Three Billboards wins 5 Baftas

It shares stage with fashion and rhetoric in support of fight against sexual harassment

Crime drama Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri won five British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) awards - including best film - on Sunday, topping an emotionally charged ceremony that featured fashion and rhetoric in support of the fight against sexual harassment.

The movie, chronicling a grieving mother's campaign for justice, won for original screenplay and outstanding British film, while its stars Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell bagged the best actress and best supporting actor prizes respectively.

The Shape Of Water - the most nominated film of the night with 12 nods - came away with only three awards, including best director for Guillermo del Toro.

Darkest Hour claimed two prizes, including for Gary Oldman as best actor.

With Hollywood still reeling from the fallout of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the resulting anti-sexual harassment campaigns were reflected in the mood of the evening.

"Our film is a hopeful one in lots of ways, but it is also an angry one," writer and director Martin McDonagh of Three Billboards said in his acceptance speech.

"And as we have seen this year, sometimes anger is the only way to get people to listen and to change, so we are thrilled that Bafta has recognised this."

Stars arrived at London's Royal Albert Hall predominantly dressed in black in solidarity with the #MeToo and Time's Up campaigns, mirroring the recent American red carpets, including last month's Golden Globes.

Actresses Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lawrence and Kristin Scott Thomas were among the stars who wore black.

British royals avoid making overtly political statements or gestures, so there was little surprise when the Duchess of Cambridge chose to wear a dark green dress by British designer Jenny Packham, as she accompanied husband Prince William, president of Bafta, to the ceremony.

Bafta chairman Jane Lush opened the evening soberly, telling the star-studded audience that it was important to acknowledge a "difficult" past year and noted efforts to tackle gender inequality.

"Brave revelations have followed brave revelations of bullying and sexual harassment and, which to all our shame, has been hidden in plain sight for decades," she said.

"This is a moment in history, it should be a watershed, a catalyst for lasting change."

Meanwhile, in an open letter published on Sunday before the awards, almost 200 British and Irish stars backed a new fund to help women facing sexual harassment and abuse at work.

It echoes a similar initiative launched in Hollywood last month and was kick-started with a £1 million (S$1.8 million) donation from actress and activist Emma Watson.

The Shape Of Water composer Alexandre Desplat collected the original music award - his third Bafta win - and the film also won best production design.

Allison Janney won best supporting actress for her role as the mother of controversial figure skater Tonya Harding in biopic I, Tonya.

"I loved doing this crazy part and finding her humanity, that is what I try and do in all roles," Janney said backstage.

Oldman's turn as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour has so far won him a Golden Globe, a Bafta and the chance of an Oscar on March 4.

He paid tribute to the wartime British leader, saying: "In those dark, uncertain days in 1940, he held the line for honour, for integrity and freedom for his nation and the world, so I thank you, Sir Winston."

Accepting her best actress accolade, McDormand, who chose not to wear black, quoted her on-screen character, who has "a little trouble with compliance".

"But I want you to know I stand in full solidarity with my sisters tonight in black," she added. - AFP