A low-budget science fiction film directed by David Bowie’s son was recognised last night as the outstanding British independent film of the year. Moon took the award for Best Film and the prize for Best Debut Director for Duncan Jones, the 38-year-old formerly known as Zowie Bowie, at the British Independent Film Awards (Bifas).
Last year’s winner of the top prize was Slumdog Millionaire, which became the darling of the awards season, racking up 100 prizes, including eight Academy Awards.
Jones’s film is a sparse and eerie glimpse of a future where human cloning has become routine, with the American actor Sam Rockwell alone on screen for nearly the entire running time.
He plays an astronaut manning a lunar mining facility who encounters a younger, angrier version of himself shortly before he is due to return to Earth. Kevin Spacey provides support as the voice of the well-intentioned on-board computer.
Made for just $5 million (£3 million), Moon is the antithesis of the year’s blockbuster science fiction contenders, J J Abrams’s Star Trek and Avatar, James Cameron’s ambitious 3D project. Critics have compared it to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Nicholas Roeg’s classic The Man Who Fell to Earth, which starred Jones’s father.
Although previous winners of the Bifas’ Best Film award have included such modern British classics as Control, This is England and Sexy Beast, only Slumdog went on to earn an Oscar nomination in the category. However, with no runaway Oscar favourites having yet emerged and in a year when the Best Film category at the Academy Awards is expanding from five to ten films, Moon has a chance.
The other Bifa awards were spread around, illustrating either the current strength of British independent film-making or the lack of a single outstanding contender.
Johanna von Fischer and Tessa Collinson, the co-directors of Bifa, said: “If we can be celebrating so much good work in a year that is said to be difficult, there is a lot to shout about.”
Fish Tank, the council-flat drama which won a jury prize at Cannes, won the Best Director prize for Andrea Arnold and the Most Promising Newcomer award for its star, Katie Jarvis, who has since had a baby and threatened to quit acting. Carey Mulligan’s luminous film debut in An Education earned her the Best Actress prize. Tom Hardy won Best Actor for his intense portrait of the eccentric prisoner Charles Bronson in Bronson.
Two films by the artist Sam Taylor Wood won prizes. Nowhere Boy, about John Lennon’s teenage years, gained a Best Supporting Actress award for Anne Marie Duff and Love You More won Best British Short.
Best British independent film
Andrea Arnold: Fish Tank
The Douglas Hickox Award (best debut director)
Duncan Jones: Moon
In the Loop: Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
Carey Mulligan: An Education
Tom Hardy: Bronson
Best Supporting Actress
Anne-Marie Duff: Nowhere Boy
Best Supporting Actor
John Henshaw: Looking for Eric
Most Promising Newcomer
Katie Jarvis: Fish Tank
Best Achievement in Production
Bunny and the Bull
Best Technical Achievement
Bright Star — Cinematography, Greig Fraser
Mugabe and the White African
Best British Short
Love You More
Best Foreign Film
Let the Right One In
The Richard Harris Award (for outstanding contribution to British film)
The Variety Award
Sir Michael Caine
The Special Jury Prize