The Black Balloon is named Australian Film of the Year by the Catholic Film Office for 2008

The jury of the Australian Catholic Film Office (ACFO) has awarded its 2008 Film of the Year to Elissa Down’s The Black Balloon.

The demanding family life of The Mollisons centres around the needs of Charlie who is physically on the cusp of manhood, but Charlie doesn’t speak.  He’s autistic and has ADD.  His complex needs and his responses see him act out at the worst times in the most embarrassing of ways. With Thomas his younger brother at once protective and humiliated by Charlie’s behaviour,  Simon, the father, who is denial about the pressure in his home and an extraordinary mother who is heavily pregnant with “a little surprise”, the Mollinsons are doing it tough.

Director of the office and jury chair, Jesuit Priest, Fr Richard Leonard said, “This film is all about the extent of sacrificial love, what parents will do for their children, and how far a brother will go to carry his sibling.”

Director Elissa Down does not spare the audience much of the extremely challenging situations and issues this family has to face. This film shows us how complicated, tender, violent and chaotic a family who lives with severe disability can actually be.

The jury was especially impressed the truly remarkable performance of Luke Ford as Charlie. “He is both lovable and demanding, but the stress he places upon the family is almost intolerable to watch. The sobering thought is to consider how many families live this all-too rarely seen life every day,” Fr Leonard said.  

Shot on very small budget The Black Balloon is a modest Australian drama that admirably achieves everything it sets out to do. “It affectionately lifts the lid on some significant suffering in the suburbs. It is raw in parts, but so is the life some families who face up to this every hour of every day. This story ends up being about amazing grace.”

Other films short listed for this year’s prize included Nash Edgerton’s “The Square”,  Peter Duncan’s “Unfinished Sky”, Cathy Randall’s “Hey Hey It’s Esther Blueburger” and Chris Weeks’ “Bitter and Twisted”.

Fr Richard Leonard

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