Oranges and Sunshine is named Australian Film of the Year by the Catholic Film Office for 2011.

Noting the quality of many of the Australian films produced this year, the jury of the Australian Catholic Film Office (ACFO) has awarded its 2011 Film of the Year to Jim Loach’s Oranges and Sunshine.

This film tells the story of a Nottingham social worker, Margaret Humphreys (Emily Watson), who almost singlehandedly confronted the UK Government on its relocation scheme that forcibly moved more than 130,000 children from the UK to other countries between the 1940s and the 1970s. More than 7,000 so-called “degenerate” and “unfit” children, who were in the protection of the UK social services, were shipped to Australia.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the movie is that it treats these events with a complete lack of sensationalism, giving the movie great power. The film dramatizes what the children and their parents went through, and focuses mainly on the effects of the injustice on the children, who now, as adults, are desperately coping with a loss of identity.

“The jury felt that while the film is rightly critical of the way often Church-run institutions, orphanages and schools in Australia were complicit in the terrible injustices done to these children, we also believe it throws light on the damage done to innocent victims, the devastating consequences for some, and the possible healing for others. Things to which the Catholic Church in Australia is, now, totally committed”, jury chair, Fr Richard Leonard said.

Jim Loach, as first-time Director, offers a social-issues film of great restraint that demonstrates a passionate commitment to justice as it searches for the truth behind terrible wrong.

“It considers a particularly dark chapter of Catholic history in this country, and it shows events that must never be allowed to happen again”, Fr Leonard said.

The jury also highly commended Jonathan Teplitzky’s Burning Man, as a stunning exploration of grief, and noted the very strong and compelling sextet of films relating the experiences of indigenous Australians: Toomelah, The Tall Man, Mad Bastards, Red Hill, Here I Am and Murrandak.

Previous winners of the ACFO’s Film include The Waiting City, Samson & Delilah, The Black Balloon, The Jammed, Ten Canoes, Look Both Ways, Tom White, Japanese Story, Rabbit Proof Fence, The Tracker, Beneath Clouds, Black and White, Australian Rules, Facing the Music and Looking for Alibrandi.

Fr Richard Leonard SJ, the Director of the Australian Catholic Film Office is available for interviews or comment on 0409 120 928.