Bafta Awards 2024: Oppenheimer wins Best Picture and six other prizes

19 February, 2024
Bafta Awards 2024: Oppenheimer wins Best Picture and six other prizes
Atom bomb epic Oppenheimer won seven awards, including Best Picture, Director and Actor, at the 77th British Academy Film Awards on Sunday, cementing its front-runner status for the Oscars next month.

Gothic fantasy Poor Things took five awards and Holocaust drama The Zone of Interest won three.

Christopher Nolan won his first Best Director Bafta for Oppenheimer and Cillian Murphy won the Best Actor category for playing physicist J Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atom bomb.

Murphy said he was grateful to play such a “colossally knotty, complex character”.

Emma Stone was named Best Actress for her wild and spirited Bella Baxter in Poor Things, a steampunk-style visual extravaganza that won prizes for visual effects, production design, costume design, and make-up and hair. Oppenheimer had a field-leading 13 nominations but missed out on the record of nine trophies, set in 1971 by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It won the Best Film race against Poor Things, Killers of the Flower Moon, Anatomy of a Fall and The Holdovers.

Oppenheimer also won trophies for editing, cinematography and musical score, as well as the Best Supporting Actor prize for Robert Downey Jr.

Da’Vine Joy Randolph was named best supporting actress for playing a boarding school cook in The Holdovers and said she felt a “responsibility I don’t take lightly” to tell the stories of underrepresented people, such as her character Mary.

Oppenheimer faced stiff competition in what was widely considered to be a vintage year for cinema and an awards season energised by the end of actors’ and writers’ strikes that shut down Hollywood for months.

The Zone of Interest – a British-produced film shot in Poland with a largely German cast – was named best British Film and Best Film Not in English.

It also took the award for its sound, which has been described as the real star of the film.

Jonathan Glazer's unsettling drama takes place in a family home just outside the walls of the Auschwitz death camp, the horrors of which are heard and hinted at, rather than seen.

“Walls aren’t new from before or since the Holocaust, and it seems stark right now that we should care about innocent people being killed in Gaza or Yemen or Mariupol or Israel,” producer James Wilson said.

“Thank you for recognising a film that asks us to think in those spaces.”

Ukraine war documentary 20 Days in Mariupol won the award for Best Documentary.

“This is not about us,” said filmmaker Mstyslav Chernov, who captured the harrowing reality of life in the besieged city. “This is about Ukraine, about the people of Mariupol.”

Chernov said the story of the city and its fall into Russian occupation “is a symbol of struggle and a symbol of faith. Thank you for empowering our voice and let’s just keep fighting”.

The awards ceremony, hosted by Doctor Who star David Tennant – who entered wearing a kilt and sequinned top while carrying a dog named Bark Ruffalo – was a glitzy, British-accented appetiser for Hollywood’s Academy Awards on March 10.

The prize for Best Original Screenplay, went to French courtroom drama Anatomy of a Fall.

The film about a woman on trial over the death of her husband was written by director Justine Triet and her partner, Egyptian-French filmmaker Arthur Harari.

“It’s a fiction and we are reasonably fine,” Triet joked.

Cord Jefferson won Best Adapted Screenplay for the satirical American Fiction, about the struggles of an African-American novelist

Jefferson said he hoped the success of the movie “maybe changes the minds of the people who are in charge of green-lighting films and TV shows, allows them to be less risk-averse”.

Northern Ireland actor James Martin, from the Oscar-winning film An Irish Goodbye, presented the British Short Film Bafta to American-Egyptian director Yasmin Afifi and Elizabeth Rufai for Jellyfish and Lobster, a tale about care home residents.

Accepting the prize, Afifi said the film was about elderly people who find the “magic in their final days”, before wiping tears away from her face.

Egyptian actor Sayed Badreya, who appears in the film, got down on his knees and prayed on stage.

Historical epic Killers of the Flower Moon had nine nominations for the awards but did not win in any category.

There also was disappointment for the Leonard Bernstein biopic Maestro, which had seven nominations but won no awards.

Neither did grief-flecked love story All of Us Strangers with six nominations, and barbed class-war dramedy Saltburn, with five.

Barbie, one half of 2023’s “Barbenheimer” box office juggernaut and the year’s top-grossing film, also missed out on awards from five nominations.

Barbie director Greta Gerwig failed to get a directing nomination for the Baftas or the Oscars, in what was seen by many as a major snub.

Britain’s film academy introduced changes to increase the awards’ diversity in 2020, when no women were nominated as best director for the seventh year running and all 20 nominees in the lead and supporting performer categories were white.

But Triet was the only woman among this year's six best-director nominees.

Before the ceremony, nominees, including Bradley Cooper, Carey Mulligan, Rosamund Pike, Ryan Gosling and Ayo Edebiri, walked the red carpet at London’s Royal Festival Hall, along with presenters Andrew Scott, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba and David Beckham.

Guest of honour was Prince William, in his role as president of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

He arrived without his wife, Kate, who is recovering from abdominal surgery last month.

The ceremony included musical performances by Ted Lasso star Hannah Waddingham, singing Time after Time, and Sophie Ellis-Bextor, singing her 2001 hit Murder on the Dancefloor, which shot back up the charts after featuring in Saltburn.

Film curator June Givanni, founder of the June Givanni Pan-African Cinema Archive, was honoured for outstanding British contribution to cinema, while actress Samantha Morton received the academy’s highest honour, the Bafta Fellowship.

Morton, who grew up in foster care and children’s homes, said that “representation matters”.

“The stories we tell, they have the power to change people’s lives,” she said. “Film changed my life, it transformed me, and it led me here today.

“I dedicate this award to every child in care, or who has been in care and who didn’t survive.”
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