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Mostly Ignored Stateside, Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s ‘Belle’ Performance Wins British Independent Film Best Actress Award

Mostly Ignored Stateside, Gugu Mbatha-Raw's 'Belle' Performance Wins British Independent Film Best Actress Award

It’s worth noting that Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s performance in Amma Asante’s “Belle” apparently didn’t make much of an impression on Stateside critics, since her name hasn’t been mentioned at all, as a genuine contender for any acting awards this season; nor has the film, or the director, I should add. 

Thus far, we’ve heard from the National Board of Review, the Los Angeles Film Critics, the New York Film Critics circle, Independent Spirit Awards, Gotham Awards, and one or two others – “Belle” has been shut out of pretty much all of them. Although there are still plenty of awards to be handed out, and so the film has time on its side. 

Although I do wonder if the film’s distributor, Fox Searchlight, had any awards season push plans for it, especially given that they opened the film in early June, and not the usual late summer/fall release dates that films expected to be in contention, typically are opened.

Of course, whether the film deserves to be “in the mix” is debatable; it was mostly well reviewed by critics, drawing an 83% Fresh rating on movie review aggregator site RottenTomatoes.com, making it one of the top 100 best reviewed films of 2014, which is a significant accomplishment, when you consider that close to 700 movies will be released theatrically in the USA by the end of this year.

Picking up her first, and only award for her performance in “Belle” thus far, Gugu Mbatha-Raw won the Best Actress trophy at the 2014 British Independent Film Awards over the weekend. She was also nominated for Most Promising Newcomer, but that award went to Sameena Jabeen Ahmed for her performance in a film called “Catch Me Daddy.”

In terms of Diaspora representation at the winner’s table, Mbatha-Raw isn’t all alone. The Algerian London-raised director, Yann Demange, won the Best Director award for “’71” – a thriller set in Northern Ireland, that tells the story of a British soldier who becomes separated from his unit during a riot in Belfast, at the height of nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland in 1971.

I should note that Mbatha-Raw picked up a Gotham Award nomination for Best Actress, for her performance in another film, Gina Prince-Bythewood’s “Beyond the Lights.” But she lost to Julianne Moore, who was voted Best Actress for her work in “Still Alice” (Moore is also considered a front-runner for the Best Actress Oscar).

Created by Raindance in 1998 to celebrate merit and achievement in independently funded British filmmaking, to honor new talent, and to promote British films and filmmaking to a wider public, the Moet British Independent Awards winners were announced at the 17th awards ceremony, last night, Sunday, December 7, in London.

The full list of winners (in bold) below:

Best British Independent Film
’71 
Calvary 
Mr Turner 
Pride
The Imitation Game

Best Director
John Michael McDonagh – Calvary 
Lenny Abrahamson – Frank 
Matthew Warchus – Pride 
Mike Leigh – Mr Turner 
Yann Demange – ’71

The Douglas Hickox Award (Best Debut Director)
Daniel Wolfe, Matthew Wolfe – Catch Me Daddy 
Hong Khaou – Lilting 
Iain Forsyth, Jane Pollard – 20,000 Days on Earth
Morgan Matthews – X+Y 
Yann Demange – ’71

Best Screenplay
Graham Moore – The Imitation Game 
Gregory Burke – ’71 
John Michael McDonagh – Calvary
Jon Ronson, Peter Straughan – Frank
Stephen Beresford – Pride

Best Actress
Alicia Vikander – Testament of Youth 
Cheng Pei Pei – Lilting 
Gugu Mbatha-Raw – Belle
Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game 
Sameena Jabeen Ahmed – Catch Me Daddy

Best Actor
Asa Butterfield – X+Y 
Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game 
Brendan Gleeson – Calvary 
Jack O’Connell – ’71 
Timothy Spall – Mr Turner

Best Supporting Actress
Dorothy Atkinson – Mr Turner 
Imelda Staunton – Pride 
Maggie Gyllenhaal – Frank 
Sally Hawkins – X+Y 
Sienna Guillory – The Goob

Best Supporting Actor
Andrew Scott – Pride
Ben Schnetzer – Pride 
Michael Fassbender – Frank 
Rafe Spall – X+Y Sean Harris – ‘71

Most Promising Newcomer
Ben Schnetzer – Pride 
Cara Delevingne – The Face of An Angel 
Gugu Mbatha-Raw – Belle 
Liam Walpole – The Goob 
Sameena Jabeen Ahmed – Catch Me Daddy

Best Achievement in Production
’71 
20,000 Days on Earth 
Catch Me Daddy 
Lilting 
The Goob

Best Technical Achievement
Chris Wyatt – Editing – ’71 
Dick Pope – Cinematography – Mr Turner 
Robbie Ryan – Cinematography – Catch Me Daddy 
Stephen Rennicks – Music – Frank
Tat Radcliffe – Cinematography – ’71

Best Documentary
20,000 Days on Earth 
Next Goal Wins
Night Will Fall 
The Possibilities Are Endless 
Virunga

Best British Short
Crocodile 
Emotional Fusebox 
Keeping Up With The Joneses 
Slap 
The Kármán Line

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