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SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian director Baz Luhrmann's outback epic "Australia" was passed over on Wednesday for the top film awards in his home country, presented by the Australian Film Institute.
"Australia," starring Australian actors Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman who have carved out Hollywood careers, failed to make the list of nominees for the AFI best film award despite high hopes for the $130 million 20th Century Fox movie, the most expensive ever made in Australia.
Neither Kidman nor Jackman were among the nominations for best lead actor or actress.
Instead the nominations for best film included "Balibo," Rachel Ward's directoral debut "Beautiful Kate," "Blessed," "Mao's Last Dancer," "Mary and Max" and "Samson & Delilah," a film about the desperate state of many Aboriginal communities.
"Australia," which runs for 2 hours 40 minutes, was among the nominees for the new member's choice award and received nominations in five other categories including best sound, original music score, production design, costume design, and best supporting actor.
"Balibo," directed by Robert Connolly, earned 14 nominations, the most for any film. The film is about the execution of five foreign journalists, including two Australians, during Indonesia's 1975 invasion of East Timor.
"Beautiful Kate" earned 10 nominations and "Mao's Last Dancer," the real-life story of Chinese dancer Li Cunxin who defected to the United States, won nine. Li is now a stockbroker living in Australia.
For the AFI international award for best actor, Russell Crowe was in the race for his role in "State of Play" against Martin Henderson of TV show "House," Anthony LaPaglia from TV show "Without A Trace" and Guy Pearce from "Bedtime Stories."
The contenders for the AFI international award for best actress were Rose Byrne in "Damages," Toni Collette in "United States of Tara" and Melissa George and Mia Wasikowska from "In Treatment."
The young stars of "Samson & Delilah," Marissa Gibson and Rowan McNamara, earned lead acting nominations against Sophie Lowe, Frances O'Connor and Sacha Horler in the actress category and Anthony LaPaglia, Ben Mendelsohn and Hugo Weaving in the male category.
The AFI awards will be presented on December 12 and 13.
Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Miral Fahmy