Champagne, and some fun chaos, while championing independent filmmaking.
Accepting the Best Film Award at the Moet British Independent Film Awards last night, Pride’s writer Stephen Beresford described the “compelling message” behind the film as: “Unite”.
He could just as easily have been talking about the BIFAs themselves, which saw hundreds of filmmakers, actors, industry bods and journalists dragging themselves away from the sofa on a bitterly cold Sunday night, to unite in praise of British independent filmmaking (spurred on, of course, by the opportunity to drink a lot of champagne).
From Benedict Cumberbatch talking about loving the “communities and families each job brings” to 71 director Yann Demange thanking his editor and Dop, without whom he’d be “totally fucked”, what really came out of last night’s BIFAs was the genuine spirit of collaboration, team work and support that exists within the British film industry. An industry that is all too often accused of a lack of joined up thinking, but which last night seemed to be very much on the same side.
I overheard one industry veteran saying that the BIFAs “gets more chaotic every year, but then that’s how it should be.” Yes the tables were squeezed so close together that the winners could hardly reach the stage, and at least half the award recipients seemed to have drunk one too many glasses of Moet. But that’s the whole point. BIFA is all about celebrating independent filmmaking, a process which every producer knows is resolutely chaotic from beginning to end.
The BIFAs also did what they are meant to do – it championed the underdog. Gugu Mbatha Raw triumphed over Keira Knightley in the Best Actress category, whilst Brendan Gleeson beat Benedict Cumberbatch and Jack O’Connell to be named Best Actor and Pride’s Andrew Scott was named best supporting actor (over Michael Fassbender in Frank). Meanwhile, Ian Forsyth and Jane Pollard were named best debut directors for 20,000 Days On Earth, beating favourite Yann Demange.
There were several prize winners who were so genuinely shocked to win awards that they were left speechless, (unlike at the BAFTAs or Oscars when they feign surprise, only to pull out an immaculately prepared speech from their inside pocket). At the same time there seemed to be more A-listers milling around than ever before – from Charles Dance and Max Irons (who both happened to be sitting on my table) to Paloma Faith and Craig Roberts, the occasion had just the right of star quality and edginess. But unlike at some events, those stars were happy to mingle with the rest of us.
The ceremony also proved that the British film industry is capable of laughing at itself, mainly thanks to new presenter, The Imbetweeners actor Simon Bird, who did a brilliant job of insulting everyone in the room whilst still keeping everyone onside.
Bird joked that he “might try to emulate Ellen’s Oscars selfie tweet.”
“I thought we could get one of me in a Clio Barnard, Eddie Marsan sandwich, Leslie Manville mid blink and Peter Mullen photobombed at the back, but to be honest I’m not sure Twitter’s meagre quintillion megabite capacity could handle the fallout if that went live.”
He went on to joke that “Clearly the BAFTAs is a much more prestigious ceremony, anyone in this room would happily drown their own mother to get one. But hey, you can put BIFA nominee on your poster alongside your Golden Tangerine special jury prize from the Zagreb International Film Festival and your quote from heyyouguys.com”.
Last night saw the end of an era for the BIFAs, as organisers Tessa Collinson and Johanna von Fischer hand over the baton to Amy Gustin and Deena Wallace joining BIFAs founders Raindance. What changes they will bring remains to be seen. But I’m really hoping they keep the fun – and the chaos.