The force of “Gravity” was strong at the British Academy Film Awards on Sunday — but it was unflinching drama “12 Years a Slave” that took the top prize.
Steve McQueen’s visceral, violent story of a free black man kidnapped into servitude in the 19th-century U.S. South was named best picture. Its star, Chiwetel Ejiofor, took the male acting trophy.
The prizes, coming two weeks before Hollywood’s Academy Awards, are watched as an indicator of likely Oscar success.
It was a good night for “Gravity,” which won six prizes, including best director for Alfonso Cuarón.
The best-actress prize went to Cate Blanchett for her turn as a socialite on the slide in “Blue Jasmine.” She dedicated the award to her friend and fellow actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died this month, calling him “a monumental presence who is now sadly an absence.”
“Phil, buddy, this is for you, you bastard. I hope you’re proud,” Blanchett said.
Director Peter Greenaway received an award for outstanding contribution to British cinema for a body of unsettling, comic and erotic films that includes “The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover” and “The Draughtsman’s Contract.”
Greenaway said he hoped the trophy would encourage those, like him, “who believe that cinema has to be continually reinvented.”
Helen Mirren received the British Academy Fellowship in recognition of a career that has ranged from TV series “Prime Suspect” to an Oscra win for “The Queen.”
She was given the trophy by Prince William.