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Krishnendu Majumdar, Chair of BAFTA, Opening Speech Film Awards 2023

19 February 2023

Krishnendu Majumdar: Good evening and welcome to the EE BAFTA Film Awards. 

Tonight is a celebration of the very best films from the last year with our fantastic new hosts, Richard E. Grant and Alison Hammond. 

This is my last Film Awards as Chair of BAFTA as I am nearing the end of my three-year term. And what an incredible journey we’ve all been on. 

In 2020 we responded to the lack of diversity in the Film Awards nominations and set about transforming BAFTA from within. It was a necessary and humbling process that brought about over 120 significant changes to our organisation and our awards. But more than that, it marked a significant cultural shift for BAFTA. 

As a result, today our Awards recognise and celebrate stories and storytellers that are more representative of the world we live in. This vital work of levelling the playing field doesn’t stop now. 

The Film Awards are central to BAFTA’s mission as an arts charity – to champion excellence in the screen industries. To shine a spotlight on incredible work and bring it to wider public attention. And to inspire the filmmakers of the future. We know that a BAFTA nomination or win can be life-changing and we believe that opportunity to be recognised and seen should be afforded to all, regardless of your background or life experience.  

BAFTA and the powerful gate-keepers in this room must continue to listen and learn from the experiences of those around us. Only then will we have meaningful and sustainable change and an industry that is more equitable, accessible and welcoming to all.   

A moment comes and it comes rarely when we step out of the old and into the new. That time has come. If a venerable institution like BAFTA can open itself up and evolve – I know our industry can too if we have the courage to grasp it. 

We’re all here tonight because we have a shared passion for Film. At the very heart of the film experience is cinema. To enjoy a film alongside friends, family, or perfect strangers sparks the imagination and nourishes the soul. The cinema is a place to dream.  

This year we’ve seen some beautiful films that are love letters to cinema. 

But over the last few years we’ve seen the impact the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis have had on cinema audiences and the types of movies shown in cinemas. Can we just boil it down to economics? 

Cinema should be for stories of all shapes and sizes to be enjoyed. We simply cannot put a price on our culture and heritage.   

So as we celebrate all the incredible films nominated tonight, let’s not forget the importance and the magic of the cinema experience. And consider what future generations stand to lose, culturally, if we don’t treasure, preserve and protect it now.  

Tonight we pay tribute to some of those we have lost this last year. Among them are two people who played a significant role in BAFTA’s history.  

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was a true supporter of the arts. In the 1970s she generously donated the profits from the Royal Family documentary to BAFTA at a critical point in our history. Today, our President, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, continues this unwavering support of the screen arts. We are honoured to welcome Their Royal Highnesses The Prince and Princess of Wales here tonight.   

Another person very close to BAFTA, and a hugely influential figure in British film, was former BAFTA Chair Sir Sydney Samuelson. He embodied the values of kindness, loyalty, hard work and determination. He was the best of us, and his passion for film and for nurturing home-grown talent leaves a legacy that inspires us all. 

Our thoughts are with everyone who lost someone special this past year.  

Before I hand over to Richard, I’d like to thank everyone who has made tonight possible. Our sponsors EE, who have been supporting BAFTA for an incredible 26 years; our co-producers Spun Gold TV; Charlotte Moore and the BBC; the Southbank Centre; the BAFTA Film Committee chaired by Anna Higgs; and the brilliant BAFTA team led by our new CEO, Jane Millichip. 

And finally, congratulations to our 217 BAFTA nominees.  

Your work is extraordinary, exquisite and inspirational.  

Enjoy the show.