Touching the Stars: A Night at the Baftas

If you had told me a year ago that I would be in the Royal Albert Hall on February 10th, 2019, I would not have believed you. The one year of the night when creatives, talent, and executives across the industry come together to celebrate and recognise the years best films. Anyone who is anyone in entertainment is sitting in that room. Or in my case, several floors below you. It didn’t feel real until I set off that afternoon, clutching the bag concealing my ticket with everything I had. It only began to feel real when I had joined a group of fellow attendees and was hurrying past the red carpet, catching a glimpse of Steve Coogan, Richard E. Grant and a whole host of women in stunning dresses. Watching award shows on screen does not prepare you for the sight of a red carpet in person. A beam of light cutting through the dark street, every network has a presenter catching nominees for a few moments, and the feeling that you are a part of something far larger than yourself.

As I walked up the steps inside the Albert Hall, flashing my ticket at each checkpoint I was overwhelmed with the sense of what a privilege it was. As I walked up the stairs to the third floor I glimpsed Mark Gatiss in the corner talking to someone. I proceeded into the bar and whiled away the next hour chatting to the few BAFTA Crew members I knew, discussing current work, the nominated films, and keeping an eye out for anyone I recognised.

Anxious that I would be locked out of the auditorium I went in a good half hour before the ceremony was due to start and found myself sitting next to the wonderful Meneka Das, a fellow crew member and actress, who portrayed Jer Bulsara (Freddie Mercury’s mum) in Bohemian Rhapsody. We were both very excited.

I’ve often heard that awards shows can be long and frustrating but I saw no evidence of that last night, the moment Joanna Lumley walked on stage I was entranced. They began the evening with a performance by Cirque Du Soleil inspired by the Moon Landing where the acrobats jumped through the air on beams and performed so many somersaults my heart was in my mouth.

By now the winners are all over the internet so I will mention some highlights. The first would be Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse rightfully taking the Best Animated Feature and how the filmmakers who went to collect it were tearing up that their risks paid off. “Animation is not a genre, it is a medium, and that medium is film.” It is rare that superhero films are on the BAFTAs’ radar but Into the Spider-Verse was clearly the superior choice.

There have been and will be hundreds of puns made about how The Favourite swept the board last night. But that does not capture the grateful, shaking women who stood up to collect their awards. It does not capture the happiness on Nadia Stacey’s face or the love between Fiona Crombe and Alice Felton when they talked about each other. They dedicated their award to every working mother, and proved it was possible to have an incredible career in film regardless of anything. Olivia Colman’s acceptance speech for her Best Actress win was the most humble and kind speech of the night. She was barely able to speak and was clearly in shock. But goddamn did she earn that award and I leapt out of my seat and clapped till my hands hurt.

A personal highlight of mine was Spike Lee strutting onto stage in his gorgeous purple tuxedo and beret to collect his BAFTA for Best Adapted Screenplay for the amazing BlackKKlansman. It is hard to describe how it felt for someone who is so rarely honoured by the academies to receive an award they more than deserved. Someone who actively seeks to make challenging but entertaining films. He walked up to the unforgettable soundtrack by Terence Blanchard, which in my opinion should have won Best Original Music, and god, was it a moment to remember.

Lastly, a special mention must go to Leticia Wright. Upon winning her Rising Star award she immediately thanked God. Now whether one is religious or not, watching her express her gratitude for being lifted from the darkness of depression by her title as a Breakthrough Brit, and now a Rising Star, was an emotional experience. A small figure in the massive auditorium, her voice ringing out through the speakers so we could all share in her moment.

The awards were all announced in a smooth but quick succession which made me wonder where they scheduled the ad breaks. But not once did the evening drag or I felt like I wanted to leave, not that the thought occurred to me. It was a hugely inspiring night where I felt like a part of the British Film Industry even for a brief few hours. It was an honour to be present last night.  

However as I was leaving, not believing the night could get any better, I spotted the amazing Cynthia Erivo at the bottom of the stairs. She was taking a photo and being ushered from the foyer, but I knew my little sister would never forgive me if I didn’t at least make an attempt. So I said hello, told her she was amazing, and watched as she was swept away followed by her entourage.

It was a night I will remember for years to come.

 

by Mia Garfield

Mia Garfield has just finished a degree in Film at Falmouth University. She has written about the female voice in cinema and negotiating the position of the female director. She has just finished her first short film ‘Sonder’, keep an eye out for it at festivals in the UK. A big lover of Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Mythology, her taste is varied and every time she is asked about her favourite film she gives a different answer. Today her favourite films include Howl’s Moving Castle, Memoirs of A Geisha, How to Train Your Dragon, and Big Hero 6. You can find her @miajulianna2864

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