As many cinephiles predicted, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri dominated at the Baftas, taking home five awards, including the night’s two most prestigious awards: Best Film and Outstanding British Film. And as many others predicted, the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements dominated the discussion surrounding the event.
Before the ceremony began, one group of protesters wearing ‘Time’s Up Theresa’ T-shirts stormed the red carpet, chanting “sisters united will never be defeated” before taking part in a sit-down protest. The majority of actors also wore black to support the movements, which began last year in the wake of multiple sexual assault allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein.
Host Joanna Lumley, who took over from Stephen Fry, opened proceedings by pointing out that 100 years ago, the Royal Albert Hall – where the Baftas took place – celebrated the first group of British women being given the vote.
“A century ago, the suffragettes laid the groundwork for the sort of dogged resistance and powerful protest that is carried forward with the Time’s Up movement,” she said. “And with it, the determination to eradicate the inequality and abuse of woman the world over.”
With those comments made, Lumley went on to mocking various actors in the building, including Hugh Grant, who was nominated for Supporting Actor, joking: “Quite how Hugh managed to portray a vain and egocentric actor [in Paddington 2] is honestly beyond me.”
Of course, the Baftas also celebrated the best of film. Three Billboards won the most awards – also including Best Adapted Screenplay, Leading Actress (Frances McDormand), and Supporting Actor (Sam Rockwell) – following a similar sweep at the Golden Globes. Thanks to the victory, Martin McDonagh’s film looks set to win at the Oscars later this year.
Coming in a close second was The Shape of Water with three victories, with the Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro beating stiff competition from Christopher Nolan and Denis Villeneuve to win Best Director. The ceremony featured a special performance from Cirque du Soleil, which featured two acrobats dressed as character from the film perform a stunning dance.
Gary Oldman won Best Actor for the Winston Churchill biopic Darkest Hour, having been heavily touted to take home the award. “I thank you, Sir Winston, I thank you, the Churchill family... I am so grateful for this incredible honour,” he said, accepting the award from Salma Hayek who had joked about presenting the male-focussed award. Having also won the same award at multiple other ceremonies this awards season, Oldman looks set to finally win his first Oscar. Darkest Hour also won the award for Make Up & Hair.
Allison Janney won Best Supporting Actress for her role as Tonya Harding’s mother in I, Tonya, while the acclaimed Roger Deakins won his fourth Bafta for Cinematography for Blade Runner 2049, which also won for Special Visual Effects. Pixar’s record-breaking Mexican-based animation Coco won the Animated feature award, while South Korean drama The Handmaiden won Best Foreign Film.
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Other winners included Baby Driver for Editing, Phantom Thread for Costume Design, Adapted Screenplay for Call Me by Your Name, and Sound for Dunkirk.
While there are winners, there must also be losers. Paddington 2, Lady Bird, and Get Out were all considered candidates for multiple wins yet went away empty handed. The former has gone primarily unrecognised by other awards.
Towards the end of the ceremony, Alien, Blade Runner, and Gladiator director Ridley Scott was presented with the Fellowship – the Baftas highest honour – by the Duke of Cambridge, president of Bafta, and Sir Kenneth Branagh. “It’s important to acknowledge that entertainment can be the most powerful form of education,” the British filmmaker said during a lengthy speech, going on to praise the BBC documentary Planet Earth.
Throughout, Lumley kept things relatively light-hearted, making jokes about fashion and finishing by saying: “Stephen Fry, if you’re watching, I hope this is OK.” Meanwhile, many of those accepting awards took the opportunity to talk about the #MeToo movement, including McDormand, who said upon accepting the award: “I want you to know I stand in full solidarity with my sisters tonight in black.”
Presenting an Outstanding British Debut to I Am Not a Witch, Gemma Arterton said: “I would just like to thank you all for standing up for equality tonight”. Arterton was joined by former sewing machine operators Eileen Pullen and Gwen Davis, two of the 187 women who staged a three-week walk-out from Ford’s Dagenham plant in June 1968 after learning they were to be paid 15 per cent less than their male counterparts.
Many other nominees and presenters – including Andrea Riseborough, Gemma Arterton, Naomie Harris, and Angelina Jolie – also brought activists as their guests. They included Broadcaster Afua Hirsch, co-founder of UK Black Pride Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, and Loung Ung, the national spokesperson for the Campaign for a Landmine-Free World.
Over the weekend, nearly 200 female British and Irish stars had signed an open letter calling for an end to sexual harassment in the workplace.
The letter, published by The Observer and signed by Arterton, Emma Thompson, Carey Mulligan, Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Chan, Keira Knightley and Emma Watson, said the Baftas are a time to “celebrate this tremendous moment of solidarity and unity across borders by coming together and making this movement international”.
“This movement is bigger than just a change in our industry alone,” the letter continued. “In the very near past, we lived in a world where sexual harassment was an uncomfortable joke; an unavoidable awkward part of being a girl or a woman.”
It concluded: “If you have said ‘time’s up’, if the stories you have read in the papers have resonated and distressed you – join us in shifting the dial. Let’s make 2018 the year that time was up on sexual harassment and abuse. This is your moment too.”
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