x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Locker trumps Avatar with Baftas triumph

The Iraq war thriller The Hurt Locker was the outright winner at the Bafta Awards, scooping six prizes and beating off competition from James Cameron's 3D movie Avatar, by winning the Best Film accolade.

The Iraq war thriller The Hurt Locker was the outright winner at the Bafta Awards, scooping six prizes and beating off competition from James Cameron's 3D movie Avatar, by winning the Best Film accolade. Despite earning more money than any film in history, Avatar only managed two awards - for visual effects and production design - while art-house and independent films made on a fraction of its budget dominated the ceremony at London's Royal Opera House, on Sunday.

The Hurt Locker also won the Best Director award for Kathryn Bigelow, Cameron's ex-wife, making her the first woman to win the prize in the British Academy's history. Avatar and The Hurt Locker, which were both nominated for eight Baftas, will go head to head next month at the Oscars in Los Angeles. The Britons Carey Mulligan and Colin Firth won the best actress and actor Baftas for their performances in An Education and A Single Man.

Firth scored his first Bafta for the portrayal of a grieving professor whose partner has died in a car accident. The actor paid tribute to the film's director, the fashion designer Tom Ford, during his acceptance speech and spoke of how he had almost rejected the role. "What Tom Ford doesn't know is I have the e-mail telling him I could not possibly do this," he said. "I was about to send it when a man came to repair my fridge- so I would like to thank the fridge guy."

It was widely predicted that Firth and Mulligan would pick up the awards, and both will be competing in the same categories at the Oscars next month. However, the Baftas are considered a far-from-reliable barometer of what is likely to happen at the Academy Awards, leaning more towards British talent. "I really didn't expect this at all so I didn't think of anything to say," said Mulligan, whose performance as a precocious schoolgirl seduced by a suave, older man has now made her a hot property in Hollywood.

"Thank you so much Bafta. I was here a year ago and I didn't imagine in a million years that this would happen," she added. "I wish I could do a speech like Colin Firth and talk about fridges, but I can't." Not only did the two main acting awards go to home-grown British talent, but many of the Hollywood stars nominated for this year's awards, including George Clooney and Meryl Streep, stayed away. The occasion's particularly British feel was rounded off by inhospitably cold weather on the red carpet and brief rain showers.

The award for Best British Film went to Fish Tank, about the troubled life of a teenage girl living on an Essex estate, written and directed by Andrea Arnold. The best supporting actor award went to the Austrian Christoph Waltz for his portrayal of a Nazi commander in Quentin Tarantino's war film Inglourious Basterds. The American comedian and actress Mo'Nique won the best supporting actress prize for her performance in the gritty New York drama Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire. Both performers are hotly tipped to follow their Bafta wins with success at the Oscars as well.

The Rising Star prize, voted for by the public, was awarded to Twilight's Kristen Stewart, who beat A Single Man's Nicholas Hoult, as well as Carey Mulligan. Stewart's appearance on the red carpet was one of the biggest on the night, appearing alongside Robert Pattinson, her co-star and rumoured boyfriend. Disney Pixar's computer-generated film Up beat competition from the stop-motion animated Fantastic Mr Fox and the 3D animation Coraline to win Best Animated Film. The French prison drama A Prophet was named Best Film in the foreign language category, ahead of Coco Before Chanel, The White Ribbon and Broken Embraces.

The low-budget science-fiction film Moon, directed by David Bowie's son Duncan Jones, won the night's first award, Outstanding Debut by a UK Filmmaker. At the beginning of the ceremony, it was announced that the second-in-line to the British throne, Prince William, was the new president of Bafta, taking over from the actor and director Sir Richard Attenborough. The prince joined the actress Uma Thurman to present the Bafta Fellowship award to the campaigner and actress Vanessa Redgrave at the close of the ceremony.

* Oliver Good