12 Years beats Gravity to BAFTA’s Best Picture

Gravity has come off the biggest winner of the night at the British Academy Film Awards, taking six trophies, but the top prize of the night, for Best Picture, eluded the space thriller.

The London-based Mexican-born Alfonso Cuarón was the best director for the ground-breaking film, which also won awards for its cinematography, visual effects, sound and music. Most controversially, the Hollywood blockbuster, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as two astronauts stranded in space, was voted the Outstanding British Film of last year, against rivals including Philomena and The Selfish Giant. This award raises the controversy over what constitutes a British film according to BAFTA, having the South African film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom included on the short list, while 12 Years A Slave, which was directed by the British former artist Steve McQueen and starred his compatriot Chiwetel Ejiofor, did not qualify.

It was 12 Years a Slave that picked up the top prize of the night, also walking away with the Best Actor honours for Ejiofor. The four acting awards were shared between four films, with Cate Blanchett taking the best actress prize for Blue Jasmine, dedicating her award to the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, while first-time actor Barkhad Abdi was named the best supporting actor for Captain Phillips and Jennifer Lawrence was voted the best supporting actress for American Hustle.

Lawrence was unable to collect her award in person, as she was said to be busy filming. But the absence of such a high profile winner, just three weeks before the Oscars, highlights the ongoing credibility problem the BAFTAs suffer on the international stage. Other winners not to be present included the editing pair honoured for the Formula One biopic Rush. Dan Hanley and Mike Hill’s BAFTA was collected by the film’s director Ron Howard, who joked about who he would have thought they would have thanked had they been there in person. “I think they’d thank the hell out of me.”

Steve Coogan took the award for the Best Adapted Screenplay, with his co-writer Jeff Pope, for turning the journalist Martin Sixsmith’s book about the unmarried teenaged Irish mother, forced to give up her son in the 1950s, into the film Philomena. Director David O Russell took the Best Original Screenplay prize for American Hustle, which also won the award for the best make-up and hair.

Baz Lurhmann’s The Great Gatsby took two prizes, for best costume design and best production design.

Other high profile winners on the night included Frozen as the Best Animated Feature, the Act of Killing taking the Best Documentary honours and The Great Beauty being named the best Foreign Language film.

As well as honouring films and performances from 2013, the BAFTAs also have a number of honours recognising older work and predicting future success. Will Poulter, recently seen in We’re The Millers and Wild Bill, was chosen for the Rising Star Award by a public vote, some six years after rising to public attention in Son of Rambow, while Dame Helen Mirren received a BAFTA Fellowship and the director Peter Greenaway was received a special award for his contribution to the British film industry over the years.

BAFTA likes to see itself as another of the sets of awards that helps to predict Oscar success in the weeks ahead of the premier film awards of the year, but with a more parochial feel and with an academy membership that doesn’t have too significant an overlap, BAFTA is generally less accurate as a Oscar bellwether the American ceremonies, such as the Golden Globes and the acting and directing guild awards.

The full list of 2014 BAFTA Film Awards winners:

Best film – 12 Years a Slave

Outstanding British film – Gravity

Actor – Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)

Actress – Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

Supporting actor – Barkhad Adbi (Captain Phillips)

Supporting actress – Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)

Director – Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)

Adapted screenplay – Philomena

Original screenplay – American Hustle

Animated film – Frozen

Documentary – The Act of Killing

Foreign film – The Great Beauty

Cinematography – Gravity

Costume design – The Great Gatsby

Editing – Rush

Make-up and hair – American Hustle

Music – Gravity

Production design – The Great Gatsby

Sound – Gravity

Visual effects – Gravity

Short animation – Sleeping with the Fishes

Short film – Room 8

Outstanding Contribution to British Cinema – Peter Greenaway

Outstanding debut by a British writer, director or producer – Kieran Evans (writer-director, Kelly + Victor)

Rising Star award – Will Poulter