After Love, Aleem Khan’s drama starring Joanna Scanlan as a British Muslim woman digging into her late husband’s past, is the big winner at the 2021 British Independent Film Awards. Picking up the award for best British independent film, it also won best actress for Scanlan and three further awards for Khan including best director, best debut director and best screenplay.

Funded and distributed in UK cinemas by the BFI before being released both on Blu-ray and to stream on BFI Player, the film also saw a best supporting actor win for Talid Ariss.

The best actor prize went to Adeel Akhtar for his memorable turn in the Bradford-set romantic drama Ali & Ava, while best supporting actress was Vinette Robinson for Boiling Point.

The latter, a tense drama set in a restaurant kitchen and filmed in a single take, was also recognised for its cinematography, sound and casting.

Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché, which was funded via the BFI Doc Society Fund, won best documentary as well as the Raindance Discovery Award.

Among the winning films backed by the BFI Film Fund with National Lottery money are After Love, Ali & Ava, Sweetheart, Wildfire and The Souvenir Part II.

On behalf of the BFI Film Fund team, Lizzie Francke, the fund’s editor at large, said: “Huge congratulation to all the BIFA winners – a celebration of films which are all the more remarkable given they overcame the impossible as were made and/or released amid a global pandemic. And a fantastic night for the filmmakers supported by the BFI Film Fund. For us as a team, it’s a privilege to be part of the journey of these exceptional films. Special mention to After Love’s success – our fund exists to enable talent to take risks and experiment and this spectacular debut is an example of what can be achieved when a new filmmaking voice is supported to realise their vision and we can’t wait to see what Aleem does next.”

Best British independent film

Winner: After Love – Aleem Khan, Matthieu De Braconier

Ali & Ava – Clio Barnard, Tracy O’Riordan
Boiling Point – Philip Barantini, James Cummings, Bart Ruspoli, Hester Ruoff
The Nest – Sean Durkin, Ed Guiney, Derrin Schlesinger, Rose Garnett, Amy Jackson, Christina Piovesan
The Souvenir Part II – Joanna Hogg, Ed Guiney, Emma Norton, Andrew Lowe, Luke Schiller

Best director

Winner: Aleem Khan – After Love

Philip Barantini – Boiling Point
Clio Barnard – Ali & Ava
Sean Durkin – The Nest
Joanna Hogg – The Souvenir Part II

Best actress

Winner: Joanna Scanlan – After Love

Caitríona Balfe – Belfast
Carrie Coon – The Nest
Claire Rushbrook – Ali & Ava
Ruth Wilson – True Things

Best supporting actress

Winner: Vinette Robinson – Boiling Point

Judi Dench – Belfast
Jo Hartley – Sweetheart
Nathalie Richard – After Love
Tilda Swinton – The Souvenir Part II

Best actor

Winner: Adeel Akhtar – Ali & Ava

Riz Ahmed – Encounter
Stephen Graham – Boiling Point
Jude Law – The Nest
James Norton – Nowhere Special

Best supporting actor

Winner: Talid Ariss – After Love

Richard Ayoade – The Souvenir Part II
Lucian-River Chauhan – Encounter
Ciarán Hinds – Belfast
Ray Panthaki – Boiling Point

Best screenplay

Winner: Aleem Khan – After Love

Clio Barnard – Ali & Ava
Terence Davies – Benediction
Sean Durkin – The Nest
Joanna Hogg – The Souvenir Part II

Best cinematography

Winner: Matthew Lewis – Boiling Point 

Mátyás Erdély – The Nest
Magdalena Kowalczyk – Cow
Annika Summerson – Censor
Haris Zambarloukos – Belfast

Best costume design

Winner: Grace Snell – The Souvenir Part II

Michael O’Connor – The Electrical Life of Louis Wain
Guy Speranza – Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
Annie Symons – Benediction
Charlotte Walter – Belfast

Best music

Winner: Connie Farr, Harry Escott – Ali & Ava

Iain Cooke – Pirates 
Jed Kurzel – Encounter
Clint Mansell – In the Earth 
Van Morrison – Belfast

Best effects

Winner: Mike Knights, Steven Bray, Dan Martin, Leigh Cranston – DASHCAM

Gary Brown, István Molnár, Dan Martin – Censor
Rupert Davies, Nick Rideout – The Electrical Life of Louis Wain

Best editing 

Winner: Helle Le Fevre – The Souvenir Part II

Rebecca Lloyd, Jacob Schulsinger, Nicolas Chaudeurge – Cow
Úna Ní Dhonghaíle – Belfast
Mark Towns – Censor
Ben Wheatley – In the Earth 

