Ford On Film

Chronicles of a silver screen addict

American Honey cleans up at the British Independent Film Awards 2016

While most people consider the BAFTAs to be the most prestigious award in the UK film industry, I always keep my eye out for the British Independent Film Awards. Celebrating the best in low budget, homegrown filmmaking, the BIFAs have in the past rewarded some of the greatest films that were overlooked by other awards ceremonies

Just looking at past winners of Best British Independent Film, the ceremony has honoured gems like Pride, Tyrannosaur, and This is England, as well as eventual Oscar winners like Slumdog Millionaire and The King’s Speech. Last night (4th December), the 19th edition of the BIFAs was held, and it looks like year for innovative British filmmaking.

The big story of the night was American Honey dominating the competition. Andrea Arnold is no stranger to BIFA glory; her 2006 debut Red Road saw her nominated for Best Film and Best Debut Feature, as well as winning two awards for Best Actor and Best Actress, whilst 2009’s Fish Tank saw her pick up her first Best Director win. For her glorious road movie American Honey, Arnold won her second Best Director award as well as finally winning the big one – Best British Independent Film.

Even better was the film’s star Sasha Lane, who was cast on the street and had no prior acting experience, picking up the Best Actress award, fighting off fierce competition from I, Daniel Blake‘s Hayley Squires and Under the Shadow‘s Narges Rashidi. Though Shia LaBeouf was unsuccessful in claiming the Best Actor award, outstanding cinematographer Robbie Ryan won a well-deserved Best Achievement in Craft for his stunning work on the film.


Looking at the other awards from the night, two of the most successful films couldn’t be more different; Ken Loach’s powerful social realism fable I, Daniel Blake, and Babak Anvari’s unnerving horror Under the Shadow. In another case of a non-actor beating established veterans, Daniel Johns beat LaBeouf and Michael Fassbender to win Best Actor for his charming and provocative performance as the man fighting against the benefits system, whilst his heartbreaking co-star Hayley Squires earned the prize for Most Promising Newcomer. Another newcomer, Under the Shadow‘s young star Avin Manshadi, picked up Best Supporting Actress, and the film also secured a victory in the Best Debut Feature and Best Screenplay categories.

Before Oscar season rolls up, the BIFAs gave a preview of some of the big contenders we may expect to see competing for the Best Picture and Best Foreign Language prize, as Barry Jenkins’ acclaimed Moonlight defeated Kenneth Longergan’s Manchester-by-the-Sea and Maren Ade’s Cannes favourite Toni Erdmann to win Best Foreign Independent film. Could Jenkins’ powerful portrayal of black America be the big winner come February?

By Harry J. Ford


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