BAFTA Analysis: Film Noms Offer Up Diverse Field, More Women Than Ever & Will Smith’s First Nod, Also Directing Category Surprises

The BAFTA Film Awards nominations announced this afternoon in London offer up a diverse crop, and the highest number of female nominees on record; they’re also notable for a strong British presence and Will Smith’s first-ever mention.

There is one category — Director — that stands out as a bit of a head-scratcher. Not necessarily in a bad way, but surprising nevertheless. The field has an equal split of male and female filmmakers, however the list strays far from the recent DGA nominations, and barely aligns with the Best Film race at BAFTA.

One explanation for the non-alignment could be that BAFTA’s Director nominees are chosen by a nominating jury, while the Best Film nominees are voted on by the entire membership.

Nominated for Best Film are Belfast, Don’t Look Up, Dune, Licorice Pizza and The Power Of The Dog. In the Directing category, only Licorice Pizza’s Paul Thomas Anderson and The Power Of The Dog’s Jane Campion figure. The other four nominees are Drive My Car’s Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Happening’s Audrey Diwan (winner of the Golden Lion last year in Venice), Titane’s Julia Ducournau (the Palme d’Or laureate in 2021) and first-timer Aleem Khan for After Love. The sole nominations for Happening and Titane are in the directing category.

In 2021, there was only one film, Nomadland, that repeated in Best Film and Best Director — and it went on to scoop both prizes. In 2021, the DGA and BAFTA aligned on three nominees versus this year’s two.

Not making the cut at BAFTA are DGA contenders Kenneth Branagh (Belfast, which has six BAFTA nominations total), Denis Villeneuve (despite his Dune being the biggest overall BAFTA nominee) and Steven Spielberg (though West Side Story received five nods).

Overall, there is an increase in the number of female directors nominated across all categories, up to 12 vs eight in 2021. The number of female nominees in total has risen to 70, which is the highest in the last five years (since reporting began). In the acting categories, 19 nominees are first-timers, seven are British and seven are from underrepresented ethnicities. That’s not as many as last year, but is up on 2020.

The Brits fared well in their hometown nominees, particularly for independent films like After Love (4), Boiling Point (4), Passing (4) and Ali & Ava (2). With seven of the 24 performance nominees being British, that may inspire less criticism that the awards skew overly American. What’s more, and refreshing, is that there are a lot of fresh faces here.

One of those is double Oscar nominee Will Smith who finally (!) scores his first-ever BAFTA nomination with Warner Bros’ King Richard. The movie overall has four nominations (including for Zach Baylin’s Original Screenplay and mentions for Supporting Actress Aunjanue Ellis and Casting).

In late 2020, BAFTA made more than 120 changes to its voting, membership and campaigning processes following an in-depth review. The British org began the review to address diversity standards after controversy erupted over its 2020 BAFTA Film Awards nominations, which featured zero non-white acting contenders and an all-male directing field. One of the changes was increasing the number of nominees in the directing and acting categories, including a directing longlist made up equally of men and women.

The regs indeed appear to contribute to more diversity, but it could also be a question of increased voter sensibility as well as an expanded voting membership.

With 10 nominees in the expanded Outstanding British Film category, the field is wide. Belfast repeats here, while No Time To Die — the film that essentially single-handedly put UK moviegoing back on the map last fall — scored one of its five mentions in the field. Edgar Wright’s Last Night In Soho and Ridley Scott’s House Of Gucci also landed on the list while the latter’s star Lady Gaga is in the Leading Actress race.

Not in that field is Kristen Stewart for her protrayal of Princess Diana in Spencer which did not score a single nomination. Nor is Being The Ricardos’ Nicole Kidman. It’s nice to see Cannes Best Actress winner Renate Reinsve among the contenders for Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person In The World.

That Norwegian picture is also up for Film Not In The English Language, alongside Drive My Car, The Hand Of God, Parallel Mothers and Petite Maman. Neither Parallel Mothers nor Petite Maman were the Oscar entries from their respective countries, so do not figure there. The others are all on the shortlist for the International Feature Oscar.

Streamers fared well with six Netflix titles figuring: The Power Of The Dog (eight nominations), Don’t Look Up (4), Passing (4), The Hand Of God (2), The Harder They Fall (2) The Lost Daughter (2) and The Mitchells Vs. The Machines (1). AppleTV+’s CODA nabbed three mentions including Adapted Screenplay for Sian Heder, Leading Actress for Emilia Jones and Supporting Actor for Troy Kotsur while Swan Song and The Tragedy Of Macbeth each earned a nomination. And, Amazon’s Being The Ricardos scored two with Everybody’s Talking About Jamie grabbing one.

Krishnendu Majumdar, Chair of BAFTA, said today, “This year’s nominations showcase a remarkable range of creative work in-front of and behind the camera. We know that by celebrating outstanding achievement today, we are inspiring future generations for years to come. Two years ago, we launched a wide-ranging review into our voting, membership and campaigning processes and I want to thank the BAFTA members and the wider industry for embracing these changes. Our goal is to level the playing field for awards entries so that more films and the true diverse range of exceptional creative talent in the UK and internationally is represented and celebrated. With 48 films nominated today, we’re delighted to be able to shine a spotlight on such phenomenal breadth of stories and performances.”

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