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Winners & Special Mentions: Sydney and Melbourne Lift-Off Film Festival 2023

Thank you to all the filmmakers who participated in the 2023 Sydney and Melbourne Lift-Off Film Festival. It has been a fantastic experience witnessing so many filmmakers taking part and the tremendous global support for authentic independent cinema.

After meticulous scrutiny, the judges' evaluations have been combined with the audience's feedback. We extend our warmest congratulations to the filmmakers who graced our screens! In particular, we commend the following films for their exceptional contribution...


Festival Winners

We are thrilled to announce the Sydney & Melbourne Lift-Off Film Festival winners in their respective categories! Huge congratulations to all the winners!

Beyond The Cut

Dir. Daniel Guerrero
Synopsis:It was 1968 when a 14-year-old Italian, Paul De Luca, walked into a barber shop to ask for an apprenticeship. In 1973, he took over the shop and 54 years later he’s still in charge.
Despite the changes and challenges that come with time, Paul’s dedication, craftsmanship, and devotion remain unwavering.
This is the story of Brisbane's Most Iconic Barber.

Short Listed for Best Short Documentary


Dir. Shane Joseph Willis
Synopsis: A thief who downloads memories and information to sell to the highest bidder is cornered by a mysterious woman who wants information of her own; but the woman is not all that she appears.

Short Listed for Best Short Film


Dir. Tessa Tan
Synopsis: An elderly wife struggling to live with her husband and his deteriorating cognition, finds reprieve in the card game Solitaire.

Short Listed for Best First-Time Film

The Last Song

Dir. James Brough
Synopsis: The Last Song paints a poignant portrait of an Aboriginal Elder in the Pilbara, North Western Australia, Stephen Stewart known as Number 2 life unfolds like a living chronicle of the region's history. This centenarian, a revered cultural singer and lore keeper, has seamlessly traversed the pages of time. Number 2's journey is a rich tapestry woven with experiences as a stockman, a champion jockey and a soldier. His journey encapsulates the very essence of Australia's past.

Short Listed for Best Feature Narrative

Short Listed Films

The Lift-Off Season Awards is an annual event that celebrates the very best of indie film. Following each Lift-Off film festival, films that have excelled in their respective category are short listed for a Season Awards Nomination.  At the end of the year, once all the 12 city-based festival have taken place, the shortlisted nominated films are reviewed again by the jury and Official Nominations are designated.  Click here for more information about the Lift-Off Season Awards.

Don't Wait: The Men's Mental Health Project

Dir. Elliott Sauvage, Matt Kirby
Synopsis: This project explores the mindset of 4 athletes whose battles with mental health have inspired them to create opportunity for change in others.

Special Mention and Short Listed for Best Short Film

Love, Charlie: The Rise and Fall of Chef Charlie Trotter

Dir. Rebecca Halpern
Synopsis: Charlie Trotter revolutionized American cuisine but his quest for excellence cost him everything. Featuring Grant Achatz, Emeril Lagasse, and Wolfgang Puck.

Special Mention and Short Listed for Best Feature Documentary

Audience Choice

The Audience Choice award is given to the filmmakers whose film received the most votes during the festival. The filmmakers will be invited to join us on the Lift-Off YouTube channel for a directors commentary roundtable. Join in the conversation as we delve deeper into each film.

Karkas Heroes of Old

Dir. Jerónimo Cabrera
Synopsis: The heroes of yesteryear and the new generations directed by Bruno Guay, draw up a plan against the Multi-Nazian Corporation chaired by Mister Master, the cause of all the ills of society, to recover the balance and welfare state


Dir. Courtney Wagner
Synopsis: Princess Ellora has some reservations about inheriting the throne. Her reservations are often quelled by her guard, Brynn, who promises to support her through even the toughest times. After Ellora's betrothal becomes imminent, the girls must decide if their feelings for one another are to be acted upon before it's too late, or extinguished.

Agent: Billy the commando

Dir. Teyva Yannick Alex Yannick Alex Ndong Ndong Mba
Synopsis: Agent is about a trained agent who is going all around the world in mission to do justice.

The Naughty List

Dir. Luke Antoun
Synopsis: A young girl kidnaps and tortures Santa in an attempt to get off The Naughty List.


Dir. Chase Bowman
Synopsis: When a restless young woman finally gets to sleep, she’s met with confronting and alluring imagery, but will she be able to wake up before it’s too late?