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Clear signs against Putin's war at the BAFTAs

March 14, 2022

Best director and best film went to Jane Campion for "The Power of the Dog," while "Dune" won five awards. The stars came out against the war, in solidarity with Ukraine.

Ariana DeBose  poses on the red carpet in a yellow dress.
'West Side Story' actor Ariana DeBose wore a yellow dress, while her co-star Rachel Zegler was in blue, in support of UkraineImage: Ian West/empics/picture alliance

Sci-fi epic "Dune" swept the BAFTA awards last night in London with five wins, but it was Jane Campion's dark Western "The Power of the Dog" that took home the coveted best director and best film gongs.

Despite not winning the top prizes, Denis Villeneuve's "Dune," which had 11 nominations, won for special effects, cinematography, sound, score and production design.

Best original screenplay went to Paul Thomas Anderson for the coming-of-age story "Licorice Pizza."

Will Smith won best actor prize for his role as the Williams sisters' father and tennis coach in "King Richard," while Joanna Scanlan won best actress for her lead role as a widow in the drama "After Love."

US actress and singer Ariana Debose won the award for best supporting actress for her role in Steven Spielberg's "West Side Story" remake. 

By winning the best supporting actor prize for his role as the deaf Massachusetts fisherman father of a high school student in "Coda," Troy Kotsur became the first deaf actor to win the award.

"Coda" director Sian Heder, winner for best adapted screenplay, honored the deaf community, who "shared their stories with me and trusted me."

Ukraine takes center stage

British film academy chairman Krishnendu Majumdar opened the show with a message of support for Ukraine.

"We stand in solidarity with those who are bravely fighting for their country, and we share their hope for a return to peace," he said.

Presenting the prize for best director, British actor and director Andy Serkis made mention of British Home Secretary Priti Patel and her unwillingness to give visas to Ukrainian refugees.

According to Patel, he said, "all refugees are welcome, but some are more welcome than others."  

With the event simultaneously signed in British and US sign language, the host, Australian actor-comedian Rebel Wilson, used the opportunity to take a swipe at Russian president Vladimir Putin for his role in the invasion of Ukraine: "Luckily though, in all sign languages, this is the gesture for Putin," Wilson said, raising her middle finger.

Several actors on the BAFTA red carpet wore blue and yellow badges in solidarity with Ukraine, including "The Power of the Dog" star Benedict Cumberbatch, who accepted the best director award on behalf of Campion — only a day after she was also honored by the Directors Guild of America.

Last year's awards ceremony was largely conducted online, with only the hosts and presenters appearing in person. This year's celebration of film saw celebrities again flock to the red carpet at London's Royal Albert Hall. The live ceremony took place without social distancing.

Benedict Cumberbatch poses on the red carpet at the BAFTAs
Cumberbatchaccepted the award on Campion's behalfImage: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP

Campion now the Oscar front-runner

Campion's psychological drama about the dangers of toxic masculinity is her first film in eight years. Via a video call after the ceremony, the New Zealand-born director told journalists that she was "speechless" to win the UK's best film award.

With the BAFTAs a bellwether for the Oscars, "The Power of the Dog" is a hot favorite for the top prizes in Los Angeles on March 27 —  Campion previously won the Academy Award for best original screenplay for "The Piano" (1993).

Producer Tanya Seghatchian called Campion "a visionary whose trail has blazed through the last 30 years of cinema."

Homage as James Bond turns 60

Accepting his prize, actor Troy Kotsur joked about the event's celebration of the James Bond franchise's 60th anniversary, asking in sign language: "Have you maybe considered a deaf Bond, 008?"

Jazz great Shirley Bassey, now 85, was accompanied by a live orchestra as she performed "Diamonds Are Forever'" to mark the Bond anniversary.

"Bond is turning 60, and his girlfriends are turning 25,'' joked host Rebel Wilson.

BAFTAs finally promote diversity

Lashana Lynch, the double-0 agent in Bond thriller "No Time To Die,'' took the rising star award, the only category chosen by public vote.

She thanked "the women of this country who taught me what it is to be in this industry as a dark-skinned woman. I thank you for laying the foundation for people like me.''

The award comes after the BAFTAs — and numerous other major awards such as the Oscars — have been called out for a lack of diversity.

The British Film Academy has since expanded its voting membership and has attempted to address the problem, with Campion winning best director this year after no women were nominated in 2020 — for the seventh consecutive year.

Krishnendu Majumdar said this year's more diverse field showed that "change has come."

The Disney feature "Encanto," the story of an extended Colombian clan with magical powers, was named best animated feature; the 1960s-era Harlem music extravaganza "Summer of Soul'' won the best documentary prize.

Director and actor Kenneth Branagh won for outstanding British film for his semiautobiographical "Belfast," about civil strife in late 1960s Northern Ireland. He celebrated the made-for-cinema production as streaming starts to dominate the format.      

"All hail the streaming revolution, but all hail the big screen too, it's alive! And long may they live together," he said.

Embracing diversity and novelty

sb/eg (AP, AFP, dpa)