
John Stanton – Bloom (Stan)

Best guest or supporting actress in a TV drama

Winner: Rachel Griffiths – Total Control (ABC)
Kate Box – Les Norton (ABC)
Asher Keddie – The Cry (ABC)
Brooke Satchwell – Mr Inbetween (Showcase/Foxtel)
Jacki Weaver – Bloom (Stan)

Best telefeature or mini series

Winner: Lambs of God (Showcase/Foxtel)
The Cry (ABC)
Fighting Season (Showcase/Foxtel)
The Hunting (SBS)
On the Ropes (SBS)

Alison Bell back stage with both her prizes for the Letdown.
Alison Bell backstage with both her wins for The Letdown. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/EPA

Best comedy program

Winner: The Letdown (ABC)
Frayed (ABC)
Rosehaven (ABC)
Sammy J (ABC)
Utopia (ABC)

Best performance in a TV comedy

Winner: Alison Bell – The Letdown (ABC)
Celia Pacquola – Rosehaven (ABC)
Celia Pacquola – Utopia (ABC)
Rob Sitch – Utopia (ABC)
Miranda Tapsell – Get Krack!n (ABC)

Best entertainment program

Winner: Lego® Masters Australia (Nine Network)
Australian Ninja Warrior (Nine Network)
Australia’s Got Talent (Seven Network)
Hard Quiz (ABC)
The Masked Singer (Network Ten)

Best TV documentary or factual program

Winner: Old People’s Home for Four Year Olds (ABC)
Australia in Colour (SBS)
Employable Me (ABC)
Exposed: The Case of Keli Lane (ABC)
Gatwick – The Last Chance Hotel (ABC)

Best factual entertainment program

Winner: You Can’t Ask That (ABC)
Gogglebox Australia (Network Ten/Foxtel)
Gruen (ABC)
Todd Sampson’s Body Hack (Network Ten)
Who Do You Think You Are (SBS)

Best online drama or comedy

Winner: Robbie Hood
Aunty Donna – Glennridge Secondary College
Koala Man
Over and Out

Best reality program

Winner: Australian Survivor: Champions V Contenders (Network Ten)
The Block (Nine Network)
Married at First Sight (Nine Network)
Masterchef (Network Ten)
My Kitchen Rules (Seven Network)

Best lifestyle program

Winner: Love it or List it Australia (Lifestyle/Foxtel)
Destination Flavour – China (SBS)
Grand Designs Australia (Lifestyle/Foxtel)
The Great Australian Bake Off (Lifestyle/Foxtel)
Selling Houses Australia (Lifestyle/Foxtel)

The Byron Kennedy award

PJ Voeten

The Longford Lyell award

Sam Neill

• For the Aactas screen craft and technical achievement winners, announced on Monday, click here

• Additional reporting by Australian Associated Press

Staff and agencies

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Aacta awards 2019: it's strange to be a critic at the ceremony | Luke Buckmaster
Guardian Australia’s film critic tries to avoid red carpets at all costs. We made him sit through this one

Luke Buckmaster

04, Dec, 2019 @11:23 PM

Article image
Aacta awards 2016: Hacksaw Ridge and Rake win early screen honours
More than 30 category winners are announced in the lead-up to Wednesday night’s main Australian film and TV event

Steph Harmon

05, Dec, 2016 @8:11 AM

Article image
The 10 best Australian films of 2016
Guardian Australia’s film critic counts down this year’s best offerings from the silver screen

Luke Buckmaster

19, Dec, 2016 @7:31 PM

Article image
Aacta awards 2020: Cate Blanchett’s Stateless and Shannon Murphy’s Babyteeth win big
Women-led productions dominate distanced ceremony after year academy president Russell Crowe describes as ‘very challenging’

Stephanie Convery

30, Nov, 2020 @10:00 AM

Article image
Aacta awards 2020: Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving and Ned Kelly gang vie for honours
Lockdown-inspired TV comedy At Home Alone Together among the few nods to Covid in screen industry’s annual gongs

Stephanie Convery

31, Oct, 2020 @7:00 PM

Article image
Aacta awards 2021: The Newsreader, Nitram and High Ground scoop nominations
Drama series commissioned by the ABC dominate nominations recognising Australian film and television content

Kelly Burke

30, Oct, 2021 @1:01 PM

Article image
Aacta awards 2021: Nitram dominates ceremony as stars pay tribute to David Gulpilil
Justin Kurzel’s film wins eight awards, with The Newsreader taking four of the television categories

Kelly Burke

08, Dec, 2021 @10:05 AM

Article image
Mia Freedman, Claudia Karvan and Nakkiah Lui win Screen Australia support
Announcement of $3m for female-led screen projects marks biggest cash injection in a single day in the agency’s history

Amanda Meade

12, Jul, 2016 @2:35 AM

Article image
Frog Dreaming: a strange and wonderful should-be Australian classic
Starring ET’s Henry Thomas, this is magical, smartly crafted B-grade 80s nostalgia, if you look past the casual racism

Lauren Carroll Harris

26, Jul, 2017 @8:03 PM

Article image
Mad Max: Fury Road and The Dressmaker top 2015 Aacta awards
Australian film’s biggest night dominated by two films, while Peter Allen: Not the Boy Next Door takes three television awards

Nancy Groves

09, Dec, 2015 @10:21 PM