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‘Gardener’ rakes in kudos

'Constant' wins film, actor, actress at BIFA

Fernando Meirelles’ “The Constant Gardener” was the big winner at the eighth British Independent Film Awards, handed out Wednesday at the Hammersmith Palais.

The tense political thriller scooped the film prize, with stars Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz taking thesp trophies. Both are tipped for Oscar noms.

The three wins, all in major categories, made “Gardener” the clear victor. Only one other pic, “The Descent,” managed to notch multiple wins, for director Neil Marshall and editor Jon Harris, who landed the technical achievement award.

Marshall’s pic, about an all-female caving expedition that goes horribly wrong, opened July 7, the day of the London terrorist bombings; despite strong critical support, it struggled at the box office, with shell-shocked auds avoiding horror pics.

Laurence Dunmore’s “The Libertine” and Stephen Frears’ “Mrs. Henderson Presents” had received the most nominations, with eight each. However, latter pic went home empty-handed, and Rosamund Pike took the former’s only trophy, for supporting thesp.

The Variety U.K. Personality of the Year award was presented to Keira Knightley, who pledged the $10,000 check to charity Comic Relief. The Richard Harris Award for Outstanding Achievement went to Tilda Swinton, and the special jury prize was presented to producer Sandy Lieberson.

Annie Griffin won the Douglas Hickox award, given to a debut helmer, for “Festival,” her homage to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Emily Barclay nabbed the newcomer award for her turn in “In My Father’s Den.”

Screenplay nod went to Frank Cottrell Boyce for Danny Boyle’s “Millions.”

“Downfall,” Oliver Hirschbiegel’s pic about Hitler’s last days in the bunker, took the foreign indie film kudos. Docu prize went to Sean McAllister’s “The Liberace of Baghdad,” which follows a famous Iraqi pianist’s struggle to escape Baghdad for America. The achievement in production prize was awarded to “Gypo,” officially the first British Dogma film.

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