Best make-up and hair

Winner: Vickie Lang, Kristyan Mallett, Donald McInnes – The Electrical Life of Louis Wain

Siobhan Harper-Ryan – The Souvenir Part II
Ruth Pease – Censor
Nadia Stacey – Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
Wakana Yoshihara – Belfast

Best production design 

Winner: Stéphane Collonge – The Souvenir Part II

Jim Clay – Belfast
Suzie Davies – The Electrical Life of Louis Wain
Aimee Meek – Boiling Point
Paulina Rzeszowska – Censor

Best sound

Winner: James Drake, Rob Entwistle, Kiff Mcmanus – Boiling Point 

Nicolas Becker, Cyril Holtz, Linda Forsen, Nikky French – Cow
Tim Harrison, Jamie Roden, Adele Fletcher, David Mitchell – Censor
Martin Pavey – In the Earth 
Andrew Stirk, Paul Davies, Morgan Muse, Bernard O’Reilly, Julian Howarth – Encounter

Breakthrough performance

Winner: Nell Barlow – Sweetheart

Lauryn Ajufo – Boiling Point
Max Harwood – Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
Jude Hill – Belfast
Ellora Torchia – In the Earth

Best documentary

Winner: Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché – Paul Sng, Celeste Bell, Zoë Howe, Rebecca Mark-Lawson, Matthew Silverman, Daria Nitsche

Cow – Andrea Arnold, Kat Mansoor
Dying to Divorce – Chloë Fairweather, Sinead Kirwan 
I Am Belmaya – Sue Carpenter, Christopher Hird
Keyboard Fantasies – Posy Dixon, Liv Proctor

The Douglas Hickox Award (best debut director) 

Winner: Aleem Khan – After Love

Prano Bailey-Bond – Censor
Celeste Bell – Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché [also directed by Paul Sng]
Cathy Brady – Wildfire
Marley Morrison – Sweetheart

Breakthrough producer

Winner: Michelle Antoniades – Sweetheart 

Helen Jones – Censor
Jessica Malik – She Will [also produced by Bob Last]
Hester Ruoff – Boiling Point [also produced by Bart Ruspoli]
Rob Watson – The Power [also produced by Matthew James Wilkinson] 

Best debut screenwriter

Winner: Cathy Brady – Wildfire

Prano Bailey-Bond – Censor [also written by Anthony Fletcher]
Aleem Khan – After Love
Marley Morrison – Sweetheart
Reggie Yates – Pirates

The Raindance Discovery Award

Winner: Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché – Paul Sng, Celeste Bell, Zoë Howe, Rebecca Mark-Lawson, Matthew Silverman, Daria Nitsche

Bank Job – Daniel Edelstyn, Hilary Powell, Christopher Hird
The Bike Thief – Matt Chambers, Pk Fellowes, Sophia Gibber, Lene Bausager
I Am Belmaya – Sue Carpenter, Christopher Hird
Rebel Dykes – Harri Shanahan, Siân A. Williams, Siobhan Fahey

Best British short film – supported by BFI Network

Winner: Femme – Sam H. Freeman, Ng Choon Ping, Sam Riztenberg, Hayley Williams, Rienjke Attoh 

Egúngún (Masquerade) – Olive Nwosu, Alex Polunin
Night of the Living Dread – Ida Melum, Laura Jayne Tunbridge, Hannah Kelso, Danielle Goff 
Play It Safe – Mitch Kalisa, Chris Toumazou
Precious Hair & Beauty – John Ogunmuyiwa, Sophia Gibber, Tony Longe, Lene Bausager

Best international independent film

Winner: Flee – Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Amin Nawabi, Monica Hellstrøm, Signe Byrge Sørensen

Compartment No. 6 – Juho Kuosmanen, Livia Ulman, Andris Feldmanis, Jussi Rantamäki, Emilia Haukka
First Cow – Kelly Reichardt, Jon Raymond, Neil Kopp, Vincent Savino, Anish Savjani
Petite maman – Céline Sciamma, Bénédicte Couvreur
Pleasure – Ninja Thyberg, Peter Modestij, Erik Hemmendorff, Eliza Jones, Markus Waltå

Best casting

Winner: Carolyn McLeod – Boiling Point 

Shaheen Baig – After Love
Shaheen Baig – Ali & Ava
Shaheen Baig – Pirates 
Lucy Bevan, Emily Brockmann – Belfast

The Richard Harris Award for outstanding contribution by an actor to British film

Riz Ahmed