BAFTA Awards 2014: ’12 Years a Slave’ and ‘Gravity’ Win Big

The epic drama ‘12 Years a Slave’ and the sci-fi blockbuster ‘Gravity’ came as the biggest winners of the night.

The harrowing drama 12 Years a Slave was crowned best film at the U.K.’s top film honours on Sunday, emerging as the night’s major winner, while the space thriller Gravity was named outstanding British film. Photo: cracken226/ Flickr

2014 BAFTA Awards kicked off from London’s Royal Opera House, with a fierce competition between such notable nominees as “American Hustle”, “Gravity” and “12 Years a Slave”.

The epic film “12 Years a Slave,” based on the true story of Solomon Northup , a free man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the US in the 1840s, took home the top prize of best film at the Baftas, leaving “American Hustle” and “Gravity” behind.

When receiving the award director Steve McQueen, who is first black film-maker to win the best film Bafta, reminded the ceremony’s audience that slavery was not a thing of the past.

“There are 21 million people in slavery as we sit here,” he said. “I just hope 150 years from now our ambivalence will not allow another filmmaker to make this film.”

McQueen, a video artist as well as a director, previously won kudos for his 2008 film “Hunger”, about an IRA hunger strike in Northern Ireland, and won Britain’s top visual art award, the Turner Prize, in 1999 for a video based on a Buster Keaton film.

“12 Years a Slave” co-producer Brad Pitt said: “We’re very proud of our work here; it means a lot to us because of the people we got to work with. It’s a story that says we’re all the same, that freedom and dignity is everything and that’s what we have to fight for.”

British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor also enjoyed a night to remember as he was named Best Actor for his role as Solomon Northup in McQueen’s film. “Wow, wow, wow,” Ejiofor said. “I’m so deeply honored and privileged to receive it.” He hailed director McQueen for “your work, artistry and passion”, and said winning a Bafta was “an incredible feeling”.

Cate Blanchett was named best actress for her role in Woody Allen’s bittersweet comedy “Blue Jasmine”. She dedicated her win to the US actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died earlier this month.

“Gravity”, the sci-fi blockbuster that sent Sandra Bullock into space with George Clooney, claimed the biggest trophy haul in total six awards, including best director for the Mexican film-maker, Alfonso Cuaron.

Its director, Alfonso Cuaron, who is Mexican, said: “I consider myself a part of the British film industry. I’ve lived in London for the last 13 years and almost half of my films have been in the UK. I guess I would make a very good case for curbing immigration.”

The UK-filmed “Gravity”, which had an effects team of 450, won Baftas for best special effects, best sound and best original music.

The biggest surprises of the night came in the supporting acting categories, as  Somali-born Barkhad Abdi beat off competition from the bookies’ favorite Michael Fassbender (12 Year a Slave) to win best supporting actor for his impressive movie debut in “Captain Phillips”.

Jennifer Lawrence’s victory as best supporting actress for her memorable turn in “American Hustle” toppled the hopes of favorite Lupita Nyong’o, from “12 Years a Slave,” says BBC News.

Britain’s Prince William presented Dame Helen Mirren Fellowship award, describing her as “an extremely talented British actress who I should probably call ‘Granny’” because she had played the Queen on stage and screen. She dedicated her Bafta to teachers who had inspired her throughout her career and in particular one of her old teachers Mrs. Welding.

The Italian movie “The Great Beauty” won the award for Film Not in the English Language, while the documentary prize went to “The Act of Killing” by Joshua Oppenheimer.

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