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‘David Copperfield,’ ‘For Sama,’ Renee Zellweger Win at British Independent Film Awards

By Stewart Clarke

LOS ANGELES (Variety) – “The Personal History of David Copperfield” won five awards Sunday at the British Independent Film Awards while Renee Zellweger walked away with the best actress prize for her star turn as Judy Garland in “.” David Livingstone of “Judy” producer Calamity Films accepted it on her behalf.

Feature documentary “For Sama” scooped four awards, including the night’s biggest honor, best British independent film. An intimate portrait of a young mother’s experience of the Syrian civil war, it also won best director for the duo of Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts and for best documentary. It had already taken best editing in the previously announced craft awards.

“” had also already scored three wins in the craft categories. It added two more awards on Sunday night: best supporting actor for Hugh Laurie, who plays Mr. Dick in Armando Iannucci’s adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic novel, and best screenplay for Iannucci and Simon Blackwell.

Comedian and actor Aisling Bea hosted, aiming well-humored barbs at the industry, as well as public figures including Bono and Prince Andrew. Iannucci, who is outspoken politically, took a dig at British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he accepted his award, calling Johnson “a Dickensian character in that he speaks mostly in fiction.”

Josh O’Connor’s portrayal of lovesick romantic Jake in Harry Wootliff’s debut feature, “Only You,” landed him the best actor award – his second after 2017’s win for his breakout role in Francis Lee’s Yorkshire-set love story “God’s Own Country.” Wootliff was named best debut director.

Sam Adewunmi prevailed in the most promising newcomer category for his performance in Shola Amoo’s “The Last Tree.” In the film, he plays Femi, a British boy of Nigerian heritage struggling to adjust to a new life in London. His co-star Ruthxjiah Bellenea received the award for best supporting actress, drawing cheers for her tearful acceptance speech in which she thanked teachers and the team on the film.

Emma Jane Unsworth won the debut screenwriter accolade for the adaptation of her own novel, “Animals,” which stars Holliday Grainger and Alia Shawkat as a pair of hedonistic, hard-partying best friends.

Kate Byers and Linn Waite won the breakthrough producer award for their film “Bait.” The Raindance discovery award went to “Children of the Snow Land,” a documentary that tells the stories of Nepalese children born in the Himalayas who spend years in schools away from their parents before making the trek home.

The award for best British short film went to Dekel Berenson’s “Anna.” The only category of the night open to non-U.K. picture was best international independent film; that prize went to Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite.”

The special jury prize was presented to Amanda Nevill, the outgoing CEO of the British Film Institute who paid tribute to her team and the industry, signing off with the words “rock on and film forever.” Lily James was on hand to present Kristin Scott Thomas with the Richard Harris award for outstanding contribution by an actor to British film.

2019 BIFA winners

The Richard Harris Award for Outstanding Contribution by an Actor to British Film

Kristin Scott Thomas

Special Jury Prize

Amanda Nevill

Best British Independent Film

“”

Best Director

Waad Al-Kateab, Edward Watts (“For Sama”)

Best Screenplay

Armando Ianucci, Simon Blackwell (“The Personal History of David Copperfield”)

Best Documentary

“For Sama”

Best Actress

(“Judy”)

Best Actor

Josh O’Connor (“Only You”)

Best Supporting Actress

Ruthxija Bellena (“The Last Tree”)

Best Supporting Actor

Hugh Laurie (“The Personal History of David Copperfield”)

Most Promising Newcomer

Sam Adewunmi (“The Last Tree”)

The Douglas Hickox Award (Debut Director)

Harry Wootliff (“Only You”)

Debut Screenwriter

Emma Jane Unsworth (“Animals”)

Breakthrough Producer

Kate Byers, Linn Waite (“Bait”)

The Raindance Discovery Award

“Children of the Snow Land”

Best Casting

Sarah Crowe (“The Personal History of David Copperfield”)

Best Cinematography

Benjamin Kracun (“Beats”)

Best Costume Design

Suzie Harman, Robert Worley (“The Personal History of David Copperfield”)

Best Editing

Chloe Lambourne, Simon McMahon (“For Sama”)

Best Effects

Howard Jones (“A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon”)

Best Make-Up & Hair Design

Jeremy Woodhead (“Judy”)

Best Music

Jack Arnold (“Wild Rose”)

Best Production Design

Cristina Casali (“The Personal History of David Copperfield”)

Best Sound

David Bowte-McMillan, Joakim Sundstrom, Robert Farr (“Beats”)

Best British Short Film

“Anna”

Best International Independent Film

“Parasite”

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