LONDON — Ferocious female-led tragicomedy “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” was the big winner Sunday at the British Academy Film Awards in London, where women demanding an end to harassment, abuse and inequality dominated the ceremony.
Martin McDonagh’s film about a bereaved mother seeking justice won five trophies including best film, outstanding British film and best actress, for Frances McDormand.
Producer Graham Broadbent said the movie is “the story of a woman taking on the establishment and status quo.”
“It seems more timely now than we could ever have imagined,” he said.
Writer-director McDonagh said it was fitting, in the year of the “Time’s Up” campaign, that “Three Billboards” is “a film about a woman who refuses to take any s(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk) anymore.”
“Our film is a hopeful one in lots of ways, but it’s also an angry one,” McDonagh said. “As we’ve seen this year, sometimes anger is the only way to get people to listen and to change.”
McDonagh won the original screenplay prize for “Three Billboards,” which also netted Sam Rockwell the supporting actor trophy. Allison Janney was named best supporting actress for playing ice skater Tonya Harding’s domineering mother in “I, Tonya.”
Guillermo del Toro won the directing prize for monster fantasy “The Shape of Water,” which also took trophies for music and production design.
Gary Oldman, the favorite among bookies, won the best actor prize for playing British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour.”
The British prizes, known as BAFTAs, are considered a key indicator of likely success at Hollywood’s Oscars in two weeks’ time.
The film awards season in the United States and elsewhere has been overshadowed by the allegations of sexual harassment and abuse leveled at scores of entertainment figures since women began coming forward to accuse Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein last year.
England’s Old Vic Theatre has been rocked by allegations against former artistic director Kevin Spacey. London police are also investigating nine claims of sexual assault by Weinstein.
The red carpet and the auditorium at London’s Royal Albert Hall were a sea of black as actresses such as Lupita Nyong’o, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lawrence and Margot Robbie eschewed color as a statement against sexual misconduct and gender inequality.
Several actresses brought feminist activists as guests, and men showed solidarity with “Time’s Up” lapel pins.
McDormand opted to wear black and red rather than all black, and noted: “I have a little trouble with compliance.”
“But I want you to know that I stand in full solidarity with my sisters tonight in black,” she said.
On the red carpet, actress Andrea Riseborough, who brought U.K. Black Pride founder Phyll Opoku-Gyimah as her guest, said she also hoped the film industry was on the road to greater equality and diversity.
“It’s more likely we’ll see an alien onscreen than we’ll see an Asian woman at the moment, which is disgraceful,” Riseborough said.
Prince William – the British Academy’s president – and the Duchess of Cambridge were guests of honor at Sunday’s ceremony, hosted by “Absolutely Fabulous” star Joanna Lumley. Kate acknowledged the evening’s muted fashion by wearing a dark green Jenny Packham dress with black belt.
The call to wear black put Kate in a delicate position, because the royal family is careful to avoid political statements.
Ahead of the ceremony, almost 200 British women in entertainment called for an international movement to end sexual misconduct.
Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson, Naomie Harris, Emma Watson and Gemma Arterton were among signatories to a letter saying that 2018 should be “the year that time was up on sexual harassment and abuse.”
The stars called for an end to impunity for abusers and announced a fund to support women and men battling workplace abuse, modeled on the “Time’s Up” movement in the U.S.
Former “Harry Potter” star Watson has given the fund 1 million pounds (USD$1.4 million), according to its page on the Go Fund Me website.
The ceremony honored several generations of talent. Filmmaker James Ivory, 89, took the adapted screenplay prize for “Call Me By Your Name.”
The 80-year-old director Ridley Scott, whose films include “Blade Runner,” ”Alien,” ”Thelma and Louise” and “Gladiator,” received the academy’s highest honor, the BAFTA Fellowship.
Daniel Kaluuya, the 28-year-old British star of “Get Out,” won the rising star award and made a plea for public arts funding, which helped him get his start.
Kaluuya, who is also Oscar-nominated, joked that success meant taking Ubers rather than the subway.
“I get that Prius everywhere,” he said.
Story: Jill Lawless