WATCH | SA’s ‘My Octopus Teacher’ charms Baftas
Local nature film came tops in the documentary category and ‘Nomadland’ was overall top performer
The team behind My Octopus Teacher, an original SA production for Netflix, was among those who took home top prizes at the 2021 British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) awards on Sunday.
The Bafta awards ceremony was held virtually over two nights, with nominees joining in by video due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Celebs Hugh Grant and Priyanka Chopra Jonas appeared in person at London’s Royal Albert Hall while Renee Zellweger and Anna Kendrick joined from a Los Angeles studio to present the trophies.
My Octopus Teacher was the winner in the documentary category. The South African film, directed by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed, focuses on the unique friendship filmmaker Craig Foster developed with a wild octopus while diving in a kelp forest off the Cape coast.
“This is so incredible, thank you very much,” said a clearly overjoyed and overwhelmed Ehrlich, who accepted the award virtually.
She thanked Foster for sharing his story with “such an open heart and such vulnerability”, but saved the “biggest thank you” for “the very special little octopus who has opened hearts all over the world to the natural world and the great African sea forests”.
My Octopus Teacher has been nominated for an Oscar in the Best Documentary Feature category.
The night’s big winner, Nomadland, is also up for several accolades at the upcoming Academy Awards. It scooped the Best Film Bafta and other prizes for its Chinese-born director Chloe Zhao and leading actress Frances McDormand on Sunday.
Nomadland stars 63-year-old McDormand as a widow who, in the wake of the US economic recession, turns her van into a mobile home and sets out on the road, taking on seasonal jobs along the way.
“We would like to dedicate this award to the nomadic community who so generously welcomed us into their lives,” Zhao, who won the director category, said in her acceptance speech.
“Thank you for showing us that ageing is a beautiful part of life, a journey we should all cherish and celebrate. How we treat our elders says a lot of about who we are as a society and we need to do better.”
Outstanding British film went to #MeToo revenge movie Promising Young Woman, which also won Original Screenplay.
The academy also paid tribute to Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth’s husband, who died on Friday aged 99. Philip was named the Bafta’s first president in 1959. His grandson Prince William is the Bafta’s current president.
Following an outcry last year when Bafta presented an all-white acting contenders list, more than half of this year’s 24 nominees were actors of colour.
Film veteran Anthony Hopkins won the leading actor category for portraying a man with dementia in The Father.
“I’m at a time in my life where I never expected to get this,” the 83-year-old said of his win, adding his age had made making the movie “easy”.
Youn Yuh-Jung won the supporting actress category for Minari, in which she plays a grandmother who travels from South Korea to the US to look after her grandchildren.
The 73-year-old, who has won a Screen Actors Guild award and has been nominated for an Oscar for her performance, drew laughs in her acceptance speech when she jokingly said it was particularly meaningful to be recognised by “British people, known as very snobbish people”.
Daniel Kaluuya, who has swept this awards season for his portrayal of late Black Panther activist Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah, won Best Supporting Actor.
Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi director Ang Lee received the Bafta Fellowship, the academy’s top honour, for his contribution to film.
• Additional reporting by Toni Jaye Singer