After Love wins big at 2021 British Independent Film Awards

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  • Joanna Scanlan
    English actress

After Love has triumphed at the British Independent Film Awards (Bifa), beating titles like Belfast and Boiling Point.

Aleem Khan’s portrayal of a relationship built on marital lies secured six prizes during the 24th ceremony, which was hosted by comedian Asim Chaudhry.

They included the coveted best British independent film, best screenplay and best director for Khan, who said: “Is this actually happening, this is so crazy there are honestly no words.

British Independent Film Awards 2021 – London
Director Aleem Khan (Ian West/PA)

“This film at its core is about strangers seeing themselves in one another, I think right now in the world we are living in we can take a lot from that.”

Joanna Scanlan won best actress for her portrayal of a Muslim convert in After Love, uncovering the secret life led by her late husband.

Scanlan, 60, dedicated her award to Khan’s mother. She said: “I want to thank Aleem’s mum, I met her and she loaned me her clothes, she gave me a lesson in humility, a lesson in love.

“This is a story of love and what happens when you lose it, the only way to learn to love again is to go through a lot of stuff.

“She is my inspiration for this performance there is no doubt about that, so thank you.”

The awards night held in London was the second Bifa ceremony to take place in 2021, the first unfolding virtually in February where Sarah Gavron’s Rocks emerged triumphant.

Despite leading the nominations this year racking up 11 nods, Sir Kenneth Branagh’s autobiographical film Belfast, about his childhood in Northern Ireland, did not take home any awards.

Boiling Point, starring Stephen Graham as a chef under pressure, received one award for best supporting actress – going to Vinette Robinson.

She said: “Wow, I am so proud to be in this film it was made with such an incredible group of people with a very little amount of money, a lot of heart, dedication it is a true ensemble piece.”

Riz Ahmed was handed The Richard Harris Award for Outstanding Contribution for his role in Encounter, Shifty, Four Lions, and Mogul Mowgli at the 24th annual awards.

Presenting the award, Yann Demange said: “He has championed the often ignored view…the industry did not make room for Riz, he carved a space for himself and a whole generation.”

Ahmed, 39, said: “I want to thank my teachers for telling me if I messed around in class I might get expelled but if if I did it on the stage I might get a round of applause.”

British Independent Film Awards 2021 – London
Adeel Akhtar (Ian West/PA)

The actor thanked his family for helping him to “learn the art of story telling,” and his sister for being “so dramatic”.

He added: “I grew up coat switching, I thought acting was about becoming someone else, I hope the next 15 years is about learning to take the masks off and offering more of myself, this is possible to so if you feel held, thank you for holding me.”

Adeel Akhtar emerged victorious for best actor at the ceremony, beating James Norton, Stephen Graham, Riz Ahmed and Jude Law.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw presented the recycled plastic award to Akhtar, 41, who said he was “nervous” but wanted to thank the “cast and crew” of the film Ali and Ava.

Star of Luther Ruth Wilson presented the award for best breakthrough performance to Nell Barlow of Sweetheart, who couldn’t be at the ceremony to receive her award.

The producer of Sweetheart, Michelle Antoniades picked up the award for her and thanked her for being “the most amazing lead.”

She later picked up her own award for best breakthrough producer, adding: “This film was made on a lot of love and a £10 note.”

Samuel Adewunmi, who presented the award for breakthrough producer, said: “Shout out to Bifa, did you know these awards are made out of recycled plastic.”

The winner of The Raindance Discovery Award and the best documentary went to Poly Styrene.

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