Independent film award for Walters

Maldon and Burnham Standard: Julie Walters will receive an outstanding contribution honour at the British Independent Film Awards Julie Walters will receive an outstanding contribution honour at the British Independent Film Awards

Julie Walters will be recognised for her outstanding contribution to the UK film industry at an awards ceremony tonight celebrating the best in independent British cinema.

The 63-year-old actress, star of Educating Rita and the Harry Potter films, will accept the Richard Harris Award at the British Independent Film Awards (Bifas) in central London.

Previous winners include John Hurt, Daniel Day-Lewis and Helena Bonham Carter.

Tonight's ceremony could be a triumph for Philomena with its stars, Dame Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, both in the running to pick up gongs.

The pair are shortlisted for the Best Actress and Best Actor awards .

The film, which tells the true story of Philomena Lee's search for the son she was forced to give up for adoption in 1950s Ireland, is also in the running for Best Film.

Dame Judi is up against names including Lindsay Duncan, Scarlett Johansson and Saoirse Ronan for the Best Actress award, while Coogan faces competition from Jim Broadbent, Tom Hardy and James McAvoy.

Also nominated is Jack O'Connell for Starred Up, the story of a young offender put in an adult prison with his father, which leads the way with eight nominations.

Its other nominations come in categories including Best Film, Best Screenplay and two Best Supporting Actor nods for Rupert Friend and Ben Mendelsohn.

The Selfish Giant, about two young boys working for a scrap dealer, picked up seven nominations including one for Downton Abbey star Siobhan Finneran, who is shortlisted for Best Supporting Actress.

Ben Roberts, director of the BFI Film Fund, said the event went ''where other awards sometimes fear to tread'' and put ''the wild creativity of British independent film-making front and centre''.

The event, formally known as the Moet British Independent Film Awards, is hosted by James Nesbitt at Old Billingsgate.

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