From Golden Globe wins through to Oscar nominations, it’s been a delight to watch homegrown talent flourish. It’s also a welcome surprise that 2021 is a big year for firsts in both the Academy Awards and BAFTA nominations.
But first off, we would like to congratulate John Boyega on his Golden Globe win for his powerful portrayal of Leroy Logan in the Red, White and Blue instalment of Steve McQueen’s seminal Small Axe anthology (available now on BBC iPlayer). As well as Daniel Kaluuya for his Golden Globe Best Supporting Actor win and Oscar and BAFTA nominations for his spellbinding performance as Chicago Black Panther Chairman Fred Hampton, in Judas and the Black Messiah (available to rent from BFI Player, £16.00).
In a year where blockbuster releases have been few and far between (due to intermittent cinema closures) smaller independent films have had their time to shine! Starting with the Oscars, Garrett Bradley’s documentary Time, is a film that is well worth yours. Nominated in the Documentary Feature category, it’s a soaring love story that follows Sibil Fox Richardson’s fight to release her husband from prison, as he serves a 60-year sentence. Bradley blends 18 years’ worth of home videos with documentary footage to communicate the breadth of their love and the intangible speed of time (available now on Amazon Prime).
Sound of Metal, Minari and neo-western Nomadland have all received great accolades and recognition for their talent in front of and behind the camera this awards season. Directed by Darius Marder, Sound of Metal (available in UK cinemas from May 18th) follows a punk-metal drummer, played by previous Rich Mix guest speaker, Riz Ahmed, who loses his hearing. The film is up for six Oscar nominations including Actor in a Leading Role where Ahmed is nominated alongside Steven Yeun of the Korean-American family drama Minari (available to rent from Rich Mix Fri 2nd April), and the late Chadwick Boseman for his final performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (available now on Netflix). The nominations mean Riz Ahmed is the first person of Pakistani descent ever nominated for any acting Oscar and Steven Yeun becomes the first ever Asian American actor nominated in this category.
The welcome surprises continue with directors, where Nomadland director Chloé Zhao becomes the first woman of colour nominated for Best Director, with Emerald Fennell the director of black comedy Promising Young Woman (available on Sky Cinema from Fri 16th April) also nominated. This is the first year in the Oscar’s 93-year history where more than one woman has been nominated for Best Director. Emerald Fennell, who you may know from The Crown for her portrayal of Camilla Parker Bowles, joins the ranks of Orson Welles, Sidney Lumet, Jack Clayton, Robert Redford and John Singleton for receiving a Best Director nomination for their first film.
The Oscars came under fire in 2015 when the academy nominated 20 white actors across all four acting categories, leading April Reign to spawn the Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. This year, the changes in nominations appear to be a result of online pressure as well as the Academy’s own ambitious move towards inclusivity, with the aim that by their 96th Ceremony, only films that have met at least two of their diversity standards will qualify for a nomination. You can read more about the new Oscar standards on the BBC website.
This exciting progression and move towards racial and gender parity was also echoed in the BAFTA nominations. After being called out for lack of racial inclusivity by Joaquin Phoenix during his 2020 Best Actor acceptance speech for his role in Joker, BAFTA moved to rejig their voting, membership and campaigning process. BAFTA have been transparent in their strategy, outlining 120 key changes on their website. These changes included introducing at least 1,000 new voting members over the next two years with a focus on recruiting for under-represented groups and conscious voter training which is required for all voting members. We would like to congratulate our partners Anthony and Teanne Andrews of We Are Parable on their introduction into the BAFTA voting body.
Highlights from the nominations include lead actress nominations for Alfre Woodard for Clemency (Available to rent from BFI Player, £4.50) and Radha Blank for The Forty-Year-Old Version (available now on Netflix) who were big names overlooked in major US awards. The performances in Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari were celebrated – as well as his directing – with nominations for 9-year-old Alan Kim in the Supporting Actor category and Yuh-Jung Youn, who portrays his grandmother in the film, for Supporting Actress. There was also of course, a lot of love for UK films! Including five nominations for Promising Young Woman, and Supporting Actress nominations for Niamh Algar of Calm With Horses (Available now on Netflix) and Ashley Madekwe of County Lines (Available to rent from BFI Player, £10) Sarah Gavron’s triumphant Rocks racked up six nominations including Best British Film, Lead Actress for 19-year-old Bukky Bakray and Supporting Actress for 17-year-old Kosar Ali.
Four of the six Best Director BAFTA nominations went to female directors, including Shannon Murphy for the deeply affecting Babyteeth (available now on Netflix), Chloé Zhao again for Nomadland, Sarah Gavron for Rocks and Jasmila Žbanić for the Bosnian war drama Quo Vadis, Aida? (available to rent via Curzon Home Cinema, £4.99).
This is an incredibly promising turning point for BAFTA, and we hope they proceed in this direction for years to come. Congratulations to all the nominees and winners of Awards Season so far, and thank you for keeping us occupied during lockdown!
Words by Rōgan Graham
The 74th BAFTAs will be taking place on Sun 11 Apr, while the 93rd Academy Awards will be taking place on Mon 26 Apr.
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