Sydney Film Festival New First Nations Award

Rebecca Varidel
31st Jan 2024

Sydney Film Festival announces the launch of the First Nations Award establishing the world's largest cash prize for Indigenous filmmaking at $35,000, proudly supported by Truant Pictures.

Open to First Nations filmmakers from across the globe, the First Nations Award celebrates the profound contributions of First Nations filmmakers to the cinematic landscape. Any film, including short films, featured within the Festival’s First Nations program automatically qualifies for consideration for the award, with the winner announced at the SFF Closing Night on 16 June.

Filmmakers from across Australia and around the world have just weeks to finalise their submissions to become eligible for a record prize pool worth $200,000 at the 71st Sydney Film Festival, including the $60,000 Sydney Film Prize and the world’s largest environment film prize of $40,000 with the Sustainable Future Award.

The entry deadline for all film submissions, including those for the First Nations Award, is 01 March 2024.

Entries are open to features, documentaries and short films in all categories of the Festival program, including for:


Dendy Awards for Australian Short Films, prizes include; The Dendy Live Action Short Award for best Australian short film ($7,000) and the Rouben Mamoulian Award for best Australian short film director ($7,000), both sponsored by Dendy Cinemas, who have supported the Awards for35 years.

The Yoram Gross Animation Award for best Australian animated short film ($7,000), supported by Sandra and Guy Gross in memory of the Australian animation producer and director Yoram Gross.

The AFTRS Craft Award for demonstrated excellence by a craft practitioner in an Australian short film ($7,000), sponsored by AFTRS.

The Event Cinemas Rising Talent Award recognising an emerging short filmmaker who has had no more than five short film credits ($7,000). This award is sponsored by Event Cinemas and open to film creatives, directors and screenwriters.

FLUX: Art+Film International Shorts under 15 minutes in length
Freak Me Out International Shorts under 15 minutes in length
Family International Shorts under 15 minutes in length
Features (40 mins+):

Australian Features (Fiction)
International Features (Fiction and Documentary)

Any length:

Documentary Australia Award acknowledging excellence in Australian documentary production of any length ($20,000), supported by Documentary Australia for 10 years running.

Sustainable Future Award for a narrative or documentary film of any length that deepens our knowledge and awareness of the impact of the global climate emergency ($40,000), made possible by a syndicate of passionate climate activists led by award sponsor, Amanda Maple-Brown.

Screenability Program. Welcoming entries of any length to the festival’s Screenability program from filmmakers living with disability.

First Nations Program. Encouraging submissions (features, documentaries and shorts) to the festival from First Nations filmmakers from Australia and around the world ($35,000).
All feature length films selected for the Festival are considered for inclusion in the Official Competition and compete for the Sydney Film Prize ($60,000).

The Dendy Awards for Australian Short Films and the Documentary Australia Award for Best Australian Documentary competition are open exclusively to Australian productions.

Before entering, Festival organisers urge all entrants to review the submission requirements closely, to ensure all entries meet premiere status and broader eligibility requirements. A small fee applies for all programs and awards, except for Screenability and First Nations which have their fee waived.

Head to for full eligibility criteria and submission details.


The closing date for all entries is 01 March 2024.

Sydney Film Festival Chair Darren Dale said, “It is entirely fitting that the Sydney Film Festival, which for so long has been a champion of First Nations stories and storytellers from around the world, now offers the largest single cash prize for First Nations film, globally. This prize will inspire, motivate and reward established and emerging First Nations filmmakers with the promise that their art is important, is valued and will be seen. This extraordinary award has been made possible thanks to the generous and visionary leadership of Zareh and Ping Nalbandian and we are so grateful for this impactful gift.”

Festival Director Nashen Moodley, said, “The First Nations Award is more than a celebration of unique storytelling; it's a crucial investment in the future of Indigenous cinema. By offering this level of support, we hope to encourage more First Nations filmmakers to share their stories, enriching the film industry with diverse perspectives and voices. This award aligns seamlessly with Sydney Film Festival’s long-standing commitment to fostering cultural diversity and amplifying Indigenous narratives.”

Zareh Nalbandian, CEO/Producer Animal Logic Entertainment and Truant Pictures, said, “Ping and I are honoured to support the Sydney Film Festival’s First Nations Award through our independent Australian production company Truant Pictures. The Award speaks volumes about SFF’s mission to support global Indigenous voices and support diversity in storytelling. We are excited to experience the rich tapestry of First Nations films and showcase these stories as part of the Festival in June. We hope this elevation of Indigenous voices serves as a catalyst for fostering continued dialogue, bridging cultural gaps, and empowering First Nations voices worldwide.”