...And it's the low-budget war drama that wins

From left: The Hurt Locker's screen writer Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow, and producers Greg Shapiro and Nicholas Chartier. (GETTY IMAGES)

It was a case of the lady getting one over the ex-husband at this week's British Academy Film Awards 2010.

Kathryn Bigelow's Iraq war drama, The Hurt Locker, continues to dominate the headlines leading up to the Oscars next month – the film swept her former partner James Cameron's 3D blockbuster Avatar aside, picking up Best Film and Best Director among its six prizes.

Both films were nominated for eight awards at the ceremony, and also lead the field heading into next month's Academy Awards with nine nominations apiece.

Bigelow, 58, became the first woman to win the Best Director from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Baftas), and said she hoped she would not be the last one to do so.

"This is so unbelievable; we're just so deeply honoured and humbled," she said. "It's a true honour. I didn't realise this was a first – hopefully it's a first of many."

She went on to dedicate the award to ending war and "bringing the boys and girls back home".

Later on in the night, Bigelow told reporters backstage: "Women's struggle for equity is a constant struggle, so if this can be a beacon of light, then wonderful."

Cameron was in the audience, and Avatar, the biggest box office hit in history, won just two awards – Best Production Design and Best Special Visual Effects. Bigelow played down talk of rivalry between the former spouses.

"It's been a real honour," she said. "Specifically with Jim, we're very good friends. I think we're proud of each other and I think that's there for a long time."

The Hurt Locker, whose $15 million (Dh55m) budget was dwarfed by that of Avatar ($500m), as was its box office takings, follows a bomb disposal unit in Iraq, and captures the tension as they seek to defuse bombs in cars, under dirt and strapped to innocent civilians.

"I think we all sensed an amazing responsibility to honour the people in the film and honour a scriptwriter who risked his life to capture the tragedy and chaos of war," said Bigelow. "I would like to dedicate this to never abandoning the need to find a resolution for peace."

Scriptwriter Mark Boal also picked up the best original screenplay award.

The Best Actor and Actress categories both went to Brits on the night. Colin Firth won for his role in A Single Man, while Carey Mulligan was named Best Actress for An Education.

After being presented with his award, Firth, 49, revealed how he came within moments of rejecting the role when it was offered to him by designer-turned-director Tom Ford.

"What Tom Ford doesn't know is, I have the email in my outbox telling him I could not possibly do this," he said. "I was about to send this when a man came to repair my fridge... I don't know what's best for me so I would like to thank the fridge guy.

Firth went on to pay tribute to Ford, whose film was his first. "I've worked with a lot of great directors and he's up there with the best of them."

Best Supporting Actress went to Mo'Nique for the gritty US production Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, and Christoph Waltz won the best supporting actor prize for his chilling turn as a Nazi in Quentin Tarantino's riotous Inglourious Basterds.

Rock legend David Bowie's film director son Duncan Jones walked away with the award for Best British Debut for his low-budget sci-fi film Moon.

As he received his reward, an emotional Jones said: "It's taken me a long time to know what to do with my life. Finally, I think I've found what I love doing.

"My dad showed me a lot of films when I was growing up, sitting there next to me making sure I didn't get terrified."

Other winners included Twilight star Kristen Stewart, who won the Orange Rising Star prize decided by the British public unlike the other awards, prison thriller A Prophet was named Best Foreign Film, while animation Up won Best Animation and Best Music.

Prince William was in attendance as he was named the new Bafta president, taking over from British director Richard Attenborough.

Veteran British actress Vanessa Redgrave accepted an Academy Fellowship in honour of a career spanning six decades and followed in the footsteps of the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg and Elizabeth Taylor.

The awards ceremony – also known as Baftas – tend to lean towards British talent more than the Oscars, and they are a far-from-perfect barometer of what happens at the Academy Awards.

But the scale of The Hurt Locker's success will be noted by the industry as well as the media, which has built both the Baftas and next month's Academy Awards into a Bigelow-versus-Cameron duel. Bring on March 7.

Winners at 2010 BAFTA awards

ACADEMY FELLOWSHIP

Vanessa Redgrave

BEST FILM

The Hurt Locker

ACTRESS

Carey Mulligan for An Education

ACTOR

Colin Firth for A Single Man

DIRECTOR

Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt

Locker

FOREIGN FILM

A Prophet

ANIMATED FILM

Up

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Up in the Air

ORANGE RISING STAR

Kristen Stewart (voted for by the

British public)

PRODUCTION DESIGN

Avatar

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Mark Boal for The Hurt Locker

OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM

Fish Tank

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Mo'Nique for Precious

MAKE UP & HAIR

The Young Victoria

COSTUME DESIGN

The Young Victoria

SUPPORTING ACTOR

Christoph Waltz for Inglourious

Basterds

SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS

Avatar

CINEMATOGRAPHY

The Hurt Locker

OUTSTANDING BRITISH CONTRIBUTION TO CINEMA

Joe Dunton

EDITING

The Hurt Locker

SOUND

The Hurt Locker

MUSIC

Up

SHORT ANIMATION

Mother of Many

SHORT FILM

I Do Air

OUTSTANDING DEBUT BY BRITISH writer, director or producer

Duncan Jones, director of Moon

 

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