Baftas 2021: Nomadland moves another step closer to Oscar glory

The Irish animation Wolfwalkers, seen as a serious challenger, loses out to Pixar’s Soul

US recession drama Nomadland scoops four Bafta awards, while Korean actor Yuh-Jung Youn thanked "snobbish" British people after winning best supporting actress for her role in Minari. Video: Reuters

 

Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland, the tale of a bereaved woman making her way about a troubled America, has won best film at the 2021 Bafta awards. Frances McDormand took best actress for her lead performance in Zhao’s touching drama. The picture also picked up best director and best cinematography.

No other film equalled that tally of four gongs in an evening that otherwise spread the love liberally. Nomadland’s place as Oscar favourite — a position it has held since premiering at Venice over six months ago — is thus substantially bolstered.

Anthony Hopkins won best actor for playing a man with encroaching dementia in Florian Zeller’s The Father. There was more British success in the best supporting actor category, with Londoner Daniel Kaluuya triumphing for his turn as the murdered Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah.

One of the ceremony’s highlights was surely Yuh-Jung Youn’s response after taking best supporting actress for her turn as — appropriately enough — a disarmingly frank grandmother in Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari.

“I was very honoured to be nominated and I am the winner now,” she said. “I would like to express my deep condolence for your duke of Edinburgh. Every award is meaningful, but this one especially, recognised by British people — known as very snobbish people and they approved me.” 

Wolfwalkers, the fourth feature from Kilkenny’s Cartoon Saloon, was seen as a serious challenger in best feature animation, but lost out to Pixar’s Soul. Nick Rowland’s Calm with Horses, a crime drama set in rural Ireland, also failed to convert any of its nominations into awards.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts received criticism last year for the lack of diversity among its contenders. Appointing select committees to decide nominees in certain categories, the body successfully corrected that situation with people of colour competing across the board.

Zhao, a Chinese-American partly educated in England, becomes the second woman and the first woman of colour to win best director at Bafta. She hoped that she “made my teachers at Brighton College very proud”.

Zhao mentioned the inspirations for Nomadland in her speech after taking best film. “We would like to dedicate this film to the nomadic community who so generously welcomed us into their lives,” she said. “They shared with us their dreams and struggles and their deep sense of dignity. Thank you for showing us that ageing is a beautiful part of life.”

Joshua James Richards reacting after winning the Bafta for Cinematography for his work on the film ‘Nomadland’. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Bafta/AFP via Getty Images)
Joshua James Richards reacting after winning the Bafta for Cinematography for his work on the film ‘Nomadland’. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Bafta/AFP via Getty Images)
Bukky Bakray accepting the EE Rising Star Bafta
Bukky Bakray accepting the EE Rising Star Bafta
Yuh-Jung Youn after winning the Supporting Actress award
Yuh-Jung Youn after winning the Supporting Actress award

Best British film went to Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman. Originally intended for release last spring, the pitch-black comedy — starring Carey Mulligan as a woman seeking revenge for an unpunished rape — picked up buzz throughout awards season and is now a proper contender in five Oscar categories. Should Mulligan win best actress with the American academy (and she could), she will become the first British performer to take that prize without being nominated by her home body. 

This year’s awards, adapting to the Covid crisis, took place over two nights with the craft awards presented on Saturday evening and the remainder of the prizes given out on Sunday.

The first night set the scene with presenter Clara Amfo — accompanied by critic Rhianna Dhillon and actor Joanna Scanlan — musing over the results in a quiet corner of the Royal Albert Hall. The format did allow the presenters to talk through nominees that may be less familiar to the viewing public than is usually the case. Films such as Promising Young Woman, The Father and Nomadland were, at time of broadcast, still unavailable to the public in the UK and Ireland.

Sunday night’s event found Edith Bowman and Dermot O’Leary addressing a big screen in the auditorium of the same venue. As was the case at the recent Golden Globe and Emmys shows, nominees, wearing dinner jackets and ball gowns in their front rooms, whooped and hollered from various continents.

Barry Keoghan, nominated in the best supporting actor category for Calm with Horses, quietly stole the show by appearing with a very handsome dog.

Among the most explosive elebrations came from Bukky Bakray, star of Rocks, after the Hackney star — and her buoyant family — heard about her win in the EE Rising Star Award.

Thoughts now turn to the Oscars on April 26th. The American and British Academies share several hundred voters and, thus, this weekend’s results offer worthwhile clues as to the most important awards.

Profiting from home momentum, Hopkins will, however, be lucky to repeat his win across the Atlantic. Chadwick Boseman, the late star of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, seems certain to become the second person to win the Oscar for best actor posthumously.

In contrast, Thomas Vinterberg, whose Another Round won best film not in the English language, should repeat with the equivalent gong at the US bash.

“I had a small suspicion you British might like a film about drinking,” the Danish director quipped to an empty Albert Hall.

The 2021 Bafta Film Awards

Outstanding Film: Nomadland

Outstanding British Film: Promising Young Woman

Best Director: Chloé Zhao (Nomadland)

Leading Actor: Anthony Hopkins (The Father)

Leading Actress: Frances McDormand (Nomadland)

Supporting Actor: Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah)

Supporting Actress: Youn Yuh-jung (Minari)

Original Screenplay: Promising Young Woman

Adapted Screenplay: The Father

Cinematography: Nomadland

Original Score: Soul

Editing: Sound of Metal

Best Animated Feature: Soul

Film not in the English Language: Another Round

Documentary: My Octopus Teacher

Outstanding Debut by Writer, Director or Producer: Remi Weekes (His House)

Costume Design: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Make Up and Hair: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Production Design: Mank

Sound: Sound of Metal

Special Visual Effects: Tenet

British Short Film: The Present: British Short Animation

The Owl and the Pussycat:  

Bafta Fellowship: Ang Lee

EE Rising Star Award: Bukky Bakray

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