The Australian Academy Cinema Television Arts (AACTA) went to great lengths over the course of the last few months to re-align and rebrand itself as a serious film industry.
It also had sneaked into the ever crowded international market – launching the international arm of AACTA and managing to coax Meryl Streep, Jean Dujardin and Michel Hazanavicius to the ceremony.

Which therefore made the style and content of their Australian ceremony, on January 31 2012 even more puzzling.
We are known as a country that likes to take the piss out of things, have a laugh and not take many things too serious – but certain aspects of the ceremony were cringeworthy and blatantly insulting.

The ‘Red Carpet’ component was nothing more than a glorified advertisement for Samsung, with David Jones close behind.
We all can appreciate the importance of sponsorship, especially to a brand attempting a re-birth, but significant and constantly blatantly product plugs  cheapened the expectation of the night.

The ceremony itself attempted, it seems, to position itself between the prestige of an Oscar ceremony, and the relaxed off the cuff randomness of the Logies. Larrikinism was at the fore. 

Geoffrey Rush, the Inaugural AACTA President, appeared on stage behind a giant Australian flag, coupled with constant references to his ‘Australian of the Year’ award by the voice over talent, and a pre recorded segment shot in India (which in itself was offensive).  Rush’s speech was fine, but the surroundings in which he delivered it seemed to mock his appointment to an important role of the industry.  A string of jokes using the sponsor’s name was simply cheap. 

And then there were the live musical interludes.  Songs specifically written for the ceremony, with lyrics based on the plot of each nominated Best Film.
The Hunter was stripped down to a version of ‘Teddy Bears Picnic’.  But the apex of offence occurred with the insensitive re-telling of Oranges and Sunshine, as belted out by Magda Szubanski.

As a voting AACTA member, Oranges and Sunshine is such an important film in the canon of our industry. The gross mistreatment of children from the 1950s and 1960s as they were removed from their parents in England and sent to Australia, was finally laid out on the screen.
The accompanying hokey musical number was highly offensive to those who had to endure the mistreatment all those decades ago.  

The fact that the audience in attendance applauded the performance, was quite frankly, sickening.  

To think, that one of the industry’s most extraordinary nights , where Red Dog became the first film since Lonely Hearts in 1982,  to the win Best Film and no other industry award, was overshadowed by a lack of sensitivity by those producing the ceremony.

We have so many talented writers in Australia (although one of the screenplay categories wasn’t even telecasted), yet we were delivered with an underwhelming and frightfully eccentric ceremony that cheapened the industry’s brand and made me feel ashamed.

– Rhett Bartlett.