They’ve snubbed the brilliant ‘Blue Story’ – what is the actual point of the BAFTAs?

If they don't celebrate the best of British, then why do they exist?

It’s that time of year again – the five week-long period between the Golden Globes and the Oscars when lots of very rich, very beautiful people pat each other on the back. Yes, it’s awards season – possibly the most pointless and underwhelming annual happening that there is.

Who are awards ceremonies for, anyway? Not the fans, who’ve been watching in decreasing numbers for decades. Nor the celebs, who either look bored to tears or laugh awkwardly as the hosts make jokes at their expense. Yes, the celebration of art is a good thing (usually), but in most cases the films honoured highlight a worrying lack of diversity in the movie industry. If only a certain type of art (made by white males) can triumph, then honestly what’s the point?

BAFTAs
Margot Robbie in ‘Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood’. Credit: Sony

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Perhaps most frustrating of all is the BAFTAs. Take this year’s nominations, for example. Announced earlier today (January 7), the shortlist was immediately criticised for failing to award female or POC talent, instead choosing to give Margot Robbie two nods in the same category – one for a film in which she appeared for less than five minutes (Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood). BAFTA, which claims to “support the growth of talent in the UK” is expected to showcase the best of British cinema. But Australian Robbie’s inclusion – along with the selection of just one UK director and a host of American names in the acting categories – mean the whole thing is just an Oscars-lite fashion show.

So why do the BAFTAs exist? Why must we sit through 45 minutes of Stephen Fry spluttering on about nothing? Or worse still, endure Joanna Lumley’s mirthless monologue from last year? What is it all in aid of?

Well, there is some method to their madness. Set up in 1947, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts try to explain themselves in a lengthy statement on its website. “Our mission is to bring the very best work in film, games and television to public attention,” it reads. But can the “world-leading independent arts charity” honestly claim to do that?

Blue Story – a homegrown drama about south London gang violence – is the perfect choice for a big shiny BAFTA. It’s a British story made by British filmmakers (director and writer Rapman) starring British actors (Top Boy‘s Micheal Ward). It’s also critically acclaimed – and overcame a tough opening weekend, in which it was banned from a whole chain of cinemas following violence at a Birmingham screening, to smash the box office and topple much bigger movies.

Rapman
Rapman on the set of ‘Blue Story’. Credit: Paramount

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Similarly, Joanna Hogg’s mid-career masterpiece The Souvenir was ignored. There was also no recognition for Cynthia Erivo (Harriet). Both, of course, hail from London. But why honour a 59-year-old filmmaker when you can get the glitz and the glam of Hollywood strutting their stuff on the red carpet? That, it seems, is BAFTA’s main concern.

As a showcase of this country’s best and brightest stars, the BAFTA Awards fail utterly. They also mess up their other job – to commend each year’s greatest films. Just look at those that missed out – Greta Gerwig for Little Women, Lupita Nyong’o in Us, the entire cast of Hustlers.

Instead, the BAFTAs have become an annual ritual in which an elitist club made up of 250 Michael Caine-alikes name one of the three new films they’ve seen that year before the industry’s glammest names get their picture taken. We have the Oscars for that, why do we need the BAFTAs too?

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