The 74th BAFTA awards took place last weekend over two nights, due to Covid restrictions. While that meant winners were forced to Zoom in their acceptance speeches, it was the only downside on a night that was undoubtedly a triumph for the British Academy of Film & Television. It was only a year ago that the #BaftasSoWhite controversy raged, as not one person of colour was nominated for an acting award and the best director shortlist was all male.
Twelve months on, after some significant changes within the BAFTA system, it was apparent how much more diverse the selection was. Taking place at the Royal Albert Hall, there were expected wins for Chloé Zhao (Best Director), her film Nomadland (Best Picture), her lead Frances McDormand (Best Actress) and her cinematographer (Joshua James Richards); British first-time director Emerald Fennell’s much-talked-about Promising Young Woman took home Best Original Screenplay and Outstanding British Film.
Completing the acting wins, Britain’s Daniel Kaluuya took Best Supporting Actor for his sizzling turn as Black Panther activist Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah; South Korean veteran Young Yuh-jung claimed Best Supporting Actress for her unconventional grandmother in Minari and Anthony Hopkins won Best Actor for playing his wrenching turn as a dementia sufferer in The Father, beating out the late Chadwick Boseman for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. ASFF 2020’s Best Drama award-winning The Present, directed by British-Palestinian filmmaker Farah Nabulsi, took away Best Short Film.
Equally important, in this instance, was the array of unexpected nominees who have fared less well in other awards shows. Barry Keoghan and Niamh Algar were both nominated for the spectacular Irish crime drama Calm With Horses. Sarah Gavron’s Rocks, the story of young schoolgirls in East London, was up for several awards, and won Best Casting (for Lucy Pardee) and the Rising Star Award for young actress Bukky Bakray. Ashley Madekwe’s work in County Lines was also recognised with a nomination.
The excellent (and somewhat misunderstood) Kevin Macdonald drama The Mauritanian was also nominated in several categories, including Best Actor for Tahar Rahim as Guantánamo Bay detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi. Alfre Woodard’s turn as a prison warder in Clemency, a critically acclaimed performance that seemed to slip through the awards net, rightly received a Best Actress nomination. Likewise, Clarke Peters in Spike Lee’s overlooked Da Five Bloods was given a nod in the Best Supporting Actor category.
This year’s BAFTAs felt like a selection where common sense prevailed. Even Christopher Nolan’s epic blockbuster Tenet, another largely ignored film, won Best Visual Effects – quite rightly, given the jaw-dropping work to visualise a backwards-moving world. There were surprises – Remi Weekes’ His House beat out the strong competition of Rocks, Limbo, Saint Maud and Moffie to the Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer. But this was one year where BAFTA set the tone for other awards shows to follow.
See the full list of winners here.