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Metro Manila film standout winner at 2013 Bifas

Director Sean Ellis also named best director

Image Credit: Supplied

A shoestring-budget heist thriller set in the Philippines partly because its Brighton-born director couldn’t get a film made in the UK was on Sunday night named British independent film of the year.

Metro Manila picked up three awards at the 16th Moet British independent film awards at a ceremony that also brought success for Le Week-End, Filth, The Look of Love and Starred Up.

Metro Manila director Sean Ellis said he decided to make a film in the Philippines because he could not drum up any interest in making what is his third film in the UK. “In this country our favourite word is no,” he said.

Ellis drew up a script, remortgaged his house and headed to Manila with a tiny budget and a Canon 5D digital camera which meant he did not need an enormous crew.

The resulting film, a mix of social drama and crime thriller, was released in September to positive reviews, with the Guardian calling it “one of the the finest, under-the-radar surprises of the year.” In September it was chosen as the UK’s entry in the foreign language section of next year’s Oscars.

Metro Manila was named best British film from a shortlist that also included Philomena, The Selfish Giant, Starred Up and Le Week-End.

Ellis himself was named best director while its third award was for best achievement in production.

Lindsay Duncan was named best actress for her portrayal of a married academic having a rather miserable anniversary in Paris in the Hanif Kureishi-scripted film Le Week-End. Missing out were Judi Dench for Philomena, Scarlett Johansson for Under the Skin, Felicity Jones for The Invisible Woman and Saoirse Ronan for How I Live Now.

James McAvoy was named best actor for his role in an adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel Filth.

The other acting awards were picked up by Imogen Poots, winning best supporting actress for The Look of Love, and Ben Mendelsohn, winning best supporting actor for Starred Up.

Paul Wright was awarded best debut director for his film For Those in Peril; Steven Knight won best screenplay for Locke; and Amy Hubbard won a technical achievement award for her casting of The Selfish Giant.

Pussy Riot A Punk Prayer won best documentary, while Cannes Palme d’Or-winning lesbian love story Blue is the Warmest Colour won best international independent film.

Chloe Pirrie won best newcomer for her portrayal of a lonely teenager in the Scottish film Shell.

Previously announced special awards were also given out including one for Julie Walters the Richard Harris award for outstanding contribution by an actor to British film. The director Paul Greengrass received the Variety award, while the evening’s Special Jury prize went to the team behind the films of Ken Loach Sixteen Films.

Bifa’s joint directors, Johanna von Fischer and Tessa Collinson, said this year’s jury had a tough job. “They were asked to choose from an impressive pool of talent and creativity in a year when the diversity of storytelling is more extreme than ever.”

They said they detected more films exploring themes about “being less judgmental and more forgiving” and added: “This perhaps reflects a movement within British independent filmmaking that brings much hope for the future.”