A first film about a recently widowed woman who comes to terms with her late husband’s shocking secret has become the main winner of the UK independent film awards.
After Love by filmmaker Aleem Khan won six awards at Sunday night’s ceremony hosted by comedian Asim Chaudhry. They included Best British Independent Film, Best Director, the Douglas Hickox Award for Best First Director and Best Screenplay. Joanna Scanlan also won Best Actress and Talid Ariss Best Supporting Actor for their performances in the film.
Scanlan, who is best known for her comedic work on shows such as Getting On and The Thick of It, plays Mary, a white Englishwoman who converted to Islam many years ago to marry Ahmed (Nasser Memarzia ), with whom she lives near the Cliffs of Dover. But when Ahmed dies suddenly, Mary discovers that the husband she thought she knew was leading a secret life in Calais, causing her to question his relationship, his culture and his identity.
Khan, who received praise for shorts such as Three Brothers in 2014, has spoken a lot about how growing up Muslim and gay led him to lead “two very distinct personal lives for a long time” – a sentiment that runs through the film.
Meanwhile, the award for best actor went to Adeel Akhtar for his role in the forbidden love story of Clio Barnard, Ali & Ava. Connie Farr and Harry Escott won the award for best music for their work on the same film.
The award for Best Supporting Actress went to Vinette Robinson for her work in the multi-Bifa nominated single-take restaurant kitchen drama Boiling Point by Philip Barantini. The film, which premiered at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in the Czech Republic, also received awards for Best Cast, Best Cinematography and Best Sound.
The Bifas spotlight and celebrate the best UK independent filmmakers and directors and the best prospects for the future, with nominees and winners selected by the industry.
This year’s Breakthrough Performance Award went to Nell Barlow, the star of Marley Morrison’s debut album Sweetheart, which also won the Breakthrough Producer Award for Michelle Antoniades.
Cathy Brady won the award for Best First Writer for Wildfire, which follows two sisters from Northern Ireland reconnecting with each other and their pasts.
Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché, Paul Sng and Celeste Bell’s intimate film about the titular punk figure and X-ray singer Spex, took home the award for best documentary, while best UK short went to WOMAN, on a spooky evening for a gay woman.
Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s Flee, the animated real-life story of a refugee child’s hidden past, won the award for best international independent film. The Souvenir Part II, Joanna Hogg’s sequel to her critically-acclaimed 2019 feature film, received the awards for Best Costume Design, Best Editing, and Best Production Design.
The best effects award went to Travel Horror Dashcam, and the best makeup and hairstyle went to the period biopic The Electric Life of Louis Wain.
The Richard Harris Award for Outstanding Contribution by an Actor to British Cinema went to Riz Ahmed, who missed out on Best Acting Gong for his role in Encounter. The Special Jury Prize awarded by the Bifa Main Jury went to Raising Films, the revolutionary organization that supports and campaigns for parents and carers working in the UK screen sector.
Complete list of rewards
- Best British independent film After Love
- Best director Aleem Khan, after love
- Best scenario Aleem Khan, after love
- Best actress Joanna Scanlan, After Love
- Best actor Adel Akhtar, Ali et Ava
- Best Supporting Actress Vinette Robinson, Boiling point
- Best Supporting Actor Talid Ariss, After love
- Douglas Hickox Prize (for first director) Aleem Khan, after love
- Breakthrough producer Michella Antoniades, darling
- Revolutionary performance Nell Barlow, honey
- Best First Writer Cathy Brady, Forest fire
- Best Documentary Poly styrene: I’m a cliché
- Raindance Discovery Prize Poly styrene: I’m a cliché
- Best British Short Film Women
- Best International Independent Film To flee
- Best casting Boiling point
- Best Cinematography Boiling point
- Best costume design The Remembrance Part II
- Best Editing The Remembrance Part II
- Best music Ali and Ava
- Best brandhair and hair design Louis Wain’s electric life
- Best effects Dash Cam
- Better production design The Remembrance Part II
- Best sound Boiling point
- Le Richard Harris Price for exceptional contribution of a british actor film Ahmed Rice
- The special jury price Raise Movies