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Silent revolution at the Baftas as the French take top awards

The Artist wins in seven categories, with Meryl Streep the other big success story

The British Film Academy Awards had a distinctly Gallic flavour last night as The Artist, a French silent movie picked up seven wins including Best Film, Actor and Director. Meryl Streep was also awarded Best Actress for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher.

The Artist, which is now odds-on favourite for the Oscars later this month, had been nominated for 12 Bafta awards.

Director Michel Hazanavicius said: "The format is something really special. The more people can get involved in the storytelling process the better it is," adding: "Merci beaucoup."

Martin Scorsese, who was awarded the Fellowship, the academy's highest accolade, said: "The Artist is a film I admire greatly. It is charming."

Stars including Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Colin Firth, attended the glitzy ceremony at the Royal Opera House in London's Covent Garden to witness the triumph of the silent film.

Jean Dujardin was named Best Actor for his portrayal of the fading silent movie star George Valentin. He said: "I am very proud to receive this award from the country of Sir Laurence Olivier, William Webb Ellis and Benny Hill."

The Artist also picked up awards for music, costume design, cinematography and original screenplay. Hazanavicius said: "I am very surprised because many people thought there was no script because there was no dialogue." He added: "So English people are very clever."

Streep, who needed to call on Colin Firth to be her prince charming after her shoe fell off on the way to the podium, after winning Best Actress for The Iron Lady, said: "I'm very proud of this film." She said its goal "was to look at the life of the Iron Lady from inside out and find something that was real".

It was a disappointing night for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which had been nominated in 11 categories, and walked off with just two. It beat off competition for Outstanding British Film including We Need to Talk about Kevin and My Week with Marilyn. It also won Best Adapted Screenplay.

Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer went to Tyrannosaur, a gritty film about domestic violence. This follows its success at the British Independent Film Awards earlier in the year.

Senna, a documentary about the life of Brazilian racing driver Ayrton Senna was awarded Best Documentary, the first year such an award has been handed out at the Baftas, and Best Editing.

Adam Deacon, star of Kidulthood and Anuvahood, won the Orange Wednesday Rising Star Award ahead of actors including Eddie Redmayne and Tom Hiddlestone. He said: "This is mad; it's crazy that I'm in the same place as Brad Pitt. It's surreal."

Baftas: big winners

Best Film:

The Artist

Outstanding British Film:

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Best Director:

Michel Hazanavicius – The Artist

Best Leading Actor:

Jean Dujardin – The Artist

Best Leading Actress:

Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady

Best Supporting Actor:

Christopher Plummer – Beginners

Best Supporting Actress:

Octavia Spencer – The Help

*Video: Meryl Streep has a Cinderella moment at the Baftas