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For Sama takes top prize at British Independent Film Awards (2019)

For Sama

Story by Jack Foley

FOR Sama, a documentary about a young mother’s experience of the Syrian civil war, has won the top prize at the British Independent Film Awards.

Co-directed by Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts, the film was also named best British independent film, best director and best documentary.

Al-Kateab shot the film in Aleppo, where her daughter, Sama, was born in 2016 and where her husband is a doctor.

The movies it beat to the top prize included Armando Ianucci’s Charles Dickens-inspired film The Personal History of David Copperfield, which still took five prizes including best supporting actor for Hugh Laurie.

Armando Iannucci and Simon Blackwell also won a prize for their screenplay, while Sarah Crowe won for putting together the starry ensemble cast.

Josh O’Connor, who can currently be seen playing Prince Charles in Netflix’s The Crown, was named best actor for Only You, while Renée Zellweger won best actress for her portrayal of Judy Garland in Judy.

Other winners included Sam Adewunmi, who was named Most Promising Newcomer for his first significant performance in a British feature film, Shola Amoo’s The Last Tree. In the film he plays Femi, a British boy of Nigerian heritage struggling to adjust to a new life in London. His co-star, Ruthxjiah Bellenea, received the award for Best Supporting Actress.

Writer Emma Jane Unsworth won the award for Debut Screenwriter sponsored by Film4 for her big-screen adaptation of her second novel, Animals, which stars Holliday Grainger and Alia Shawkat as a pair of hedonistic, hard-partying best friends whose lives begin to change as they enter their 30s.

The Raindance Discovery Award went to Children of the Snow Land. This remarkable documentary tells the stories of children born in the high Himalayas of Nepal who spend over 10 years in schools away from their parents before making the long and dangerous trek back home.

The award for Best British Short Film was presented to Dekel Berenson’s Anna.

The only category of the night open to non-UK films, Best International Independent Film, was won by Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite. The legendary South Korean filmmaker’s latest film is a dark comedy about an unemployed, unmotivated patriarch and his equally unambitious family who catch a lucky break when they become entangled with a wealthy household.

The 2019 Bifa winners in full…*

Best British independent film
For Sama

Best actress
Renee Zellweger (Judy)

Best actor
Josh O’Connor (Only You)

Best supporting actress
Ruthxjiah Bellenea (The Last Tree)

Best supporting actor
Hugh Laurie (The Personal History of David Copperfield)

Best director
Waad al-Kateab, Edward Watts (For Sama)

Best screenplay
Armando Iannucci and Simon Blackwell for The Personal History of David Copperfield

Most promising newcomer
Sam Adewunmi (The Last Tree)

The Richard Harris Award for outstanding contribution by an actor to British film
Kristin Scott Thomas

Special jury prize
Amanda Nevill

The Douglas Hickox Award (debut director)
Harry Wootliff (Only You)

Debut screenwriter
Emma Jane Unsworth (Animals)

Breakthrough producer
Kate Byers, Linn Waite (Bait)

The Raindance Discovery Award
Children Of The Snow Land (Zara Balfour, Marcus Stephenson, Mark Hakansson)

Best casting
Sarah Crowe (The Personal History of David Copperfield)

Best cinematography
Benjamin Kracun (Beats)

Best costume design
Suzie Harman, Robert Worley (The Personal History of David Copperfield)

Best documentary
For Sama

Best editing
Chloe Lambourne, Simon McMahon (For Sama)

Best effects
Howard Jones (A Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon)

Best make-up and hair design
Jeremy Woodhead (Judy)

Best Music
Jack Arnold (Wild Rose)

Best production design
Cristina Casali (The Personal History of David Copperfield)

Best sound
David Bowtle-Mcmillan, Joakim Sundstrom, Robert Farr (Beats)

Best British short film

Best international independent film