British Independent Film Awards Go "Dirty"
by Brian Brooks
Stephen Frears' "Dirty Pretty Things" lead the pack of winners Tuesday night at London's Hammersmith Palais, the site of this year's British Independent Film Awards. "Dirty Pretty Things" nabbed four honors including best British film, best director and best screenplay (Steve Knight) as well as a best actor nod for Chiwetel Ejiofor for his role as an illegal Nigerian immigrant working as a night porter in an upscale London hotel.
Michael Winterbottom's "In This World," about two Afghan boys who emigrate to London to find a new life, took awards for best achievement in production as well as best technical achievement, presented to editor Peter Christelis. Richard Jobson's debut pic "16 Years of Alcohol" also received two awards including the Douglas Hickox Award honoring work by a new director. "16 Years of Alcohol" actress Susan Lynch also won the award for best performance by a supporting actor/actress.
In other honors, veteran UK producer Jeremy Thomas ("Young Adam") was the recipient of a special jury prize, while the award for best foreign film went to Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles for "City of God" and Simon Pummell's "Bodysong" won best documentary.
Also receiving honors were British actors John Hurt, who received the Richard Harris Award which recognizes outstanding contribution by an actor, as well as Sir Ian McKellen, given this year's annual Variety UK Personality Award which honors the career of a British actor who has had a high profile in the international film community.
"This year has been unprecedented," commented BIFA founder Elliot Grove in a statement. "As always, the pre-selection process is incredibly hard because of the extraordinarily high standard of work produced. But this year, the quality seems to have been higher than ever and we had to extend the nominations in each category to really do it justice."
Films are eligible for the BIFAs if they are at least 51% financed by British companies (except the award for best foreign film) and are intended for theatrical release. Films must have had a public screening before a paying audience in general release in the UK or a British-based film festival between October, 2002 and September 30, 2003.