Philip, who died aged 99 on Friday, became Bafta’s first president in 1959, one year after the British Film Academy and the Guild of Television Producers and Directors merged to create the Society of Film and Television Arts (SFTA), a forerunner of Bafta.
Opening the evening from an empty Royal Albert Hall in London, Amfo said: “Before we start tonight we want to say that on behalf of Bafta we are extremely saddened by the passing of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, on Friday.
“The duke was Bafta’s very first president over 60 years ago and was the first of a line of royal patronage all the way through to Bafta’s current president, his grandson, the Duke of Cambridge.
“It was Prince Philip and Her Majesty the Queen’s support throughout these years that in many ways allowed Bafta, a leading charity in the arts, to continue in difficult times and to be here today in 2021 celebrating another outstanding year of achievement in film.”
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, a film about trailblazing blues singer Ma Rainey, played by Viola Davis, emerged as the big winner on the opening night - taking home two gongs.
Mia Neal received the Make Up and Hair award for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom along with Matiki Anoff, Larry M. Cherry and Sergio Lopez-Rivera. Ann Roth won best costume design for the movie.
Other winners on Saturday included Farah Nabulsi who won the British Short Film award for The Present.
Lucy Pardee received the Casting award for Rocks.
Jan Pascale and Donald Graham Burt won the Production Design BAFTA award for Mank.
Riz Ahmed movie Sound of Metal won the award for best sound.
Actor, writer and director Noel Clarke was recognised with the Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema Award. He dedicated his award to “my young black boys and girls out there that never believed it could happen to them”.
The evening saw a performance from supporting actor nominee Leslie Odom Jr, who will sing Speak Now from his film One Night In Miami.
The Duke of Cambridge, who is president of Bafta, was due to feature in a pre-recorded conversation with costume designer Jenny Beavan and make-up and hair designer Sharon Martin, but withdrew following the death of his grandfather.
On Sunday, he was to deliver a speech via video, celebrating the resilience of the film industry over the past year.
The main ceremony on Sunday will be hosted by Dermot O’Leary and Edith Bowman, when the remaining 17 awards will be presented and director Ang Lee will be honoured with the Bafta Fellowship.
Presenters, including Hugh Grant, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Tom Hiddleston, will appear in person at the Royal Albert Hall, while nominees will appear virtually.
Road movie Nomadland and coming-of-age drama Rocks lead the diverse nominations, where four female film-makers are in the running for the best director prize.
As well as serving as president, Philip was also present at the official opening of Bafta’s headquarters in London, after he and the Queen gave their share of the profits from the 1969 documentary Royal Family to the SFTA.