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Afrofuturist Musical 'Neptune Frost' Just Won MIFF's First-Ever $140,000 Bright Horizons Award

Poet and musician Saul Williams and playwright Anisia Uzeyman co-direct this Rwanda-set sci-fi musical, which is executive produced by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
By Sarah Ward
August 20, 2022
By Sarah Ward
August 20, 2022

Much has happened in the Melbourne International Film Festival's 70-year history. A vast array of movies have flickered across big screens and, via its online program during the past few years, through Australian homes as well. Famous names aplenty have graced the fest on-screen and in-person. Films have brought their glow to the planetarium, dedicated cinephiles have sat through 13-hour rare gems, and plenty of heated discussions about what's great — and isn't — have livened up cinema foyers. But only in 2022 has MIFF awarded a $140,000 to the winner of its very own film prize. That lucky flick: Afrofuturist musical Neptune Frost, which has just been named the Bright Horizons Award-recipient at the fest's closing night.

Back in February, MIFF announced that it was launching its own competition — to commemorate the longest-running film fest in the southern hemisphere's huge milestone year, and join the Cannes, Venice and Berlin film festivals, as well as Sydney, in giving out a prestigious gong. Eleven movies were chosen to compete as part of the full 2022 fest program, with the winner receiving the Best Film Award — and, thanks to that $140,000 sum, the southern hemisphere's richest feature film prize.

Hailing from poet and musician Saul Williams and playwright Anisia Uzeyman, who co-direct, Neptune Frost is a bold and inventive Rwanda-set sci-fi musical that firmly stands out among the Bright Horizons contenders — which also included Australian films Petrol and The Stranger, the Paul Mescal (Normal People)-starring Aftersun, wild Filipino genre-bender Leonor Will Never Die, weighty American drama Mass and Mexican drug trade drama Robe of Gems. Its MIFF win comes after proving a critical hit at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, and also after boasting Lin-Manuel Miranda's seal of approval, with the Hamilton creator and star one of the movie's executive producers.

Picking the winner: actor and director Shareena Clanton (Fires, Wentworth), the jury president, plus filmmaker and artist Lynette Wallworth (Tender), cinematographer Adam Arkapaw (Animal Kingdom, True Detective) and director/screenwriter Mouly Surya (Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts).

Announcing their selection, Clanton said that "Neptune Frost was like nothing we have ever seen before. By disrupting the colonial gaze and connecting the rising influence of technology in all our lives, this film penetrates deeply into your heart and soul to say that you are not too far disconnected from me. It felt at once absolutely specific, and entirely global."

The MIFF jury also highlighted one other film from the fest's 2022 lineup for another gong: the $70,000 Blackmagic Design Australian Innovation Award. Also new, it recognises an outstanding Australian creative from one of the festival's movies, and can span span a large number of roles, including the winning flick's director, technical or creative lead, or other craft positions.

This year's recipient was indeed a filmmaker, Nyul Nyul/Yawuru director Jub Clerc (The Turning), who emerged victorious for coming-of-age road movie Sweet As — starring Tasma Walton (How to Please a Woman), Mark Coles Smith (Mystery Road: Origin), Carlos Sanson Jr (Bump) and Shantae Barnes-Cowan (Firebite).

And, similarly announced at MIFF's 2022 closing night: this year's MIFF Audience Award Winner, which went to Bruce Permezel and Rhian Skirving's Greenhouse by Joost. As the name makes plain, it follows zero-waste activist Joost Bakker and his Future Food System, which resulted in a farm-to-table restaurant in Melbourne's Federation Square.

The 2022 Melbourne International Film Festival runs until Sunday, August 21 in-person, and until Sunday, August 28 via MIFF Play, the fest's online platform.

Published on August 20, 2022 by Sarah Ward
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