12 Years a Slave takes Bafta crown

23:17, Feb 16 2014
Matthew Modine and Caridad Rivera.
Leonardo DiCaprio.
Cate Blanchett.
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson.
Director Alfonso Cuaron and producer David Heyman pose with Oprah Winfrey after winning Outstanding British Film for Gravity.
James Walker, Sarah Woolner and Yousif Al-Khalifa celebrate winning Best British Short Animation for Sleeping With The Fishes.
Producer Sophie Venner and director James W Griffiths celebrate winning Best British Short Film for Room 8.
Christoph Waltz.
Helen Mirren.
Joshua Oppenheimer celebrates winning Best Documentary for The Act Of Killing.
Judi Dench.
Sound crew for the film Gravity celebrate winning Best Sound for the film.
Beverley Dunn and Catherine Martin celebrate winning Film Production Design category for The Great Gatsby while flanked by actress Olga Kurylenko and actor Richard E Grant.
Steven Price won a Bafta for Best Original Film Music for Gravity.
Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee celebrate after winning the Animated Film category for Frozen.
Barkhad Abdi celebrates winning Best Supporting Actor for Captain Phillips
Helen Mirren celebrates winning the Fellowship award at the Baftas.
Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor celebrates after winning Best Actor for 12 Years a Slave at the Baftas.
Cate Blanchett celebrates winning Best Actress for Blue Jasmine at the Baftas.
Director Steve McQueen celebrates after winning Best Film for 12 Years a Slave at the Baftas.

The force of Gravity was strong at the British Academy Film Awards on Sunday - but it was unflinching drama 12 Years a Slave that took the top prize.

Steve McQueen's visceral, violent story of a free back man kidnapped into servitude in the 19th-century US South was named best picture. Its star, Chiwetel Ejiofor, took the male acting trophy.

Ejiofor thanked McQueen, a visual artist who turned to filmmaking with Hunger and Shame, for bringing the story to the screen.

Holding the trophy, the British actor told McQueen: "This is yours. I'm going to keep it - that's the kind of guy I am - but it's yours."

McQueen reminded the ceremony's black-tie audience that, in some parts of the world, slavery is not a thing of the past.

"There are 21 million people in slavery as we sit here," he said. "I just hope 150 years from now our ambivalence will not allow another filmmaker to make this film."

Lost-in-space thriller Gravity - made in Britain by a Mexican director and starring American actors - won six prizes, including best director, for Alfonso Cuaron.

The 3-D special effects extravaganza also won the awards for sound, music, cinematography and visual effects, and despite its mixed parentage was named best British film.

Cuaron paid tribute to star Sandra Bullock, who is alone onscreen for much of the film.

"Without her performance, everything would have been nonsense," he said.

Con-artist caper American Hustle charmed its way to three prizes, including original screenplay and supporting actress for Jennifer Lawrence. Its spectacular 70s stylings took the hair and makeup award.

The best-actress prize went to Cate Blanchett for her turn as a socialite on the slide in Blue Jasmine. She dedicated the award to her friend and fellow actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died this month, calling him "a monumental presence who is now sadly an absence."

The supporting actor prize went to Barkhad Abdi, who made an explosive screen debut as a Somali pirate in Captain Phillips.

The 28-year-old called his experience of going from obscurity in Minnesota to stardom - complete with an Oscar nomination - "surreal."

Praising the other Somali actors who played his fellow pirates, he said: "We came from nothing and we got this."

In the past few years, the British prizes, known as Baftas, have helped underdog films, including Slumdog Millionaire, The King's Speech and The Artist, gain Oscars momentum.

The awards have become an essential stop for many Hollywood stars before the Academy Awards, held this year on March 2 (March 3, NZ time).

The temperature in London was hardly Hollywood, but Britain's fickle weather relented ahead of Sunday's ceremony. The sun shone as nominees including "Wolf of Wall Street" star Leonardo DiCaprio and 12 Years a Slave performer Lupita Nyong'o- striking in a green Dior gown - walked the red carpet outside London's Royal Opera House.

Best-actress nominee Amy Adams wore a black dress by Victoria Beckham, and revealed the inspirations for her American Hustle character's faux-British accent: Marianne Faithfull and Julie Christie.

There was royalty of the Hollywood kind - Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, wearing matching tuxedos. And there was British royalty, too, in the form of Prince William, honorary president of the film academy.

The documentary prize went to The Act of Killing, a powerful look at hundreds of thousands of killings carried out in 1960s Indonesia in the name of fighting communism by death squads that went unpunished. Director Joshua Oppenheimer dedicated the award to his Indonesian co-director and crew, all of whom had to work anonymously because of the threat to their lives in tackling the taboo topic.

Will Poulter (Son of Rambow, We're the Millers), a 21-year-old actor, won the rising star award, decided by public vote.

Director Peter Greenaway received an award for outstanding contribution to British cinema for a body of unsettling, comic and erotic films that includes The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and The Draughtsman's Contract.

Greenaway said he hoped the trophy would encourage those, like him, "who believe that cinema has to be continually reinvented."

Helen Mirren received the British Academy Fellowship in honour of a career that has ranged from a hard-nosed detective in TV series Prime Suspect to Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen.

Mirren, 68, said she was "almost speechless" at receiving the honour, whose previous recipients include Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, Elizabeth Taylor and Judi Dench.

"It's been an amazing journey up to now," she said.

She was given the trophy by Prince William - who said he should probably call her "granny." Mirren won an Oscar for playing his grandmother, Britain's monarch, in The Queen.

"I wanted to have a hanky in my bag and take it out and spit on it and clean his face," Mirren joked.

Winners of the 2014 British Academy Film Awards:

Film - 12 Years a Slave

British Film - Gravity

Director - Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

Actor - Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave


Actress - Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Supporting Actor - Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips

Supporting Actress - Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

Rising Star - Will Poulter

British Debut - Writer-director Kieran Evans, Kelly + Victor

Original Screenplay - Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell, American Hustle

Adapted Screenplay - Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, Philomena

Film Not in the English Language - The Great Beauty

Music - Gravity

Cinematography - Gravity

Editing - Rush

Production Design - The Great Gatsby

Costume Design - The Great Gatsby

Sound - Gravity

Visual Effects - Gravity

Makeup and Hair - American Hustle

Animated Feature - Frozen

Short Film - Room 8

Short Animation - Sleeping With the Fishes

Documentary - The Act of Killing

Outstanding British Contribution to British Cinema - Peter Greenaway

Academy Fellowship - Helen Mirren