LONDON: The 71st British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards were held last night at London’s Royal Albert Hall. A plethora of stars, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were in attendance at the ceremony where celebrities stood in solidarity with the #MeToo movement which took centre stage.
Crime drama Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri took home five Bafta film awards, including Best Film, topping an emotionally charged ceremony that featured fashion and rhetoric in support of the fight against sexual harassment sweeping Hollywood.
The movie, chronicling a grieving mother’s campaign for justice, won for Best Original Screenplay and Outstanding British Film, while Frances McDormand bagged Best Actress and Sam Rockwell Best Supporting Actor awards.
Sam Rockwell, who won for his portrayal of a dumb, racist cop in Three Billboards, described himself as a “journeyman actor” and dedicated the award to his “friend, Alan Rickman”.
The Shape of Water, which is a story of a mute cleaning woman who falls in love with an Amazonian sea creature, had been expected by many people to sweep up. It received the most nominations, 12, and came away with three wins; Production Design and Music and for del Toro as Best Director.
Victoria & Abdul, starring Indian actor Ali Fazal opposite veteran actress Judi Dench, lost its race for the Best Make-Up and Hair category to the film Darkest Hour.
Helmed by Stephen Frears, Victoria & Abdul is based on a novel by Shrabani Basu. It revolves around the relationship shared by Queen Victoria (Dench) and Abdul (Ali), who was a Munshi in her government. It also shows his journey on how he became one of the most powerful figures in the court.
The only prize decided by the public, the Rising Star award, went to British actor Daniel Kaluuya, who features in the horror-comedy Get Out.
Allison Janney won Best Supporting Actress for I, Tonya, Blade Runner 2049 won Best Special Effects and Cinematography, while Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk won Best Sound.
“I loved doing this crazy part and finding her humanity, that’s what I try and do in all roles,” Janney said backstage.
Gary Oldman’s turn as Churchill in the Darkest Hour has so far won him a Golden Globe and a Bafta.
He paid tribute to the wartime British leader, saying: “In those dark, uncertain days in 1940, he held the line for honour, for integrity and freedom for his nation and the world, so I thank you, Sir Winston.”
With Hollywood still reeling from the fallout of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the resulting anti-sexual harassment campaigns were reflected in the mood of the evening.
“Our film is a hopeful one in lots of ways but it is also an angry one,” Martin McDonagh, writer and director of Three Billboards, said in his acceptance speech.
“And as we’ve seen this year, sometimes anger is the only way to get people to listen and to change, so we’re thrilled that Bafta has recognised this.”
The BAFTA fellowship went to director Ridley Scott. In his acceptance speech, Scott praised his teachers for starting him on his journey. “Teaching is the most important of professions. Sort that out and social problems will get sorted out,” he said.
Stars arrived at London’s Royal Albert Hall predominantly dressed in black in solidarity with the #MeToo and ‘Time’s Up’ campaigns, mirroring other recent American red carpets including last month’s Golden Globes.
Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lawrence, Lupita Nyong’o, Salma Hayek and Margot Robbie were among the stars who wore black.
British royals avoid making overtly political statements or gestures, so there was little surprise when the Duchess of Cambridge chose to wear a dark green dress, by British designer Jenny Packham, as she accompanied husband Prince William, president of Bafta, to the ceremony.
Jane Lush, chair of Bafta, opened the evening soberly telling the star-studded audience it was important to acknowledge a “difficult” past year and noted efforts to tackle gender inequality.
“Brave revelations have followed brave revelations of bullying and sexual harassment, and which to all our shame has been hidden in plain sight for decades,” she said.
“This is a moment in history, it should be a watershed, a catalyst for lasting change.”
Host Joanna Lumley, a British film and TV star, also praised the gender equality movement as a continuation of the work of the Suffragettes a century ago.
She hailed the “determination to eradicate the abuse of women the world over” as she took to the stage.