Awards contender “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” got a big boost in terms of awareness and goodwill at Saturday’s Britannia Awards, but in general the campaigning was appropriately subdued.
At this time of year, it’s easy to be cynical and presume there are awards-campaign motives behind everything, including every press release, news article, film festival salute and, especially, other awards shows. But the BAFTA presentations at the BevHilton (taped for airing Sunday on BBC America) seems purer than most: Of the six individuals honored, half have no role in Oscar contenders this year, and there were few overt plugs for the films of the other three.
No one could argue with the lineup of honorees, including Kathryn Bigelow, Sacha Baron Cohen and Sir Ben Kingsley, none of whom has a film in the running. Benedict Cumberbatch, named British artist of the year, did great work in “The Fifth Estate,” but that was only shown briefly in his tribute reel, while his supporting turn in “August: Osage County” wasn’t mentioned.
However, Idris Elba, who stars in “Mandela,” was saluted onstage by Zindzi Mandela, Nelson’s daughter, who praised his work in the film, as did colleagues in the reel. Elba received the BAFTA-L.A. humanitarian award, and the crowd learned of his admirable rise from poverty and his work helping other underprivileged youth.
The evening climaxed with the presentation of the Stanley Kubrick Award for excellence in film to George Clooney, given by Julia Roberts, who stars in “Osage,” on which he was a producer. But the big takeaway from the speeches and clips was not that film, but a reminder that Clooney is a one-of-a-kind in Hollywood. In his speech, he talked about the equal mixture of success and failure during his career, which made him enjoy tributes like this all the more. Even the most cynical awards-conspiracy cynic would have to admit he was being saluted for work, both professional and philanthropic.
Reps from various films, including “12 Years a Slave,” “Gravity” and “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” were there in person or in the tribute reels. And in his acceptance speech, Cumberbatch said he felt odd accepting an award for artist of the year considering the work of Chiwetel Ejiofor in “12 Years.” Otherwise, it was an evening saluting the six honorees, not building campaigns for future ones.