La La Land was the big winner at the 70th British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) film awards on Sunday night, the last big awards ceremony before the Oscars on February 26.
The main Bafta nominations closely followed the Oscars’ list, with La La Land leading the pack with 11 nods (compared with 14 at the Oscars). Arrival had nine nods and Manchester by the Sea six.
As usual, there was also a strong focus on British talent, especially reflected in categories such as Best British Film and Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer.
There was some regional interest in both of these categories – Babak Anvari’s Dubai co-produced horror Under the Shadow, set in Tehran in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq War, was nominated for both.
The celebs started arriving on the red carpet at about 4.15pm UK time (8.15pm in the UAE) for the 6.45pm ceremony. Here are a few of the key moments.
In recent years, the Oscars has sparked much debate and controversy about how good a job the Oscars host has done, from Hugh Jackman’s sterling effort in 2009 to Seth MacFarlane’s poorly received 2013 stint.
No such uncertainty at the Baftas, with British national treasure Stephen Fry a fixture at the event. This was his 12th time hosting since his 2001 debut, and he was as reliable as ever.
After a jarring bit of on-screen product placement by the main sponsor, telecommunications company EE, featuring mobile phones in films to remind the audience to switch their phones off, Fry quickly got the audience on side with a gentle political dig at US president Donald Trump, noting that “only a blithering idiot” would think Meryl Streep wasn’t an incredible actress. He then continued his annual “Bafta Valentine’s kiss” tradition with the Hollywood legend, and it was smooth sailing from thereon in. Good start.
It was bound to happen and the stars did not disappoint, with plenty of critical comments about the new American president. Surely a taster of even more criticism to come at the Oscars this month. A couple of winners took an alternative political approach.
Ken Loach, picking up the Best British Film award for his socially conscious drama I, Daniel Blake berated the UK government for the “callous brutality with which it treats its most vulnerable people”, as well as those seeking to enter the country. He ended with the statement:
“Filmmakers know which side they’re on, and despite the glitz and the glamour of occasions like this, we’re with the people.”
On a more light-hearted note, La La Land composer Justin Hurwitz picked up his Best Music Award by thanking Russia for hacking the Bafta vote so he could win, a reference to claims that Russia had influenced the US presidential election.
Best Actress in a Leading Role winner Emma Stone, for her role in La La Land, got in on the act, too, urging us to use creativity to fight a “divisive world and transcend borders”.
We were thrilled to see Under the Shadow’s team of Babak Anvari (writer/director), Emily Leo, Oliver Roskill and Lucan Toh (producers) pick up the award for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer. Anvari took time, direct from the ceremony to give The National a brief exclusive statement via phone. “What an honour, thank you Bafta. Is that too boring?” he asked, perhaps a little overwhelmed.
The big winners
La La Land picked up five awards. As well as Stone and Hurwitz’s honours, it won Best Film, Best Cinematography and Damian Chazelle won Best Direction.
Manchester by the Sea won two awards – Casey Affleck for Best Actor in a Leading Role and Kenneth Lonergan for Best Original Screenplay, as did true-life adoption drama Lion (Dev Patel receiving Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Luke Davies getting Best Adapted Screenplay).
The grand finale
For the night’s final, previously announced award, Simon Pegg and Nathan Lane took to the stage to present the honorary Bafta Fellowship to comedian and filmmaker Mel Brooks, who joins the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Alfred Hitchcock in the Academy’s hall of fame. Prince William presented the award.
Roll of honour
Other winners included Viola Davis, who received the Best Supporting Actress award for her role in Denzel Washington’s drama Fences, new Spider-Man Tom Holland, who received the Rising Star Award, and Hungarian Holocaust drama Son of Saul, which won Best Foreign Language Film.