‘High Ground’, ‘The Newsreader’ lead early AACTA Award nominations

October 31 2021

AACTA has revealed those in contention for the major film, television and short-form prizes at this year’s awards, with High Ground leading the charge in the film categories and The Newsreader ahead in television.

The nominations follow those revealed for feature documentary in July, with the technical craft categories still to come.

AACTA also announced today that this year’s awards will move from The Star to the Sydney Opera House, with the ceremony to be held December 8.

There has also been a change in broadcast partners from Seven to 10, where the ceremony will air first followed by an encore on FOX Arena on Foxtel, Binge, and AACTA TV.

High Ground has earned eight nominations, including Best Film. Also nominated for the night’s major prize are Nitram, which earned seven nods, The Dry, which has six, as well as The Furnace, Penguin Bloom and Rams.

The Best Indie Film Award, designed to honour independent and low budget filmmaking (under $2 million), will be a contest between Disclosure, Ellie and Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt), Lone Wolf, Moon Rock for Monday, My First Summer and Under My Skin.

While the previous two years have seen women triumph in the Best Direction category, with both Jennifer Kent and Shannon Murphy honoured for The Nightingale and Babyteeth respectively, this year is an all-male affair. The nominees include Robert Connolly for The Dry, Roderick MacKay for his debut feature The Furnace, Stephen Maxwell Johnson for High Ground, Justin Kurzel for Nitram and Glendyn Ivin for Penguin Bloom.

High Ground co-stars Simon Baker and Jacob Junior Nayinggul will each vie for the Best Actor Award alongside Eric Bana for The Dry, Ahmed Malek for The Furnace and Caleb Landry Jones for Nitram.

Nominated for Best Actress are Rose Byrne (Peter Rabbit 2), Judy Davis (Nitram), Noni Hazlehurst (June Again), Genevieve O’Reilly (The Dry) and Naomi Watts (Penguin Bloom).

The supporting actor category will also see High Ground co-stars spar, with both Jack Thompson and Sean Mununggurr nominated alongside Rams’ Michael Caton, Nitram’s Anthony LaPaglia and The Furnace‘s Baykali Ganambarr.

Vying for supporting actress are Nitram‘s Essie Davis, June Again‘s Claudia Karvan, High Ground‘s Esmerelda Marimowa, The Dry‘s Miranda Tapsell and Penguin Bloom’s Jacki Weaver.

Shaun Grant has the opportunity to take out both the original and adapted screenplay categories for Nitram and Penguin Bloom respectively, with Penguin Bloom co-writer Harry Cripps also double nominated for The Dry alongside Robert Connolly.

The original screenplay category also recognises Monica Zanetti for Ellie and Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt), MacKay for The Furnace, Chris Anastassiades for High Ground, and JJ Winlove for June Again, and the adapted category Will Gluck and Patrick Burleigh for Peter Rabbit 2 and Jules Duncan for Rams.

Anna Torv and Sam Reid in ‘The Newsreader’.
In television, The Newsreader is in the running for 10 awards, including Best Drama Series, with director Emma Freeman and actors Anna Torv, Sam Reid, William McInnes, Stephen Peacocke, Michelle Lim Davidson and Marg Downey among those to earn a nod.

Joining the ABC/Werner Film Production series in the best drama category are Clickbait, Jack Irish, Mr Inbetween, Total Control, Wakefield and Wentworth, while the best miniseries or telefeature category will see A Sunburnt Christmas, The End, Fires, New Gold Mountain and The Unusual Suspects duke it out.

Best narrative comedy is a competition between Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House Of Fun, Fisk, Frayed, Preppers and Rosehaven, and comedy entertainment program between Dom and Adrian 2020, Hard Quiz, The Moth Effect, Spicks And Specks and The Weekly.

Deborah Mailman has the chance to back up her 2019 Best Lead Actress in a Drama win for Total Control, competing with Mandy McElhinney for Wakefield, Miranda Otto for Fires, Pamela Rabe for Wentworth (who previously won the award in 2013) and Torv for The Newsreader.

Vying against Reid for his turn as a rookie reporter in The Newsreader for Best Actor in a Drama are Guy Pearce for Jack Irish, Richard Roxburgh for Fires, and Scott Ryan for Mr Inbetween.

