In its 70th year, BAFTA continues to celebrate the best of the arts, and why they matter

Alex Moreland
·Contributor

Tonight saw the 70th annual BAFTA awards, honouring the actors, screenwriters, directors and more who have contributed to the world of film over the past year.

La La Land was the big winner tonight, winning five awards, including Best Film; leading lady Emma Stone received the award for best actress. Manchester by the Sea lead Casey Affleck was named Best Actor, while Dev Patel was named Best Supporting Actor for Lion. Outstanding British Film was won by I, Daniel Blake, while Best Documentary went to Ava DuVernay’s 13th. Finally, the prestigious BAFTA Fellowship was presented to the “comic genius” Mel Brooks. You can view the full list of winners here, to see who else was honoured this evening.

It was, all things considered, an excellent evening; Stephen Fry did a particularly good job as presenter and host, keeping the night flowing and entertaining throughout. The memorial reel was particularly moving, as well as being sensitively handled; after a year that saw many losses, this was the perfect way to approach the tributes. It was a poignant moment, and an important reminder of those who are no longer with us – but, at the same time, there was something heartening in the knowledge that a part of them will live on. This was a fantastic celebration of all those who were lost in the past year.

Further, we saw a celebration of the power and the value of the arts – this was, if nothing else, the key theme of the evening. It was evident particularly through the speeches – as Noomi Rapace put it, now is a time when “our art is more important than ever”. Indeed, it was a common theme throughout the night, with Mark Rylance touching on the same idea; he noted that art is now “more needed and more important in society” than it has been before. Many of the speeches were based around this idea, repeatedly emphasising that “there is more tying us together than is tearing us apart” – and art is a key part of that.

Emma Stone put it best, though, when she commented on “the positive gift of creativity, and how it can help people feel a little less alone”. Because that is true – it’s the value of art. The ability to influence, and the ability to unite, and the ability to inspire emotion. And that’s the value of the BAFTAs, too – taking a moment to celebrate this art, and to remember why it’s so important.

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