Hollywood musical “La La Land” picked up five British Bafta movie awards on Sunday, at a glitzy London ceremony charged with filmmakers’ political messages.
The dreamy tribute to the heyday of Hollywood musicals picked up gongs for best film, best director and best actress, paving the way for Oscar success later this month.
“La La Land” also won in the cinematography and original music categories, while it lost out in six of its 11 nominations at the ceremony at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
Accepting the award for best director — beating off competition from the likes of Ken Loach and Tom Ford — Damien Chazelle said it was an “incredible honour” and a pleasure to be there along with those behind the film.
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) award for leading actress went to Emma Stone, who plays an aspiring actress in “La La Land” and took on a political tone in her acceptance speech.
“In a time that is so divisive I think it’s really special we were all able to come together tonight, thanks to Bafta, and to celebrate the positive,” she said.
A throwback to Hollywood’s Golden Age, “La La Land” took home seven Golden Globes in January and has been nominated for 14 Oscars.
The best actor Bafta award went on Sunday to Casey Affleck, for his role in the American drama “Manchester By The Sea”, beating Ryan Gosling who was nominated for “La La Land”.
Affleck said he learnt to act while attending therapy sessions for children of alcoholics.
Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester” also won the original screenplay award, which the director said he was “overwhelmed” to accept.
– Jibe at Donald Trump –
Flying the flag for UK filmmaking was Ken Loach’s “I, Daniel Blake”, which won the outstanding British film award but lost out in four other categories.
Set in Newcastle, northeast England, the film tells of one man’s battle against the bureaucracy of Britain’s social welfare system.
Accepting the award for outstanding British film, 80-year-old Loach said filmmakers stand “with the people” and took aim at the government.
“The most vulnerable and poorest are treated by the government with a callous brutality that is disgraceful,” he said.
Ahead of the awards ceremony, he urged the public to become politically active.
“You should know which side you’re on and why and get in and take part in politics. There is no time now to sit on the fence,” he told AFP.
The glamorous ceremony was woven with political messages, beginning with host Stephen Fry making a jibe at US President Donald Trump who recently described veteran actress Meryl Streep as “overrated”.
“I look at row after row of the most overrated people in the audience,” quipped the actor, after stepping out at the end of an opening performance by Canadian-based Cirque du Soleil.
– ‘We’re rebels’ –
Affleck praised Streep for her criticism of Trump during a speech at the Golden Globes, saying he was “proud to be a part of the arts community” which speaks out.
“For better, for worse, celebrities are looked up to and when they say something people sometimes hear it and they think about it where otherwise they might not,” he told journalists.
Anticipating the ceremony would be peppered with references to Washington and Westminster, actress Viola Davis said she supported filmmakers taking a stand.
“I especially like it in a profession that could be considered narcissistic. But also I think that’s what we do as artists. We do, we’re rebels, we make political statements,” she told AFP, before picking up the best supporting actress award for “Fences”.
Dev Patel, who was named best supporting actor for his role in “Lion”, said he was already a winner before the ceremony.
“I already just feel so happy to be here. It sounds like a real cliché but I’ve got my whole family with me. I’m here on home turf at the Baftas wearing a tuxedo walking this red carpet. I feel like a winner,” he told AFP outside the Royal Albert Hall.
Other guests braving the cold to walk the red carpet included Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate, whose London home Kensington Palace is close to the Royal Albert Hall.