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Director makes history as Nomadland scores top prizes at Bafta film awards

Laura Harding, PA Deputy Entertainment Editor
·4-min read

Road movie Nomadland has won the top prize at the Bafta film awards, where director Chloe Zhao made history.

The film stars Frances McDormand as a woman living in her van as she embarks on a journey across the American West.

Zhao, who was born in China, became only the second woman to win the best director prize, and the first woman of colour.

The first female winner was Kathryn Bigelow, who took the gong in 2010 for The Hurt Locker.

The Bafta ceremony, which was delayed by two months, was largely virtual this year, with only the hosts and presenters appearing in person at the Royal Albert Hall.

Hosts Dermot O’Leary and Edith Bowman opened the ceremony by honouring the Duke of Edinburgh, who died aged 99 on Friday and was the first president of Bafta.

Accepting the best film prize, Zhao said: “We would like to dedicate this award to the nomadic community who so generously welcomed us into their lives.

Female winners of the Bafta film award for best director
(PA Graphics)

“They shared with us their dreams, their struggles and their deep sense of dignity. Thank you for showing us that aging is a beautiful part of life, a journey that we should all cherish and celebrate.

“How we treat our elders says a lot about who we are as a society and we need to do better.”

McDormand won the best actress category but did not appear via Zoom to accept the prize.

Presenter Richard E Grant read a speech on her behalf, saying: “Thank you dear British people, I humbly accept this honour on behalf of the Nomadland tribe, a company we salute you, long may we roll.”

Revenge drama Promising Young Woman was named outstanding British film.

BAFTA Film Awards 2021
Emerald Fennell (Bafta/PA)

The movie, which is the directorial debut of The Crown actress Emerald Fennell, stars Carey Mulligan as woman a left traumatised by tragedy.

The film was nominated in six categories and Fennell also won the best original screenplay prize.

Sir Anthony Hopkins won the best actor gong for his performance as a man slipping into dementia in The Father, defeating the late Chadwick Boseman, who was considered the frontrunner for his turn in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

Bafta film awards: most British wins since 2000
(PA Graphics)

Rocks star Bukky Bakray, 19, looked shocked as she was announced as the winner of the Rising Star prize, the only Bafta voted for by the public, and she paid tribute to rapper DMX, who died on Friday, as well as other members of the Rocks team.

Daniel Kaluuya won the best supporting actor prize for Judas And The Black Messiah, in which he plays Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, and said it was “an honour to be a vessel for him”.

BAFTA Film Awards 2021
Daniel Kaluuya won the supporting actor prize (Bafta/PA)

He also paid tribute to actor Ashley Walters for the impact he had on Kaluuya’s formative years, saying Walters was “a light and guided the way”.

Korean actress Yuh-Jung Youn said she was honoured to be recognised by the “snobbish” Brits as she won the supporting actress prize for Minari.

She defeated homegrown talent including Kosar Ali and Ashley Madekwe to win for her portrayal as an eccentric grandmother in the tender family drama.

BAFTA Film Awards 2021
Yuh-Jung Youn won supporting actress (Bafta/PA)

She said: “Every award is meaningful but especially this one. British people are know as very snobbish people and they approve of me as a good actor, so I’m very privileged and happy.”

Director Thomas Vinterberg paid tribute to his late daughter as his film Another Round was honoured at the ceremony.

The Danish filmmaker, who is also responsible for projects including The Hunt and Far From The Madding Crowd, lost his teenage daughter Ida in a car accident at the start of the shoot, and much of the movie was made at her school.

The film, which stars Casino Royale actor Mads Mikkelsen as a teacher who tests a theory that he will improve his life by maintaining a constant level of alcohol in his blood, picked up the gong for film not in the English language.

Accepting the prize, Vinterberg said: “I did have a small suspicion you Brits might like a movie about drinking.”

BAFTA Film Awards 2021
Thomas Vinterberg (Bafta/PA)

After a string of thanks, he added: “Most importantly, I want to thank my daughter Ida, who is no longer here.

“She was more enthusiastic about this project than anyone else and it made her miss her hometown Copenhagen, and now we miss her.

“We made this movie for her, so the honour granted by you Bafta voters means more to us than you could ever imagine.”

The Duke of Cambridge, who is the current president of Bafta, had been due to deliver a speech via video, celebrating the resilience of the film industry over the past year.

He withdrew following the death of his grandfather.