McQueen brought to earth as ‘Gravity’ wins six Baftas

It was a night of surprises – not least when Tinie Tempah high-fived Prince William

12 Years a Slave, the third feature from English director Steve McQueen, took the prize for best film at the 2014 BAFTA awards ceremony. Video: Reuters


It was a strange evening at the British Academy of Film and Television awards aka the Baftas. There was restrained back-slapping in the Royal Opera House as 12 Years a Slave, the third feature from English director Steve McQueen, took the prize for best film.

But another supposedly British picture, Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity, garnered the most awards, including that for best British film. There had already been some controversy when the space epic, which was largely filmed in England and co-produced by a British company, was nominated for the domestic prize. Many felt it wasn’t quite British enough. Cuarón’s film won six awards.

12 Years a Slave, the story of a freeman abducted into slavery in the antebellum south, had to settle for just two Baftas. Almost nobody saw that coming.

The folk behind 12 Years a Slave suffered endless setbacks during the evening.

Most everybody expected that film’s Lupita Nyong’o, the Kenyan actor who has been the star of every red carpet, to take the best supporting actress prize, but, in the event, Jennifer Lawrence triumphed for American Hustle.

Kerryman Michael Fassbender, who plays a harsh slave owner in 12 Years, was favourite for best supporting actor, but Barkhad Abdi, making his debut in Captain Phillips, somehow managed to grab that gong.

McQueen lost out to Cuarón. The ceremony was, indeed, nearly over when Chiwetel Ejiofor, who won best actor for his searing, harrowing title performance, secured 12 Years a Slave its first award of the evening.

Cate Blanchett, who has taken virtually every best actress prize since the awards season began, received the relevant Bafta for Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. Notwithstanding Allen’s recent domestic scandals, the Australian actress now seems certain to take the Oscar in March.

There was some good news for the Irish when, in yet another upset, Kieran Evans won outstanding debut by a British writer, director or producer for his work on Kelly + Victor, a co-production by the Irish Film Board.

Stephen Frears’s Philomena, the story of Irish woman Philomena Lee’s quest to find her long-lost son, took the prize for best adapted screenplay.

Oscar pointer
As about 10 per cent of the US Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are also voting members at Bafta, these awards are usually a reliable pointer to the Oscars. Nyong’o, who ranked as favourite for some weeks, now looks to have a serious fight on her hands.

The all-round underperformance of 12 Years a Slave – whatever Bafta says, viewed as more British than Gravity – now also looks a tad less likely to get best picture at the awards that matter the most. The Baftas were presented by Stephen Fry who, mildly cheeky rather than disrespectful, peppered his monologue with gentle digs at the nominees. “You don’t thank the kettle, the cup, the milk the cow, the tea picker,” he advised. Not everybody obliged.

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were among the starry crowd, but, for the neutral observer, the highlight of the evening came when Tinie Tempah, the south London rapper, dared to high-five Prince William.

To be fair to the Duke of Cambridge, he looked less uncomfortable than his father would have done.

Full list of Bafta 2014 winners


Best Film - 12 Years A Slave (Anthony Katagas, Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen

Outstanding British Film - Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón, David Heyman, Jonás Cuarón)

Leading Actress - Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

Leading Actor - Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)

Best Director - Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)

Best Supporting Actress - Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)

Best Supporting Actor - Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)

Best Adapted Screenplay - Philomena (Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope)

Documentary - The Act Of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer)

Film not in the English Language - The Great Beauty

Outstanding Debut By a British Writer, Director or Producer - Kieran Evans (Kelly + Victor)

Original Film Music – Gravity (Steven Price)

Original Screenplay - American Hustle

Animated Film - Frozen

British Short Animation - Sleeping With The Fishes

British Short Film - Room 8

Cinematography - Gravity

Costume Design - The Great Gatsby

EE Rising Star - Will Poulter

Editing - Rush (Dan Hanley, Mike Hill)

Fellowship - Dame Helen Mirren

Make-Up And Hair - American Hustle

O utstanding British Contribution to Cinema - Peter Greenaway

Production Design - The Great Gatsby

Sound - Gravity

Special Visual Effects – Gravity