At the 15th British Independent Film Awards, the big winners of the night were “Berberian Sound Studio” with four awards, including Best Director for Peter Strickland and Best Actor for Toby Jones, and Bart Layton’s phenomenal “The Imposter,” which took home prizes for Best British Documentary and the Douglas Hickox Award for Best British Debut. With prizes selected by a jury, there was a fairly even distribution amongst the main contenders. Director Rufus Norris’ “Broken,” which had looked in danger of being the evening’s big loser despite garnering the most nominations (nine), had its blushes spared when it landed the top prize of Best British Independent Film (Rory Kinnear also picked up Best Supporting Actor for the film).
The other main prizes went to Andrea Riseborough, who won Best Actress for “Shadow Dancer,” Olivia Colman, who took home her second BIFA in two years following last year’s Best Actress win for “Tyrannosaur” with Best Supporting Actress for “Hyde Park On Hudson” and James Floyd, who landed Most Promising Newcomer for his role as a British-Egyptian coming to terms with his sexuality in “My Brother The Devil” (and delivered the night’s most emotional speech). Best Screenplay went to Alice Lowe, Steve Oram and Amy Jump for “Sightseers.” the black caravanning comedy which Lowe and Oram also star in and which Jump’s husband Ben Wheatley directed (“I didn’t think we’d get a square award for all that work,” quipped Oram).
“Berberian Sound Studio” was a popular victor on the night, triumphing against stiff competition in all of its categories, which also included awards for Best Achievement in Production and Best Technical Achievement. The biggest upset came when Thomas Vinterberg’s “The Hunt” triumphed over Michael Haneke’s “Amour” for Best International Independent Film. Its victory obviously surprised the film’s UK distributor, who left presenter Noomi Rapace hanging as she waited on stage for someone to collect the award; no one did. And that was early in an evening that became merrier and merrier thanks to the bubbly supplied by headline sponsor Moet & Chandon. Colman was so jolly by the time she came to collect her Best Supporting Actress award, she only uttered a brief thank you and “I was convinced I was only coming tonight for the free food!” before heading back to her table.
The most memorable speech of the evening, however, has to go to Riseborough, primarily due to the fact that her evening gown was so low-cut and cleavage-baring that nearly everything she said came across as a droll comment on said exposure (is she getting in practice for awards season in the US?). Eventually, she resorted to holding her BIFA award across her mostly exposed chest to stop the paroxysms of laughter reverberating throughout the room at the Old Billingsgate Market.
The Special Jury Prize went to the ever-delightful Sandra Hebron, former artistic director of the London Film Festival, for her longstanding contribution to the UK film scene. Career recognition awards also went to Jude Law and Michael Gambon. The former – the Variety Award – was presented by Terry Gilliam, who spiced up his introduction with a little bit of mischief at Law’s expense; perhaps unsurprisingly, the actor didn’t hang on stage for long. The reaction to Gambon’s award – the Richard Harris Award – was much less muted. He received the evening’s only standing ovation and had his award presented to him by Richard’s son Jared, who explained how much his late father admired the man who would go on to replace him as Dumbledore in the Harry Potter franchise.
According to Jared, Gambon was far and away Richard’s favourite actor ever, eclipsing Marlon Brando, and he finally got the chance to meet him when another son, Damian, directed him in 1989’s “The Rachel Papers.” “My father had to be driven to set because he wasn’t allowed to drive – he lost his license after knocking over a double-decker bus in Ireland,” revealed Jared. Once on set, he instructed Damian in no uncertain terms to stop moving the camera around so much and just let “a great actor like Gambon do what he does best: act.”