THE director of the highest-grossing Australian film of 2012 has accused the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts of snubbing his movie in Wednesday night's awards simply because it is a genre piece.
''I don't want to be a whinger but this is the most successful Australian film of the year, and it hasn't been nominated in a single category,'' says Kimble Rendall, director of the 3D shark-in-a-supermarket horror-comedy Bait.
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Although The Sapphires, which has been nominated for 12 AACTA Awards, is the top-grossing Australian film domestically with more than $14 million in ticket sales, it is a long way behind Bait overall (though that situation could change when Wayne Blair's musical-dramedy is released in the US in March).
Though it was only a middling performer domestically, taking just over $1 million at the Australian box office, Bait has taken more than $40 million worldwide since its release in September – more than half of it in China. It is by far the highest-grossing Australian movie of the year.
But that success counted for little in the eyes of AACTA members, apparently. While the film was entered in all categories it failed to secure a single nomination.
''Who votes for the nominations? How do they vote? I'm sure none of them have even seen our film,'' says Rendall. ''It was never going to get best film or best director, but how can the cinematography, the visual effects, the editing, the sound design, the production design – we built a supermarket and put it underwater, for goodness' sake – be overlooked?''
Fair questions, concedes AACTA chief Damian Trewhella. But he insists they all have fair answers too.
''This was just a very competitive year. There were more than 20 feature films submitted and a lot of them didn't get nominated for anything. But that doesn't mean they weren't good. I know there are a lot of other people out there who are a bit disheartened.''
Trewhella says Bait's success in China ''is remarkable, we really congratulate them on that'', and believes the film's strongest chance of collecting an AACTA nomination would have been in the visual effects category. But it just so happens that is the only category in which it had to be nominated by a jury.
(For the record, all other categories are decided in a two-step process, modelled after that used in the Academy Awards and the BAFTAs: members of the various craft guilds whittle the entrants in each category down to a short list, then the general membership of the Academy votes to decide the winners from those short-listed nominees).
This year's award for best visual effects – announced at Monday's ceremony for shorts and documentaries and the feature film craft categories – went to the Australian-Finnish co-production Iron Sky (the sci-fi comedy about an invasion of Earth by Nazis who have been hiding out on the moon since 1944 was, incidentally, substantially crowd-funded). It beat out three other nominees: The Sapphires (in which the Vietnam War is revisited), The Killer Elite (where Melbourne doubles for Paris, London and the Middle East) and the documentary Utopia Girls (about how women won the vote in Australia).
Trewhella insists Bait was judged by the jury of special effects experts on the same basis as all other submitted material – on technical merit alone.
However, the AACTA boss does suggest that filmmakers who think their offering is worthy of attention in a particular category should do more to draw attention to those merits – especially if the film has not been a popular success on the scale of The Sapphires.
''I know The Burning Man ran some 'for your consideration' ads in trade magazines, and we're fine with that,'' he says. ''It's about creating awareness and making a case, and we've started encouraging that.''
The AACTA Awards will be broadcast on Ten at 9.30pm Wednesday.