23 October 2023

The Adelaide Film Festival (AFF) has this evening announced the winners of the 2023 AFF Feature Fiction and Feature Documentary competitions.

The winner of the AFF Feature Fiction Award, sponsored by Swarmer, is the Iranian feature film Empty Nets with a $10,000 cash prize awarded to director Behrooz Karamizade.

In announcing their decision, the Jury said: “Behrooz Karamizade’s lean and confident debut feature Empty Nets is a searing portrait of the bleak socioeconomic reality for young people without family money in contemporary Iran, distinguished by atmospheric visuals, an evocative sense of place, stirring lead performances and a powerful grasp of the sea as a metaphor for both freedom and menace.”

The Jury also made special mention of the lead actress from the competition film Blaga’s Lessons noting “the remarkable Bulgarian actor Eli Skorcheva, returning to the screen after an absence of more than 30 years, with a gut-punch of a performance in the title role of Blaga’s Lessons

The winner of the AFF Feature Documentary Award, sponsored by Crumpler, is the film Hollywoodgate, with a $10,000 cash prize awarded to director, the Egyptian journalist turned filmmaker Ibrahim Nash’at.

In announcing the AFF Feature Documentary Award, the Jury said: “Ibrahim Nash’at’s Hollywoodgate is a masterful critique of two diametrically opposed systems — the U.S. military and the Taliban — conducted while working in close contact with the latter at great personal risk. An insightful fly-on-the-wall study of a transitional moment for Afghanistan following the withdrawal of American troops, which functions as both a detached Taliban infomercial and a slyly subversive takedown that crucially leaves itself open to multiple interpretations, all of them eye-opening.

Director Ibrahim Nash’at responded, “Thank you so much Adelaide Film Festival for inviting our film to your festival, and thank you Jury for giving us this precious award. The people of Afghanistan are being forgotten, and it is very important to keep their story alive. Afghanistan is a nation that has been devastated by wars and conflicts lasting over 42 years and which continues now with the crowning of the Taliban. At a time of the extreme right wing rising to power in so many nations, this former militia with extremist ideology has now too taken hold of Afghanistan with an oppressive and violent iron fist. Throughout the world, war and its propaganda is being used to spread hatred among us and we hope that this film can help deliver the message that violence is never ahistorical and warlords are warlords regardless of their ethnicity, nationality, colour, religion or ideology. War begets war begets war and civilians are paying the price.”

The Jury also made special mention of Lakota Nation vs United States, directed by Jesse Short Bull and Laura Tomaselli.

The two Awards were determined by this year’s AFF Jury – Kitty Green (The Royal Hotel, The Assistant) and Goran Stolevski (Housekeeping for Beginners, Of an Age), film journalist and critic David Rooney (The Hollywood Reporter), Indonesian film curator Alexander Matius and 2023 Don Dunstan Award recipient and, until recently, the ABC’s Head of Drama and Entertainment, Sally Riley.

Sally Riley, David Rooney, Alexander Matius, Goran Stolevski, Kitty Green.

Established in 2007, the Feature Fiction Competition at the AFF was the first of its kind in Australia. The Competition celebrates bold storytelling, innovative filmmaking that pushes the artform and overall fabulous films.  This year, the Feature Fiction is a selection of almost entirely first features capturing imagined worlds both rooted in the real or entirely visionary.


The six films in the Feature Fiction Competition in 2023 were: 

Blaga’s Lessonsfrom Bulgarian director Stephan Komandarev;

Embryo Larva Butterflyby Greek-Cypriot writer/director Kyros Papavassiliou;

Empty Nets, by Iranian filmmaker Behrooz Karamizade;

On The Go, from directors Julia de Castro and María Gisèle Royo;

Saheladirected by Australia’s Raghuvir Joshi; and

You’ll Never Find Me, from Adelaide filmmakers Josiah Allen and Indianna Bell.


The six films in the 2023 Documentary Competition were:

Apolonia, Apolonia from Danish director Lea Glob;

Hollywoodgate, by the Egyptian journalist turned filmmaker Ibrahim Nash’at;

Lakota Nation vs United States, from directors Jesse Short Bull and Laura Tomaselli;

Mutiny in Heaven: The Birthday Party, by director Ian White;

Seven Winters in Tehran, from director Steffi Niederzoll; and

The Mountains, by Norwegian director Christian Einshøj.