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Pride of British film at the BIFAs

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Imelda Staunton was named the Best Supporting Actress for the Best British Independent Film winner, Pride

Imelda Staunton was named the Best Supporting Actress for the Best British Independent Film winner, Pride

A film about young gay activists raising money for striking Welsh miners was the big winner at the British Independent Film Awards.

At a ceremony at Old Billingsgate in London, Pride – which tells the unlikely story of the real-life campaign group “Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners” – was named the Best British Independent Film. Its writer Stephen Beresford remarked that the “simple and compelling” message of the film was for people lacking in civil rights to unite. Making it the most successful film of the night, two of Pride’s actors also picked up awards; Imelda Staunton was voted the Best Supporting Actress, while the Best Supporting Actor honours went to Andrew Scott, just days after he was revealed as part of the cast of the next Bond film.

The Best Actor prize went to Brendan Gleeson, as a Catholic Priest in the dark drama Calvary. “Independent film allows subjects to be approached that are not massive crowd pullers,” he enthused. Gugu Mbatha-Raw was the Best Actress for the eighteenth century race relations drama Belle.

Yann Damange beat off stiff competition from Pride director Matthew Warchus, Mr Turner‘s Mike Leigh and Calvary’s John Michael McDonagh to win the Best Director award for his Northern Ireland troubles thriller, ’71. Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan took home the Best Screenplay prize for Frank.

Special awards recognising their contribution to British film went to the writer and actress Emma Thompson, the director John Boorman and Benedict Cumberbatch, who’d been in the Best Actor race for The Imitation Game.

The British Independent Film Awards – run by the Raindance organisation – honour productions that cost less than $20 million, with at least 51% of the funding coming from the UK.It’s the first big British event of the annual awards season, which culminates with the Oscars in February, just after the other end of the British film spectrum is recognised at the film BAFTAs.

But this looks set to be a year when many of the same films find themselves in the running, with Pride, The Imitation Game and Mr Turner all likely to be in the running for other prestigious film awards, on one side of the Atlantic or the other, in the coming weeks, highlighting not just a strong year for British film in general but specifically for productions with smaller budgets.

However, pitching itself as a British equivalent of Film Independent’s Spirit Awards in LA, the BIFAs also do their best to recognise truly independent films and new talent; Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard were named the Best Debut Directors for 20,000 Days on Earth, Sameena Jabeen Ahmed was the Most Promising Newcomer for Catch Me Daddy and one of the most nominated films at the Spirits, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood won the Best International Independent Film.

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