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Adelaide film Girl Asleep wins $100,000

AAP logoAAP 27/08/2016 By Danielle McGrane

Quirky coming-of-age film Girl Asleep has won the richest prize in Australian film, beating the home favourite Jasper Jones at the CinefestOz festival in WA.

Directed by Rosemary Myers and written by Matthew Whittet, Girl Asleep was chosen over three other finalists to win the $100,000 prize.

The whimsical film began life on stage as a production for Adelaide's Windmill Theatre in 2014.

It beat more than 30 submissions and was crowned the winner at a gala event hosted by Ben Elton at the Margaret River festival on Saturday.

The movie follows Greta Driscoll (played by 16-year-old Melbourne actress Bethany Whitmore) as she journeys into a world of fantasy and fairytale during her 15th birthday party in 1970s suburban Australia.

Director Gillian Armstrong (My Brilliant Career) headed up the jury and said the decision to award Girl Asleep was unanimous.

“The film was a dazzling treat, brave, clever, funny and heartfelt with a wonderful cast and performances especially by the two lead kids, Bethany Whitmore and Harrison Feldman," Armstrong said.

Feldman, known for his role in ABC show Upper Middle Bogan, played Greta's geeky friend Elliot.

“Beautifully, wickedly designed and shot, it was a visual treat with a brave and successful heightened style that never took us out of the humanity and poignancy of the story. Special mention must go to Elliot's party hair style and blue suit!”

There was a 50/50 gender split among finalists with female directors at the helm of both Girl Asleep and Jasper Jones (Rachel Perkins).

The Death and Life of Otto Bloom (directed by Cris Jones) and Spin Out (directed by Tim Ferguson and Marc Gracie), which both starred young Aussie actor Xavier Samuel, rounded out the finalists.

At an earlier festival event, Armstrong said the industry still had a long way to go to reach gender equity.

"The truth is, it's not a level playing field and with the role models that this country produced with Jane Campion, Jocelyn Moorhouse and me, it should be better," Armstrong told AAP.

"It's 50/50 at the film schools but only 17 per cent of women end up directing. Girls are not getting the break or a foot in the door."

Armstrong was recognised for her outstanding achievements as an Australian director, and named the CinefestOZ 2016 Screen Legend.

The film festival has been running for nine years in the Margaret River region and has grown in popularity with ticket sales up 20 per cent on last year and more than 23,000 people in attendance, according to the festival's organisers.

At the event, the state government announced it had secured a two-year deal to continue sponsoring the event through Tourism WA and the Royalties for Regions program, which is derived from mining industry money.

Previous winners include Robert Connolly for his film Paper Planes and last year's winner, the documentary Putuparri and the Rainmakers, directed by Nicole Ma.

"CinefestOZ is the best festival out of the major cities," Armstrong said.

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