December 13, 2010 / 4:00 AM / 7 years ago

Gangster film wins big at Australian Film Institute awards

2 Min Read

<p>Australian director David Michod arrives on the red carpet for the screening of his film "Animal Kingdom" at the Rome Film Festival October 29, 2010.Alessandro Bianchi</p>

SYDNEY (Reuters) - A gritty film about an underworld Melbourne family swept the top awards at the Australian Film Institute (AFI) awards at the weekend, claiming 10 of a record 18 nominations.

"Animal Kingdom," written and directed by David Michod took the coveted award for Best Film, along with prizes for Best Direction and Best Original Screenplay.

"I just wanted to have a career," Michod told reporters after the ceremony Saturday.

He said he began writing his debut film in 2000.

"I just wanted the thing to be as good as it possibly could be and I drove myself crazy in the process," media quoted him as saying.

The film won the prestigious World Cinema Jury Prize in the dramatic category at this year's Sundance Awards in January.

The film's stars also won the top acting awards in Melbourne, with Ben Mendelsohn winning Best Lead Actor and veteran Jacki Weaver Best Lead Actress.

It was Weaver's third AFI award in 34 years. She was Best Lead Actress in 1971 and Best Supporting Actress in 1976.

Weaver's performance has also been well received by American critics. She has already won two American-based acting awards for her portrayal of the matriarch "Smurf" and has been nominated for at least four others including the Golden Globes.

Australian media are speculating about an Oscar nomination.

"Animal Kingdom" centres on 17-year-old Joshua, whose mother shielded him from her criminal family. Following her death, he contacts the family matriarch for a place to live and is caught in the middle when pressure from the police leads to conflict.

Writing by Elaine Lies; Editing by Clement Tan

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