Gig-economy Western “Nomadland” won four prizes including best picture for Sunday at the British Academy Film Awards, which were given out during a pandemic-curbed ceremony that recognized a diverse array of screen talent.
“Nomadland” filmmaker Chloe Zhao became only the second woman, and the first woman of colour, to win the BAFTA for best director, and star Frances McDormand was was named best actress. “Nomadland” additionally claimed the cinematography prize.
Emerald Fennell’s revenge comedy “Promising Young Woman” was named best British film, while the best actor trophy went to 83-year-old Anthony Hopkins for playing a man grappling with dementia in “The Father.”
An event that was censured in the new past with the mark #BAFTAsSoWhite rewarded an diverse group of talents, including Black British star Daniel Kaluuya, rookie Bukky Bakray — who shone as a London young person in “Rocks” — and veteran Korean entertainer Yuh-Jung Youn.
The fact that Britain stays under Covid lockdown measures, with its cinemas theaters still closed, gave the evening a poignant tone, as did the demise on Friday of Prince Philip, spouse of Queen Elizabeth II, a long-lasting patron of the British film academy.
Sovereign William, who had been expected to attend and make a speech in his job as president of Britain’s film academy, was missing after the death of his grandfather. The ceremony opened with an tribute to Philip, who was the academy’s first president in 1959.
Moderators including Hugh Grant, Tom Hiddleston, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Priyanka Chopra Jonas reported the champs from the phase of London’s Royal Albert Hall, but recipients accepted their honors remotely, and there was no black-tie audience to support them.
Director Remi Weekes, who won the British debut prize for his first feature, “His House,” noticed the surreal sensation of accepting the award while sitting in his living room in a tuxedo.
“Nomadland” stars McDormand as a middle-aged woman who travels to every part of the American West while living out of her van and getting short-term work.
Zhao, who lived among real American travelers for the film, said thanks to “the nomadic community who so generously welcomed us into their lives.”
“How we treat our elders says a lot about who we are as a society, and we need to do better,” she said.
The lone past female directing winner was Kathryn Bigelow in 2010 for “The Hurt Locker.”
The British film academy extended its voting membership and shook up its rule a year ago trying to address a glaring lack of diversity in the nominations. In 2020, no ladies were named as best chief for a seventh successive year, and every one of the 20 chosen people ahead of the pack and supporting performer categories were white.
Under new rules that, in addition to other things, made watching all longlisted films compulsory for academy voters, the current year’s record of acting nominees was strikingly more diverse, and four of the six filmmakers nominated for best director were women: Zhao, Sarah Gavron (“Rocks”), Shannon Murphy (“Babyteeth”) and Jasmila Zbanic (“Quo Vadis, Aida?”).
Asked how her directing prize affected Asian ladies in film, Zhao said: “If this means more people like me get to live their dreams, then I feel very grateful.”
BAFTA chief executive Amanda Berry said the academy was “determined to make change.”
“We are not there yet, this is definitely still a work in progress, but I am really pleased with how far we have come,” she said.
Kaluuya was named best supporting actor for playing Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in “Judas and the Black Messiah.”
Youn seemed shocked to win the best-actress prize for Korean-American family dramatization “Minari.” The Korean performer said she had consistently considered the British “very snobbish people.” But, she later clarified, “not in a bad way.”
Bakray, 19, won the Rising Star award, whose past winners include Kaluuya, Kristin Stewart, Tom Hardy and John Boyega.
“I don’t know how to feel,” she said. “When we filmed ‘Rocks,’ I thought 100 people would watch this film, max.”
Danish director Thomas Vinterberg’s “Another Round” was named best film not in the English language. Vinterberg honored his girl Ida, who had been expected to show up in the film and passed on in an auto collision toward the beginning of the shoot.
“We made this movie for her, so the honor granted by you, BAFTA voters, means more to us than you could ever imagine,” he said.
The British awards are generally held possibly 14 days before the Academy Awards and have become a significant honors season arranging post. This year, both the BAFTAs and the Oscars were delayed from their typical February berths in light of the Covid pandemic.
BAFTAs in art and behind the stage classifications were passed out in a different function on Saturday, when “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” won two prizes, for costume design and hair and makeup.
Other double winners included “The Father” (best actor and adapted screenplay), “Sound of Metal” (editing and sound), “Promising Young Woman” (British film and original screenplay) and “Soul” (animated film and musical score).
Chief Ang Lee was awarded the foundation’s top honor, the BAFTA Fellowship.
Actor, writer and director Noel Clarke got the outstanding British contribution to film award, dedicating it to “my young Black boys and girls out there that never believed it could happen to them.”