Hazlehurst is nominated again for Best Supporting Actress for her work in The End, squaring off with Lim Davidson and Downey, Rachel Griffiths for Total Control and Harriet Dyer for Wakefield. The male equivalent category is a battle between McInnes, Peacocke, Mr Inbetween‘s Matt Nable and Justin Rosniak and Wakefield‘s Harry Greenwood.

The best comedy performer category recognises Rosehaven duo Celia Pacquola and Luke McGregor, Nakkiah Lui for Preppers, Sarah Kendall for Frayed, Tom Gleeson for Hard Quiz, Kitty Flanagan for Fisk, and both Samual Bonnano and Broden Kelly for Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House of Fun.

Best Documentary Program is a contest between Brazen Hussies, EXPOSED: The Ghost Train Fire, Life in Colour with David Attenborough, Ms Represented with Annabel Crabb, Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds and The School That Tried to End Racism.

Bluey will seek its third consecutive win in the Best Children’s Program category, against 100% Wolf: Legend of the Moonstone, The Bureau of Magical Things, Dive Club, Hardball, and Kangaroo Beach.

“AACTA is proud to be able to host and honour the work of Australia’s established and emerging talent; whose work kept us entertained and connected for the past year. 2021 has been a challenging year for many Australian industries and ours is no exception,” AACTA CEO Damian Trewhella said.

“We are privileged to be able to host an event that brings together some of Australia’s most talented and creative practitioners and allows us to recognise the people who have kept us entertained over the past year. Being able to do this at the iconic Sydney Opera House is icing on the cake.”

AACTA members can see all 97 nominated films, TV shows, and short form content on AACTA TV.

Round 2 voting to determine the winner opens today and closes at 5pm AEDT Monday, November 8.

AACTA also announced today the return of its audience choice awards, spanning favourite australian actor, TV drama, film, competition reality show, entertainment show, digital comedy creator and TV host. Voting will run online until November 7, with the top five nominees in each category announced in early December ahead of the awards.

The full list of nominees:

Best Drama Series

Jack Irish
Mr Inbetween
The Newsreader
Total Control
Best Lead Actress in a Drama Presented by Foxtel

Deborah Mailman – Total Control
Mandy McElhinney – Wakefield
Miranda Otto – Fires
Pamela Rabe – Wentworth
Anna Torv – The Newsreader
Best Lead Actor in a Drama Presented by Foxtel

Rudi Dharmaligam – Wakefield
Guy Pearce – Jack Irish
Sam Reid – The Newsreader
Richard Roxburgh – Fires
Scott Ryan – Mr Inbetween
Best Supporting Actress in a Drama

Michelle Lim Davidson – The Newsreader
Marg Downey – The Newsreader
Harriet Dyer – Wakefield
Rachel Griffiths – Total Control
Noni Hazlehurst – The End
Best Supporting Actor in a Drama

Harry Greenwood – Wakefield
William McInnes – The Newsreader
Matt Nable – Mr Inbetween
Stephen Peacocke – The Newsreader
Justin Rosniak – Mr Inbetween
Best Miniseries or Telefeature

A Sunburnt Christmas
The End
New Gold Mountain
The Unusual Suspects
Best Direction in Drama or Comedy

Fires (Episode 2) – Ana Kokkinos
Mr Inbetween (Episode 6) – Nash Edgerton
The Newsreader (Episode 1) – Emma Freeman
Wakefield (Episode 5) – Kim Mordaunt
Wakefield (Episode 8) – Jocelyn Moorhouse
Best Narrative Comedy Series

Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House Of Fun
Best Stand-Up Special

Anne Edmonds and Lloyd Langford – Business with Pleasure
Celia Pacquola – Let Me Know How It All Works Out
Hannah Gadsby – Douglas
Lano and Woodley in Lano and Woodley
Rhys Nicholson Live at the Athenaeum
Tom Gleeson – Lighten Up
Best Comedy Performer

Mark Samual Bonanno – Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House Of Fun
Kitty Flanagan – Fisk
Tom Gleeson – Hard Quiz
Broden Kelly – Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House Of Fun
Sarah Kendall – Frayed
Nakkiah Lui – Preppers
Luke McGregor – Rosehaven
Celia Pacquola – Rosehaven
Best Comedy Entertainment Program

