The British Academy Film Awards, aka the BAFTAs, may be 76 this year but they’re still very much in their prime. Handed out each February, a BAFTA is one of the most sought-after awards in the film business and second only to the Oscars for many of the winners. It’s no surprise then to see Hollywood’s finest rush to London for the ceremony – and for many nominees each year, it’s a flight home to the UK to be recognised on their native soil.
One of the biggest nominees this year (and at the Oscars too) is The Banshees Of Inisherin, which comes from Film4 and Blueprint Pictures. Director Martin McDonagh is a Londoner of Irish heritage, so it was something of a home field win when his film picked up an impressive ten nominations. That includes four for McDonagh himself: as director and writer, while as a producer (along with Graham Broadbent and Peter Czernin) he is nominated for Outstanding British Film and Best Film.
Other multiple nominees include Good Luck To You, Leo Grande, which is up for Outstanding British Film, Best Actress for Emma Thompson (Love Actually, Nanny McPhee), Best Actor for Daryl McCormack (Peaky Blinders) and Best Debut for writer Katy Brand. Thompson is of course an old hand at the BAFTAs: she won her first for Howard’s End in 1993 and her second for Sense and Sensibility (as a writer). This story of a widowed woman hiring a sex worker to teach her about sexual pleasure could see her lift a third film prize.
Thompson’s old Love Actually co-star Bill Nighy, who won a Best Supporting Actor BAFTA for that hilarious performance two decades ago, is this year nominated for Best Actor for his quietly heart-breaking work in Living. That’s also up for Outstanding British Film, with co-star Aimee Lou Wood one of this year’s Rising Star nominees. Finally, Living picked up a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination for Nobel prize winning novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, author of Never Let Me Go. The film adaptation of that beautifully humane sci-fi starred Carey Mulligan, who is this year nominated as Best Supporting actress for #MeToo drama She Said.
Meanwhile Sam Mendes, Best Director winner in 2020 for 1917 – a confusing sentence but a brilliant film – is back with his new film, Empire of Light. It is listed for three awards: Outstanding British film, Best Cinematography for the great Roger Deakins (Skyfall) and Best Supporting Actor for Michael Ward. A real up-and-comer, Ward won the Rising Star BAFTA in 2020 for work including Top Boy and Blue Story, and this latest nomination shows him delivering on that promise.
So what about this year’s Rising Star nominees? The only BAFTA voted for by the public has previously given us winners including James McAvoy (Atonement), John Boyega (Attack the Block) and Letitia Wright (Urban Hymn, Black Panther). As well as Aimee Lou Wood, this year’s nominees are Naomi Ackie (Lady Macbeth, The Score); Sheila Atim (The Woman King); Emma Mackey (Death On The Nile, Emily) and Leo Grande’s Daryl McCormack.
When looking for up-and-coming talent, however, a category to look at closely is Outstanding Debut by a British writer, director or producer is also full of up-and-coming talent. Writer-director Charlotte Wells is nominated for the extraordinary Aftersun, a semi-autobiographical account of a girl’s holiday with her single father that has wowed critics worldwide. But Wells will have serious competition from Leo Grande’s writer Brand, homophobia drama Blue Jean’s writer-director Georgia Oakley and producer Hélène Sifre, intimate documentary Electric Malady director Marie Lidén and climate change documentary Rebellion’s directors Elena Sánchez Bellot and Maia Kenworthy. It’s a tough line-up, but proof that the future of British cinema is in good hands. As for the present day, we’ll have to wait until 19th February 2023 to see who wins what, but the nominees are already proving that UK cinema is on a roll.