LONDON – “Nomadland,” Chloe Zhao’s film about a woman forced to join the growing number of Americans living in vans in search of work, was the big winner at the EE British Academy Film Awards in London on Sunday.
It was named Best Picture at the UK equivalent of the Oscars, better known as BAFTA, beating the likes of Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” and the much-hyped “Promising Young Woman,” with Carey Mulligan.
Zhao was also named Best Director, while Frances McDormand, the star of “Nomadland”, won the award for Best Actress. The film, which was highly regarded by British critics for its “delicate and incisive portrayal of a life lived on the road”, also won the award for best photograph.
Zhao spoke of her time studying in an English seaside town when she accepted the award for best director. “Wow, I think I just made my professor at Brighton College really proud,” she said, laughing out loud from the virtual audience.
But she dedicated her awards to nomadic Americans, middle-aged and older, who participated in the film. “Thank you for showing us that aging is a part of life,” Zhao said. “The way we treat our seniors says a lot about who we are as a society,” she added, “and we need to do better.”
This year’s BAFTAs were handed out at the Royal Albert Hall in London, albeit without the usual glamorous audience. Instead, the nominees were present via a video link, some sitting in their living room.
This year’s nominees stood out for their diversity, unlike last year’s awards where no person of color was nominated in major acting categories and no woman was nominated for best director, which caused an uproar on social networks.
In response, BAFTA made a host of rule changes, including requiring its members to undergo unconscious bias training before voting and involving juries in multiple categories.
The various nominations did not always translate into victories for actors of color. Anthony Hopkins won Best Actor for “The Father,” where he plays a man struggling with dementia, beating Riz Ahmed for his portrayal of a hearing-losing musician in “Sound of Metal,” and Chadwick Boseman for his lead role in “The Black Background of Ma Rainey.”
But Daniel Kaluuya was named Best Supporting Actor for his role as Fred Hampton, the president of the Illinois Black Panther Party, in “Judas and the Black Messiah,” repeating his Golden Globes success. Veteran Korean actress Yuh-Jung Youn won the award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in “Minari”.
Brits “are known to be very snobbish,” Youn said in his acceptance speech, saying the prize meant more because of it.
The success of “Nomadland” is likely to increase the hype around the film ahead of this year’s Oscars, slated for April 25, where it is nominated for six awards.
BAFTAs are normally considered an indicator of the Oscars because there is some overlap between the 7,000 members of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, which hosts the BAFTAs, and members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. .
Although four of the films nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture – “Judas and the Dark Messiah,” “Mank,” “Minari” and “Sound of Metal” – were not nominated for Best Film. BAFTA.