The biggest talking points from the BAFTAs 2021 nominations

The shortlists are out and they're mostly... good?

The BAFTAs 2021 nominations have arrived ahead of the ceremony itself next month, whittling down the longlists that were revealed earlier this year to just a handful of nominees in each category. Where awards show shortlists are usually the catalyst for a lot of furore, this year the BAFTAs appear to have got things mostly right. Let’s explore the nominations and their biggest talking points below.

There’s been a big boost for diversity…

As with many awards ceremonies, the last few years have seen the BAFTAs criticised for a lack of diversity. Instead of yet another shallow comment on the importance of representation, the Academy has made 120 changes to how things run, from adding more members of underrepresented communities to mixing up the voting system.

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It seems to have worked – this year’s nominations are more diverse than ever, highlighting some of the best film work of the last 12 months from more than just the same white faces. For instance, the six-strong Supporting Actress category features only two white nominees – Niamh Algar (Calm With Horses) and Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm). The Best Director category, traditionally dominated by white men, boasts four women (Shannon Murphy, Chloé Zhao, Jasmila Žbanić and Sarah Gavron) and Korean-American director Lee Isaac Chung. While Gavron’s Rocks – a British indie with an ensemble cast of east London teens – led the way with seven nominations.

Brilliant films such as His House and Mogul Mowgli have been recognised alongside actors like Daniel Kaluuya, Radha Blank, and Adarsh Gourav, showing you don’t have to look far to find talent that breaks the white mould of the industry.

But there are still some improvements that could be made…

Daniel Kaluuya
Daniel Kaluuya in ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ – Credit: Alamy

Though this is a step in the right direction, we shouldn’t get too complacent. Nominations are only half of the story – if the winners end up being unreflective of the diverse stories that have impacted many over the last year, then what were all the changes for?

It’s also worth noting that, despite a strong showing for Black-led ensembles, none have been given the nod for Best Film. It was also the case with the Golden Globes last month, when powerful and entertaining movies like Da 5 Bloods, One Night In Miami, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Judas And The Black Messiah were overlooked.

Carey Mulligan has been snubbed for her role in Promising Young Woman

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One of the most talked-about film performances of 2021 so far is Carey Mulligan’s turn in Promising Young Woman. She plays a woman out to avenge her friend, who took her own life after she was raped. Mulligan has been widely praised for her role in the thriller, and had been tipped to take the top prize at the BAFTAs and Oscars. Yet her name was missing from the Leading Actress list this afternoon.

Minari’s young star Alan Kim is up for his first BAFTA

Alan Kim, Minari
Alan Kim in ‘Minari’. CREDIT: Josh Ethan Johnson / © A24 / Courtesy Everett Collection

Aside from Mulligan, Minari – Lee Isaac Chung’s tale of a Korean-American family moving from California to Arkansas in search of a better life – has dominated all awards and general film chat of late. Unlike at the Globes, the BAFTAs has given it more recognition, nominating it in Film Not In The English Language, while celebrated Korean star Youn Yuh-Jung is up for Supporting Actress.

It’s the movie’s youngest cast member who is causing the biggest fuss right now though, following his tearful Critics Choice victory and, now, his nomination for Supporting Actor. The eight-year-old rising star is much less experienced than his fellow nominees but has already won hearts with his performance. Might he soon be adding a BAFTA to his trophy cabinet?

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