Migration saga “Nomadland”, and the British film “Rocks” are among favorites at Sunday’s BAFTA film awards -- billed as the academy’s most diverse year ever -- following criticism over all-white 2020 shortlists.
Four women have been nominated for best director at this year’s awards where last year none made the shortlist, while films with actors from diverse communities around the world have featured prominently in the coveted best film category.
The first night of the awards, broadcast without an audience because of coronavirus restrictions, began with tributes to Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, who died on Friday.
“It was Prince Philip and her majesty the queen’s support throughout these years that in many ways allowed BAFTA, a leading charity in the arts, to continue in difficult times,” presenter Clara Amfo said.
Prince William, Philip’s grandson and second in line to the British throne, did not participate in the awards as previously planned.
On Saturday, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”, a film about a blues musician in 1920s Chicago, took home two technical BAFTAs for costume design and make-up and hair.
“Rocks” and “Mank”, a depiction of a debauched real-life screenwriter set during Hollywood’s golden age, also bagged a prize each for casting and production design respectively as the awards were split over two nights for the first time.
Other winners in the technical awards included Christopher Nolan’s science fiction action-thriller “Tenet” for special visual effects and “Sound of Metal,” starring British actor Riz Ahmed, for sound.
The main awards ceremony on Sunday, also without an audience, will be broadcast from London’s Royal Albert Hall.
Director Chloé Zhao’s poignant film “Nomadland” about modern-day migrants traveling across the US is nominated in the coveted best film and best director categories.
Two-time Oscar winner Frances McDormand is also vying for best actress.
“Nomadland” is shortlisted in the best film category alongside “The Father”, a film about an elderly man contending with dementia, and “The Mauritanian”, a legal thriller about a Guantanamo Bay prisoner.
“Promising Young Woman”, a feminist dark comedy, and Aaron Sorkin’s courtroom drama “The Trial of the Chicago 7” complete the nominees.
With a total of seven nominations including best director, best cast and best original screenplay, director Sarah Gavron’s “Rocks” could be a homegrown sensation at the awards.
The coming-of-age drama, which shows the struggles of a British-Nigerian schoolgirl who is abandoned by her mother, has been praised by critics for its depiction of life in the British capital.
Teenaged actress Bukky Bakray, 19, who has garnered a best actress nomination for her role as the film’s eponymous heroine, told AFP audiences had connected with her performance and the film because of their authenticity.
“It captures what most people have always felt but never truly seen on screen. I’m really proud and honored to have captured truth and honesty,” she said.
“Mank” and “Minari”, the portrayal of a South Korean family trying to make a life in rural America, have also received six nominations each, along with “The Father” and “Promising Young Woman”.
After the awards were criticized for not including any non-white actors in the four major categories for the first time, the British academy has introduced an extra round of voting in all categories to strive for greater diversity.
In the best actor category, French-Algerian actor Tahar Rahim, Indian actor Adarsh Gourav, black American actor Chadwick Boseman, who died last year, and British actor Riz Ahmed -- also the first Muslim to be nominated for an Oscar -- have been shortlisted..
Director Ang Lee, best known for the films “Sense and Sensibility”, “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” and “The Life of Pi” will receive the prestigious Bafta Academy Fellowship on Sunday evening.