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BAFTA Film Awards 2018: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri wins big

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Story by Jack Foley

MARTIN McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri may have taken most of the top prizes at the 2018 EE BAFTA Film Awards but movements such as Time’s Up and Me Too were the biggest winners at the ceremony.

In a year that has been defined by scandal within the film industry, and the dawning of a new era for greater equality, the BAFTAs took on a much more political agenda than normal. Many of the attendees wore black in support of the movements, while some stars, such as Angelina Jolie, accompanied by rights and equality campaigners.

Many attendees also proudly displayed Time’s Up badges, in reference to a push for greater respect and equality since the Hollywood sexual harassment scandal. While The Duchess of Cambridge wore a dark green dress with a black ribbon belt.

On a number of occasions, the winners’ speeches also reflected the changing atmosphere within Hollywood and the need for movements such as Time’s Up and Me Too to continue to push for the kind of change that has long been needed.

Of the winners on the night, the biggest proved to be provocative revenge drama Three Billboards, which examines racial prejudices in the US as part of its darkly comic tale of one woman’s quest to gain justice for the rape and murder of her daughter.

The film took four of the top awards (and five in total), including Best Film, Outstanding British Film, best actress (for Frances McDormand) and best supporting actor (for Sam Rockwell).

Writer and director McDonagh summed up the mood of both the film and the night in his acceptance speech, saying: “Our film is a hopeful one in lots of ways but it’s also an angry one, and as we’ve seen this year, sometimes anger is the only way to get people to listen and to change, so we’re thrilled that BAFTA has recognised this.”

Upon picking up her prize, McDormand – who was one of the few not to wear black – immediately made note of this by saying: “As Martin [McDonagh has previously] said, I have a little trouble with compliance [gestures to her dress]. But I want you to know I stand in full solidarity with my sisters tonight in black. I also want to say that I appreciate a well-organised act of civil disobedience!”

She went on to reference the way political campaigners had taken the concept of the film and used it to help their causes, including this week’s stunt where three billboards demanding justice following the Grenfell Tower fire were driven through London.

“I’m thrilled that activists all over the world have been inspired by the set decoration of Three Billboards in Martin’s film and have taken to the streets and let it be a part of the positive public discourse that’s happening.”

And speaking of her own gratitude at winning, she added: “When I was a young actor in drama school, I was told I was not naturally gifted and that I’d have to work at it. And so, I did. Along the way, I was fortunate to collaborate with film-makers with me in mind. And I’m deeply grateful to them for helping me realise my hidden potential.”

Best supporting actor Rockwell also made reference to Me Too and Time’s Up in his acceptance speech, while also speaking of his own surprise at taking the award. He told the audience: “I’m humbled to be among my fellow nominees, these are all amazing actors. I never dreamed I’d be standing here in London on stage celebrating this incredible movie with all you tonight.

“There are no great actors, only great roles – and that’s certainly the case with the Martin McDonagh script. He’s annoyingly handsome to be as talented a writer and director as he is. And I think as we engage in this long overdue discussion about women in the work place, I also stand on the shoulders of these strongest, intelligent, righteous women, who have made my life complete. Fran[ces McDormand], you’re the rock of this film, you make me proud to be an actor.”

Three Billboards success came at the expense of Guillermo Del Toro’s fantasy romance The Shape of Water, which had gone into the ceremony with the most nominations [12]. However, the film did not leave empty-handed.

Writer-director Del Toro was named best director, while Paul Austerberry, Jeff Melvin and Shane Vieau picked up a prize for Production and Design and Alexandre Desplat won for Original Music.

Upon picking up the director trophy, Del Toro paid tribute to “the miracle that is Sally Hawkins” (who missed out on the best actress prize), while also honouring the memory of one of Britain’s biggest literary legends.

“The most important figure from English legacy for me is a teenager by the name of Mary Shelley. She has remained a figure as important in my life as if it was family. And so many times, when I think about giving up, when people tell me the movies I’m dreaming of are impossible, I think of her.”

Another of the night’s top awards, best actor, went as widely predicted to screen legend Gary Oldman, for his portrayal of British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill in war-time drama Darkest Hour.

Describing the prize as “a tremendous honour”, Oldman also paid tribute to his ex-wife, Lesley Manville, who lost out in the best supporting actress category.

He also made special mention of Churchill himself, stating: “In those dark, uncertain days in 1940, he held the line for honour, for integrity and freedom for his nation and the world, so I thank you Sir Winston.”

In one of the night’s minor surprises, Allison Janney triumphed in the best supporting actress category ahead of The Shape of Water‘s Octavia Spencer and Lady Bird‘s Laurie Metcalfe for her performance as an abusive mother in skating drama I, Tonya.

The former West Wing luminary, who has previously scooped a Golden Globe in this year’s awards season, said: “I want to thank BAFTA, and I want to clear up a little lie that I’ve perpetrated for the last 30 years. I did not in fact graduate from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art – I did, however, attend a two-week summer programme. Which is probably the reason I’m standing here right now. It’s certainly the reason I fell in love with London and fell in love with the theatre.”

British actor Daniel Kaluuya took home the EE Rising Star Award, the only category voted for by members of the public. The actor shot to prominence for his role in indie horror hit Get Out and has since followed that up with a prominent role in box office sensation Black Panther.

After joking that he had “gone blank”, the popular actor said: “I feel so privileged to be in you guys’ company. I’d like to thank the people for voting for us all. I am a product of arts funding within the United Kingdom – I’d like to thank people that financially support that. My mum is the reason why I started, the reason why I’m here, and the reason why I keep going. Thank you for everything. This is award is for you.”

Disney-Pixar’s Coco, a film set around Mexico’s Day of the Dead Festival, and which celebrates much of Mexican culture, picked up the award for Best Animation.

Upon accepting the prize, director Lee Unkrich thanked his cast and crew, before adding: “The biggest thanks of all to the people of Mexico. Your culture and traditions inspired me to make Coco. We’ve tried to take a step forward towards a world where non-white children can grow up seeing characters in movies that look and talk and live like they do. Representation matters. Marginalised people deserve to feel like they belong.”

Other notable winners on the night included veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins, who was a popular recipient of the BAFTA for best cinematography for his work on sci-fi stunner Blade Runner 2049. Deakins is still waiting for a long overdue Oscar, so it could now be argued that the BAFTA has strengthened his chances of landing the elusive golden statuette.

Blade Runner itself also picked up a second award for special visual effects, which was collected by Gerd Nefzer and John Nelson.

The best documentary prize went to Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro, while South Korea’s The Handmaiden won the Film not in the English language category.

The winners in full