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Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom among craft winners on Baftas opening night

Alex Green, PA Entertainment Reporter
·3 min read

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom emerged as the big winner on the opening night of the Bafta film awards, which also marked the death of the academy’s former president the Duke of Edinburgh.

The film about trailblazing blues singer Ma Rainey, played by Viola Davis, scooped two gongs – costume design and hair and make-up, with other winners including Mank, Rocks and Tenet.

This year’s awards are being handed out over two nights in largely virtual ceremonies, with behind the camera categories, including casting and make-up, announced on Saturday.

Duke of Edinburgh death
The Duke of Edinburgh (John Stillwell/PA)

Clara Amfo and Rhianna Dhillon hosted from an empty Royal Albert Hall in London and were joined by actress Joanna Scanlan.

Amfo kicked off the evening with a tribute to Philip, who became Bafta’s first president in 1959, following his death on Friday aged 99.

“It was Prince Philip and Her Majesty the Queen’s support throughout these years that in many ways allowed Bafta, a leading charity in the arts, to continue in difficult times and to be here today in 2021 celebrating another outstanding year of achievement in film,” she said.

Philip, who died aged 99 on Friday, became Bafta’s first president in 1959, one year after the British Film Academy and the Guild of Television Producers and Directors merged to create the Society of Film and Television Arts (SFTA), a forerunner of Bafta.

Coming-of-age drama Rocks was the first winner of the night with Lucy Pardee securing the Bafta for casting.

Costume design and hair and make-up both then went to Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, before Mank won the gong for production design.

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Christopher Nolan’s time-bending thriller Tenet picked up the Bafta for special visual effects, while the best sound prize went to The Sound Of Metal, about a drummer who loses his hearing.

Actor, writer and director Noel Clarke was also recognised with the outstanding British contribution to cinema award, which he dedicated to “my young black boys and girls out there that never believed it could happen to them”.

The show also featured an impassioned performance from supporting actor nominee Leslie Odom Jr of Speak Now from his film One Night In Miami.

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Hussain Manawer, who appears in nominated film Mogul Mowgli, later performed a piece of poetry encompassing this year’s nominated films from Blenheim Palace.

The Duke of Cambridge, who is president of Bafta, was due to feature in a pre-recorded conversation with costume designer Jenny Beavan and make-up and hair designer Sharon Martin, but withdrew following the the death of his grandfather. The broadcast therefore began an hour later than scheduled.

The main ceremony on Sunday will be hosted by Dermot O’Leary and Edith Bowman, when the remaining 17 awards will be presented and director Ang Lee will be honoured with the Bafta Fellowship.

The EE British Academy Film Awards will air at 7pm on BBC One on April 11.