But if the two titles had their pride bruised, their future awards hopes are still intact: the BIFAs generally favour underdogs and tonight’s slip-up, while annoying for their backers, shouldn’t derail either film’s BAFTA chances.
On the other hand, the makers of “Pride,” “Calvary” and ‘’71” will be delighted with their BIFA showings. Brendan Gleeson trumped his Best Actors rivals with a win for “Calvary,” beating out Benedict Cumberbatch for “The Imitation Game,” Timothy Spall for “Mr. Turner,” Jack O’Connell for “’71” and Asa Butterfield for “X+Y.” Spall and Cumberbatch shouldn’t feel too down-hearted though: the BIFAs have a history of not going for the obvious in actor categories. Best Director went to debut filmmaker Yann Demange for his immersive Northern Irish thriller “’71,” beating Mike Leigh for “Mr. Turner” and Matthew Warchus for “Pride” (Morten Tyldum wasn’t nominated for “The Imitation Game”).
Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Best Actress win for “Belle” was hugely popular with the BIFA crowd. Mbatha-Raw triumphed over her main competitors in the category: Keira Knightley for “The Imitation Game” and Alicia Vikander for “Testament Of Youth.” The first major prize of the night, Best Supporting Actor, was handed to Andrew Scott for “Pride.” Scott has just been announced for a role in the new Bond film, and gave a shout-out in his speech to the film’s writer Stephen Bereford “who was so much more than a screenwriter on this… This is for you, Stephen.”
Best Supporting Actress went to Imelda Staunton for “Pride,” although confusion briefly reigned. When producer David Livingstone finally arrived on stage to collect the award, he admitted that no one involved with the film had been informed of Staunton’s victory, implying that was why she wasn’t on hand to collect it herself.
In the Screenplay category, underdog “Frank” and co-writers Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan triumphed over Graham Moore for “The Imitation Game,” Beresford for “Pride” and John Michael McDonagh, writer-director of “Calvary.” As in the other categories, “Pride” and “The Imitation Game”’s crowd-pleasing qualities undoubtedly played against them with the BIFA awards committee, led this year by director Tom Hooper and Stanley Tucci, although it felt right for “Frank”’s compelling eccentricity to be acknowledged.
Although he missed out on Best Actor, Cumberbatch received compensation in the shape of the annual Variety Award (“and finally, a crumb of recognition for the criminally underrecognised Benedict Cumberbatch,” snarked host Simon Bird of the actor receiving BIFA’s career prize), which was presented to the actor by Keira Knightley and Mark Strong. “I’m thrilled to find my success in some of the Goliaths of the film industry but I owe coming into that sphere to the Davids of this world… sorry if that’s over-stretching an analogy,” said Cumberbatch in his gracious acceptance speech.
Emma Thompson received the Richard Harris Award for outstanding contribution by a British actor to the industry. “I don’t really know who to thank!” said Thompson in her jolly (and slightly inebriated) acceptance speech near the end of the evening. “It’s really tedious and, well, pointless since in many cases, so many of them are dead.”
Instead, Thompson shared an anecdote about being at a dinner with Richard Harris “given by Russell Crowe at the Dorchester Hotel, shortly before its owner turned his country over to sharia law – I can’t help feeling the two things are slightly connected. I met Richard and we found that we shared a great lifelong commitment and devotion to alcohol in all its forms. I felt a real kinship there.”
Thompson also went on to apologize for accepting so many studio films “for the money.” “I’ve demanded smaller trailers and I’ve asked for them to be shaked violently just as I’m trying to take a nap,” she continued, in the night’s most enjoyable speech. No surprises there.
Richard Linklater dedicated his award for “Boyhood” for Best International Independent Film to Lindsay Anderson, who he called “a friend and a mentor.” In the Technical Achievement category, Stephen Rennicks’ music for “Frank” beat out expected winner, cinematographer Dick Pope for his ravishing lensing of “Mr. Turner.”
Host Simon Bird, star of UK sitcom-turned-gross-out film franchise “The Inbetweeners,” arrived on stage at the start of the evening to the “Rocky” theme and described himself as a “ridiculous choice of host for this ceremony.” Although he spent most of the night skewering, in mostly amusing fashion, the independent film scene, Bird did briefly temper his acerbic comments to praise the BIFAs for “beating a drum for those at the fringes of the industry.”
Overall, the evening served as a superb send-off for Johanna Fischer and Tessa Collinson in their final ceremony as BIFA co-directors. They have transformed the BIFAs into a glittering first stop on the British awards calendar, and their successors have big shoes to fill.
BEST BRITISH INDEPENDENT FILM
Yann Demange for ‘71
Gugu Mbatha-Raw for Belle
Brendan Gleeson for Calvary
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Imelda Staunton for Pride
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Andrew Scott for Pride
THE DOUGLAS HICKOX AWARD (BEST DEBUT DIRECTOR)
Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard for 20,000 Days On Earth
Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan for Frank
MOST PROMISING NEWCOMER
Sameena Jabeen Ahmed for Catch Me Daddy
BEST TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT
Music – Stephen Rennicks for Frank
BEST BRITISH SHORT
The Karman Line
Next Goal Wins
BEST INTERNATIONAL INDEPENDENT FILM
BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN PRODUCTION
THE VARIETY AWARD
THE RICHARD HARRIS AWARD
SPECIAL JURY PRIZE
THE RAINDANCE AWARD