Last night was the 20th British Independent Film Awards – a glamorous ceremony at Old Billingsgate in London celebrating the best in British filmmaking talent and marking what has been a particularly impressive year for British indie film.

Not only has the release slate seen a rich variety of stories, characters, perspectives and geographies put to screen, but the appetite for such stories has been well reflected in audience numbers and critical appreciation: standout films Francis Lee’s God’s Own Country and William Ackroyd’s Lady Macbeth, both which received BIFA nominations across the board and were developed through Creative England’s low-budget iFeatures scheme, grossed £855,000 and £818,000 in the UK respectively since their release. No BIFA-winning directors have ever achieved such figures with their films and the five nominated for debut director in 2016 grossed less than £400,000 combined.

As such, there seemed a buzz in the air for this 20th edition of the awards. And we were there as the filmmakers and talent arrived for the ceremony to hear about the incredible films being recognised and how they see the landscape for contemporary British independent film.

Director Francis Lee and actors Alec Secareanu, Josh O’Connor and Ian Hart told us about critically acclaimed, Yorkshire-set LGBT drama God’s Own Country, which picked up the top prizes Best British Independent Film, Best Actor for Josh O’Connor and Best Debut Screenwriter honours for Lee as well as Best Sound award.

We had the pleasure of speaking to the incredible crew behind Lady Macbeth, a fresh twist on the rural-set period drama, which clinched Best Actress for Florence Pugh, Best Newcomer for Naomi Ackie and Best Screenplay for Alice Birch, as well as Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design. We heard from director William Ackroyd, Florence Pugh and Naomi Ackie as well as Cosmo Jarvis who had been nominated for his supporting role.

The brilliant and affable Sean Baker was there for his underdog international hit The Florida Project, nominated for Best International Film.

The Death of Stalin’s screenplay contributors David Schneider and Ian Martin spoke to us about their darkly comic Russian satire. And while the Emmy-winning director also behind Veep, Armando Iannucci, was snowed in in Hertfordshire, his film was awarded Best Supporting Actor for Simon Russell Beale in addition to Best Production Design, Best Makeup and Best Casting.

Ruth Wilson, who was nominated for Best Actress for her role as Alice in Clio Bernard’s Dark River, spoke passionately about the strength of contemporary British independent film and the importance of nurturing new and diverse talent.

We chatted with the joke-cracking host Mark Gattis of Dr Who and Sherlock fame about his expectations for the evening and his reflections on British independent film in 2017. He admitted to his favourite being God’s Own Country.

Canadian founder Elliot Grove, and the man behind Raindance Festival, also spoke about his excitement for the night ahead and how British film is simply the best.

Gloria Huwiler, who stars in Zambian I Am Not A Witch Film and whose Rungano Nyoni won Best Director, Best Debut Director and and Emily Morgan Breakthrough Producer, spoke of her admiration for the director and why it’s important to have a diversity of stories on the big screen.

Femi Oguns, who had been awarded the Special Jury Prize, told us about his work to tackle diversity in British filmmaking as the founder of the Identity Agency Group and Identity School of Acting, along with actor John Boyega as his agent and business partner.

Emily Beecham spoke about her role as Daphne in Peter Mackie Burns’s film of the same name for which she was up for Best Actress, and director Deborah Haywood and lead actress Lily Newark spoke about Pin Cushion for which Newark was up for Most Promising Newcomer.

The attendee list was also packed with other stars including Jamie Bell, nominated for Best Actor for Film Star Don’t Die in Liverpool, there with his partner Kate Mara, Andrea Riseborough, who was up for Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Death of Stalin and the likes of Jason Isaacs and Hayley Atwell who were there to present awards.

Gary Oldman was also in attendance to pick up The Variety Award, the inimitable Vanessa Redgrave for The Richard Harris Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Film and Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams for their best international independent film win for Get Out.

Best Supporting Actress went to Patricia Clarkson for Sally Potter’s The Party, Carol Salter’s Almost Heaven was named Best Documentary and the Best British short Film prize went to Fish Story.

Sarah Bradbury
Videos: Filippo L’Astorina

The 20th British Independent Film Awards took place on 10th December 2017. For further information visit the website here.

Watch all the other videos of nominees and winners here: