What a difference a year makes. After last year’s BAFTA film nominations sparked outrage due to a lack of diversity, the organization’s top brass couldn’t be more thrilled with this year’s dramatic U-turn in nominations.
Speaking to Deadline, BAFTA chair Krishnendu Majumdar and film committee chair Marc Samuelson both hailed the list as one of the most discerning nomination lists to date, highlighting a strong British presence, an increase in female representation and a breadth of non-English language titles.
“In spite of a pandemic, it’s been an extraordinary year for film,” Majumdar told us. “50 films have been nominated this year, compared to 39 that were nominated last year, and there’s a real breadth and range of films that we’ve shone a spotlight on. Plus, there are really strong British elements to it, which is brilliant in a global context.”
British indie title Rocks, directed by British helmer Sarah Gavron, leads the nominations alongside Searchlight Pictures’ Nomadland from Chinese helmer Chloe Zhao, both with seven noms a piece.
In a BAFTA first, four women have been nominated in the director category – Gavron, Zhao, Shannon Murphy for Babyteeth and Jasmila Zbanic for Quo Vadis, Aida?. Three of the nominated directors are also nominated for Film Not in the English Language (Quo Vadis, Aida, Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round and Lee Issac Chung’s Minari).
“It’s such a refreshing list and represents a real change,” said Majumdar. “I think BAFTA has really got its own identity. The key thing is we’re shining a spotlight on global talent.”
Samuelson noted that the list feels very discerning and that voters have put a lot of thought into their selections, a possible response to the BAFTA 2020 review which was launched in September last year to address the lack of diversity offered up at last year’s nominations.
Significant changes to the Film Awards were implemented across all categories of voting this year, with a key aim to expand the viewership of all entered films, ensuring members watch and consider more films, thereby creating a level playing field for all entrants. Voting consisted of three rounds this year, allowing members a longer period to watch all films on offer.
“We heard a lot of things in the review process that people really wanted to break away from such as the influence of the marketing and scale of the release of films and so on, so we wanted to have the process be more discerning and to try and level the playing field,” said Samuelson.
He added: “I think it’s really significant that the number of films has gone up by a third this year. I think people weren’t afraid to pick and choose the different aspects of films that they wanted to nominate. It feels very discerning to me and feels like there’s real thought that has gone into it.”
“We do know that people have been watching more movies than ever before,” said Majumdar. “That’s all we tried to do because when we spoke to the industry, people said ‘we just want a chance for our work to be seen and judged – we don’t want any charity.’ So the system we set in place was purely to level the playing field and make sure the work was watched by their peers. We didn’t guarantee anything and this is what has come from it.”
Asked whether or not Covid and the push-back of Hollywood product has impacted this year’s selection dramatically, both chairs point to the fact that this year saw the second-highest level of films entered, with 258 films put forth, down from nine last year.
“Yes, some films have been held back, but we still had a huge amount offered up,” said Majumdar. “You’re seeing these British films in this global context and a huge range of films all of the highest quality. We’re really celebrating excellence in film.”