Baftas blasted for lack of diversity as 1917 sweeps up seven awards

3 February 2020, 07:39 | Updated: 3 February 2020, 08:19

War epic 1917 has swept up at the BAFTAs but the ceremony was slammed for the lack of diversity among its nominees.

Sir Sam Mendes's World War I film won seven of the nine prizes it was nominated for, including best film, outstanding British film, best director and best cinematography.

But many used their speeches to bemoan the fact only white performers were nominated this year, with the Duke of Cambridge calling for more diverse ethnicities to be recognised.

William, who is president of Bafta, told the audience at the Royal Albert Hall: "Both here in the UK and in many other countries across the world we are lucky to have incredible film makers, actors, producers, directors and technicians - men and women from all backgrounds and ethnicities enriching our lives through film.

"Yet in 2020, and not for the first time in the last few years, we find ourselves talking again about the need to do more to ensure diversity in the sector and in the awards process - that simply cannot be right in this day and age.

The Duke of Cambridge (left) talks to Joaquin Phoenix during the EE British Academy Film Awards at Royal Albert Hall
The Duke of Cambridge (left) talks to Joaquin Phoenix during the EE British Academy Film Awards at Royal Albert Hall. Picture: PA

"I know that both Pippa (Harris), chair of Bafta, and Amanda (Berry), Bafta CEO, share that frustration and continue to work tirelessly to ensure that creative talent is discovered and supported.

"Bafta take this issue seriously, and following this year's nominations, have launched a full and thorough review of the entire awards process to build on their existing work and ensure that opportunities are available to everyone."

The duke attended the awards with wife Kate, who stunned in a white, full-length Alexander McQueen gown, which she last wore in 2012.

The pair were seen laughing at Brad Pitt’s acceptance speech for the award for best supporting actor for Once Upon A Time...In Hollywood, which referenced the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’ move to Canada.

The actor missed the ceremony because of "family obligations" but asked co-star Margot Robbie to read his speech, saying; "Hey Britain, heard you just became single, welcome to the club. Wishing you the best with the divorce settlement.

The Duchess of Cambridge (right) with Best Actress Renee Zellweger
The Duchess of Cambridge (right) with Best Actress Renee Zellweger. Picture: PA

"He says he is going to name this Harry because he is really excited about bringing it back to the States with him. His words not mine."

The Royal appeared to enjoy the joke as both William and Kate were seen laughing.

Joaquin Phoenix, who was named best actor for Joker, used his speech to address the lack of diversity.

He said: "I feel very honoured and privileged to be here tonight - Bafta has always been very supportive of my career and I'm deeply appreciative. But I have to say that I also feel conflicted because so many of my fellow actors that are deserving don't have that same privilege.

"I think that we send a very clear message to people of colour that you're not welcome here, I think that's the message that we're sending to people that have contributed so much to our medium and our industry and in ways that we benefit from."

"I think that we really have to do the hard work to truly understand systemic racism. I think it is the obligation of the people that have created and perpetuated and benefited from a system of oppression to dismantle it, so that's on us."

Roger Deakins's win for best cinematography for 1917 means he has become the most-decorated winner of that category, while Sir Sam won his first directing prize, making him the first British winner in the category since Danny Boyle won for Slumdog Millionaire.

The outstanding British contribution to cinema award was presented to Andy Serkis, while the EE rising star prize was awarded to Micheal Ward.

Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy was presented with Bafta's highest honour, the Fellowship.