Baftas 2021 hailed as a ‘huge step forward’ for diversity in British film

Lizzie Edmonds
·4-min read
 (via REUTERS)
(via REUTERS)

The Baftas were today hailed as a “huge step forward” for diversity in British film as Daniel Kaluuya and Bukky Bakray won top prizes at this year’s virtual awards.

The awards - which were held mainly virtually over two nights this year - were hailed as proof of a “tremendous creative revival” in the industry.

This year, two-thirds of the acting nominations were for non-white performers - 16 out of 24. It represents a major turnaround from last year, when all 20 acting nominees were white.

Last night, Londoners Daniel Kaluuya - who won supporting actor for his role in Judas and the Black Messiah - and Rocks star Bukky Bakray - who won the EE Rising Star Award - were among those honoured.

Nomadland’s Chloe Zhao was the first woman of colour and only the second in history to win best director.

Korean star Yuh-Jung Youn has won the supporting actress Bafta for her role in Minari.

Daniel Kaluuya won supporting actor for his role in Judas and the Black Messiahvia REUTERS
Daniel Kaluuya won supporting actor for his role in Judas and the Black Messiahvia REUTERS

Other winners on the night included American actress Frances McDormand, who was named best leading actress for her role in Nomadland, and Sir Anthony Hopkins was named the winner of the leading actor for his role in The Father.

Promising Young Woman, written by The Crown star Emerald Fennell, was named the winner of the outstanding British film category and took home best original screenplay.

Terry Ilott Chair of the Film Diversity Action Group - which has been lobbying for a change in the tax credit rules to promote greater diversity, said about the awards: “The BAFTAs and the Oscars, but especially the BAFTAs, look very different this year to how they have ever looked before. Awards have always tended to celebrate success. But this year the BAFTAs are celebrating creativity. That is a huge step forward and bodes well for the future of film in this country.”

He added that “film is about to go through a tremendous creative revival thanks to diversity” but added: “We have got to find a way of underpinning or supporting that change so that it is long term and not just short term.”

Clara Amfo, host of the first night of the BAFTAs on Saturday, said: “The whole purpose, in my opinion, of art is to reflect the times that we are in and the society that we live in. I am delighted by some of the faces and some of the stories we are seeing in this year’s nominations. This is what it should be.”

Rocks star Bukky Bakray won the EE Rising Star Awardvia REUTERS
Rocks star Bukky Bakray won the EE Rising Star Awardvia REUTERS

Meanwhile, on Saturday night actor Noel Clarke delivered an impassioned speech celebrating “my young black boys and girls out there” as he accepted an award for outstanding British contribution to cinema. The award is among Bafta’s highest prizes and is presented annually in honour of Michael Balcon, the British film producer known for his work with Ealing Studios.

Previous recipients include Andy Serkis and Sir Ridley and Tony Scott. Clarke dedicated the award to “the underrepresented, anyone who sits at home believing that they can achieve more. “This is particularly for my young black boys and girls out there who never believed that this could happen to them.”

Meanwhile, tributes were paid to Prince Philip - who died on Friday aged 99.

The Duke of Edinburgh 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.

Nomadland’s Chloe Zhao was the first woman of colour and only the second in history to win best directorvia REUTERS
Nomadland’s Chloe Zhao was the first woman of colour and only the second in history to win best directorvia REUTERS

Speaking ahead of Sunday’s virtual ceremony broadcast from the Royal Albert Hall, Amanda Berry praised the duke for his role in creating the body as it is today.

She said: “Prince Philip was an extraordinary part of Bafta’s history. He is the reason we are actually Bafta because he bought together the television guild and the society of film, which created this organisation recognising both film and television at a time when they were actually quite separate industries.”

Presenters Edith Bowman and Dermot O’Leary paid tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh following his death aged 99, with Bowman saying Philip “occupies a special place in Bafta history and our thoughts are with the royal family”.

Richard E Grant - who was joined on the red carpet by Priyanka Chopra-Jonas, Felicity Jones and Sophie Cookson - paid tribute to the Duke as, “eagle-eyed, very interested and very direct”. Asked whether he thought the duke would have been pleased the Baftas were going ahead despite the challenges of the pandemic, the actor said: “Never give up, that seemed to be his motto, so same for us.”

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