BAFTA Awards: Turning a corner in 2021

Last week, BAFTA released its nominations ahead of the award ceremony on 11 April. After much criticism and scrutiny last year - another year where it felt like many filmmakers and actors from more diverse backgrounds were being overlooked - it seems like BAFTA has made tangible strides to celebrate a true reflection of the film industry. What’s more, it seems like the awarding body is beginning to flesh out an identity of its own in many ways.

This year’s nominations feel genuinely distinct. They champion the best in international independent film, and it doesn’t feel like anyone has been sidelined in favour of bigger-ticket titles that will garner extra press attention. Most of the films nominated were already on my radar (it’s my job to know!), but anything that wasn’t, I’ve found myself furiously Googling.

The Best Director category is particularly exciting, with Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round), Shannon Murphy (Babyteeth), Lee Isaac Chung (Minari), Chloé Zhao (Nomadland), Jasmila Žbanić (Quo Vadis, Aida?) and Sarah Gavron (Rocks) nominated. Without mentioning the diversity of the nominees, the films themselves are incredible. I’ve seen five out of the six nominated, and they genuinely feel like the boldest, innovative and deeply heartfelt films I’ve seen this past year. These were the films I found myself waking up the next day still thinking about. Now, when we do consider the diversity of this category, there are four women nominated. Each one absolutely deserves their spot here, but it’s incredible when you consider that the BAFTAs has failed to recognise a single woman in this category since 2013.

The BAFTAs has also really shone a light on British talent in the Best British categories and throughout the nominations. For example, Bukky Bakray (Rocks) and Wumni Mosaku (His House) sit alongside the likes of Frances McDormand (Nomadland) in the Best Actress category, as they should. Many of the acting categories also feature actors whose performances feature in films not in the English language, which rarely get a look in. What’s more, a year after the BAFTAs failed to recognise a single non-white actor, 15 people of colour are deservedly nominated across the four acting categories. 

I’m hopeful that this feels like a step in a more inclusive, more interesting direction for the BAFTAs. We’ll have to see what next year’s nominations look like to see if the changes are lasting. In the meantime, you’ll be able to catch a number of the films mentioned at Showroom when we reopen; please follow @ShowroomCinema on Twitter for our latest updates. 

This article first featured in the Sheffield Telegraph on Thursday 18 March 2021.


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