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BAFTA Awards 2021: Nomadland and Rocks lead nominations as improvements made on diversity

Written by on 9 March 2021

Nomadland and Rocks lead the way for this year’s BAFTA nominations, with their filmmakers among a record four women shortlisted for best director.

In the acting categories, following #BAFTAsSoWhite criticism over last year’s shortlists, the majority of the 24 nominees are from black, Asian and minority ethnic groups (BAME), including British stars Riz Ahmed, Wunmi Mosaku and Daniel Kaluuya.

The shortlist for the big award, for best film, features The Father, The Mauritanian, Promising Young Woman and The Trial Of The Chicago 7, as well as Nomadland.

Nomadland director Chloe Zhao, pictured in 2018 Image: Nomadland filmmaker Chloe Zhao is one of four women up for the best director award Rocks. Pic: Altitude Image: British film Rocks is up for seven awards. Pic: Altitude

This year’s nominations come after BAFTA announced a major shake-up of its awards following criticism over a lack of diversity, pledging to try and “create a level playing field”. In 2020, all the nominated actors were white and there were no women filmmakers shortlisted for best director or best film.

Now, the 2021 awards, delayed from February to April due to the COVID-19 pandemic, feature a much more diverse list. Nomadland and Rocks both have seven nominations, while The Father, Mank, Minari and Promising Young Woman each have six.

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BAFTA nominee: ‘I feel very seen’

The nods for Rocks – a British coming-of-age film starring a group of young women who had never acted before, which is also directed, written and produced by women – include leading actress for Bukky Bakray, supporting actress for Kosar Ali, outstanding British film and best director for Sarah Gavron.

Speaking to Sky News after the nominations announcement, Bakray, 18, said it felt “amazing” and praised all the women who worked on the film, saying: “The women that I met during this process were so intellectual and so smart and just so amazing. It made me want to be like them.”

Nomadland, which stars Oscar-winner Frances McDormand as a woman travelling in a van on a journey through the American West and has already won several gongs so far this awards season, is nominated in the best film category, with a leading actress nomination for McDormand and best director for Chloe Zhao.

British actor Daniel Kaluuya was quite literally the only man for the job. Pic: Judas and the Black Messiah/Warner Bros Image: Daniel Kaluuya is nominated for his role in Judas And The Black Messiah. Pic: Warner Bros

The other female directors nominated are Shannon Murphy (Babyteeth) and Jasmila Zbanic (Quo Vadis, Aida?), with Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round) and Lee Isaac Chung (Minari) also in the running.

In the leading actress category, Radha Blank (The Forty-Year-Old Version), Vanessa Kirby (Pieces Of A Woman), and Alfre Woodard (Clemency) are up against Bakray, McDormand and Mosaku.

As expected, there is a posthumous nomination for the late Chadwick Boseman, who died of cancer in August, in the leading actor category, for his role as an ambitious trumpeter in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Other actors up for the award are Ahmed (Sound Of Metal), Adarsh Gourav (The White Tiger), Anthony Hopkins (The Father), Mads Mikkelsen (Another Round) and Tahar Rahim (The Mauritanian).

Riz Ahmed in Sound Of Metal. Pic: Amazon Studios Image: Riz Ahmed stars as a drummer who loses his hearing in Sound Of Metal. Pic: Amazon Studios Adarsh Gourav as Balram in The White Tiger. Pic: Tejinder Singh Khamkha/Netflix Image: Newcomer Adarsh Gourav plays Balram in The White Tiger. Pic: Tejinder Singh Khamkha/Netflix

In the supporting categories, Niamh Algar (Calm With Horses), Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm), Dominique Fishback (Judas And The Black Messiah), Ashley Madekwe (County Lines) and Yuh-Jung Youn (Minari) are up against Rocks’ Ali.

Barry Keoghan (Calm With Horses), Alan Kim (Minari), Leslie Odom Jr (One Night In Miami), Clarke Peters (Da 5 Bloods) and Paul Raci (Sound Of Metal) are in the running for best supporting actor alongside Kaluuya (Judas And The Black Messiah).

The nominees for the EE Rising Star Award for up-and-coming talent were announced earlier in March, with Bakray, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Morfydd Clark and Sope Dirisu on the shortlist.

Vanessa Kirby as Martha in Pieces Of A Woman. Pic: Benjamin Loeb / Netflix Image: Vanessa Kirby, who stars as Martha in Pieces Of A Woman, is up for the leading actress award. Pic: Benjamin Loeb/ Netflix Gary Oldman in Mank. Pic: Netflix Image: Veteran star Gary Oldman is up for a BAFTA for his role in Mank. Pic: Netflix

BAFTA had introduced changes to voting, membership and campaigning processes as a result of last year’s controversy, while the outstanding British film category was expanded from six to 10 nominations to increase the focus on British work.

The contenders this year are: Calm With Horses, The Dig, The Father, His House, Limbo, The Mauritanian, Mogul Mowgli, Promising Young Woman, Rocks and Saint Maud.

BAFTA chair Krishnendu Majumdar said: “This year’s nominations showcase and celebrate the remarkable range of performances and nominees behind the camera from 50 films and we’re delighted to recognise such high quality work.

“We are also delighted to see the strength of British film shine through in all categories.

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“After last year’s nominations, we started the BAFTA review process with the intention of levelling the playing field and introduced a range of measures to ensure that all entered films were seen by our members and judged on merit.

“We hope today you can see some of those changes reflected in the breadth and depth of those nominated and we congratulate all our nominees.”

Responding to the nominations for Nomadland, the team behind the film, including McDormand and Zhao, said in a statement that they were “thrilled” to be recognised by BAFTA.

“In a year when we have all been separated and movies felt like one of the few things that held us all together, we are proud to be recognised for a film about resilience, community and what connects us,” they said.

This year’s virtual BAFTA ceremony will be broadcast from the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday 11 April.

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