THE MOST RADICAL BAFTAS EVER?
This year’s event is hoping to stir things up…
In January 2020, when nominations for the Bafta Film Awards were announced, the reaction was understandably one of outrage. The hashtags poured forth on Twitter, led by #Baftasowhite. The 20 actors nominated across the four performance categories (leading and supporting, male and female) all had one thing in common: white skin. Yes, Scarlett Johansson and Margot Robbie picked up four nods between them, but there were precisely zero for all the people of colour who had acted in films that year. As for directors, the male-dominated members of the Academy’s directing chapter once again nominated five men – just as they had done for the previous six years.
A year later, and the script could hardly be more different. This time, the apt hashtag has been #Baftasodiverse, with 16 non-white actors out of 24 nominated, and women awarded four of the six director slots – the most inclusive and diverse set of nominees in Bafta history. London teen-girl drama Rocks, with a majority black cast, leads the field with eight nominations, if you include the EE Rising Star Award category for 18-year-old Bukky Bakray.
The two big reasons for this are, one: the mix of films that were competing for votes this year; and two: the radical changes Bafta made to its voting procedures. In a year offering Chadwick Boseman’s intoxicating and heartbreaking performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Riz Ahmed’s wonderfully empathetic turn in Sound Of Metal, there was no real danger of another whitewash. Meanwhile, Bafta had already decided on major changes, including the creation of juries to determine nominations for acting and directing.
The Bafta nominations announced in March made major ripples in Hollywood, and not just for who was nominated. Exclusions of performers considered frontrunners in their category – such as Carey Mulligan for Promising Young Woman and Olivia Colman for The Father – caught the film industry’s attention. “I was like, ‘Holy cow!’” remarked one US awards campaigner to trade publication Screen International. Others have questioned the weird mismatch between the nominees for Best Film (determined by all Bafta voters) and those for Best Director (chosen by a jury) – with only Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland scoring in both categories. How come the best films were not the best-directed films, according to Bafta?