Dom and Adrian 2020
Hard Quiz
The Moth Effect
Spicks And Specks
The Weekly
Best Children’s Program

100% Wolf: Legend of the Moonstone
The Bureau of Magical Things
Dive Club
Kangaroo Beach
Best Reality Program

The Amazing Race Australia
Australian Survivor: Brains v Brawn
The Block
Luxe Listings Sydney
MasterChef Australia
The Real Housewives of Melbourne
Best Entertainment Program

Australian Ninja Warrior
LEGO® Masters Australia
The Masked Singer
Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras 2021
The Voice
Best Lifestyle Program

Adam and Poh’s Malaysia in Australia
The Cook Up with Adam Liaw
Gardening Australia
Grand Designs Australia
The Living Room
Love it or List it Australia
Best Documentary or Factual Program

Brazen Hussies
EXPOSED: The Ghost Train Fire
Life in Colour with David Attenborough
Ms Represented with Annabel Crabb
Old People’s Home For 4 Year Olds
The School That Tried to End Racism
Best Factual Entertainment Program

Australia Talks
Courtney Act’s One Plus One
Gogglebox Australia
Love on the Spectrum
The Project
You Can’t Ask That
Best Direction in Non-Fiction Television

Brazen Hussies – Catherine Dwyer
Hannah Gadsby – Douglas – Madeleine Parry
Love on the Spectrum (Episode 4) – Cian O’Clery
Ms Represented with Annabel Crabb (Episode 1) – Stamatia Maroupas
You Can’t Ask That (Episode 1) – Kirk Docker
Best Screenplay in Television

Mr Inbetween (Episode 6) – Scott Ryan
The Newsreader (Episode 1) – Michael Lucas
The Newsreader (Episode 5) – Kim Ho & Michael Lucas
Wakefield (Episode 5) – Kristen Dunphy & Sam Meikle
Total Control (Episode 1) – Stuart Page

Best Film

The Dry
The Furnace
High Ground
Penguin Bloom
Best Lead Actress in Film

Rose Byrne – Peter Rabbit 2
Judy Davis – Nitram
Noni Hazlehurst – June Again
Genevieve O’Reilly – The Dry
Naomi Watts – Penguin Bloom
Best Lead Actor in Film

Simon Baker – High Ground
Eric Bana – The Dry
Caleb Landry Jones – Nitram
Ahmed Malek – The Furnace
Jacob Junior Nayinggul – High Ground
Best Indie Film

Ellie and Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt)
Lone Wolf
Moon Rock For Monday
My First Summer
Under My Skin
Best Direction in Film

The Dry – Rob Connolly
The Furnace – Roderick MacKay
High Ground – Stephen Maxwell Johnson
Nitram – Justin Kurzel
Penguin Bloom – Glendyn Ivin
Best Supporting Actress in Film

Essie Davis – Nitram
Claudia Karvan – June Again
Esmerelda Marimowa – High Ground
Miranda Tapsell – The Dry
Jacki Weaver – Penguin Bloom
Best Supporting Actor in Film

Michael Caton – Rams
Baykali Ganambarr – The Furnace
Anthony LaPaglia – Nitram
Sean Mununggurr – High Ground
Jack Thompson – High Ground
Best Original Screenplay in Film

Ellie and Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt) – Monica Zanetti
The Furnace – Roderick MacKay
High Ground – Chris Anastassiades
June Again – JJ Winlove
Nitram – Shaun Grant
Best Adapted Screenplay in Film

The Dry – Rob Connolly & Harry Cripps
Penguin Bloom – Shaun Grant & Harry Cripps
Peter Rabbit 2 – Will Gluck & Patrick Burleigh
Rams – Jules Duncan

Best Short Form Comedy Presented by Facebook

A Life in Questions: Wisdom School with Aaron Chen
All My Friends Are Racist
Celebration Nation
Hug the Sun
Jimmy Rees
Samantha Andrew
Best Short Form Drama

Beautiful They
The Bends
Dwarf Planet
The Tailings
You and Me, Before and After
Best Short Form Entertainment

Chopsticks or Fork?
Gourmet Lazy
Nat’s What I Reckon
Ozzy Man Reviews
Strong Women
Woven Threads – Stories from Within