The 2020 BAFTA nominations are a joke

Once again, BAFTA – the UK’s leading awards body – has proved itself seriously out-of-touch with its latest set of nominations

Feature by Jamie Dunn | 07 Jan 2020
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In terms of cinema, 2019 was an embarrassment of riches. The BAFTAs, meanwhile, are just plain embarrassing. The UK’s chief awards body has once again released a list of nominations that expose how out-of-touch and in thrall to the Oscars it really is.

Where to start with this shitshow? Well first off, where are the people of colour? Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by the blinding whiteness of this year’s set of acting nominees; BAFTA is the organisation that has never recognised the talents of double Oscar-winner Denzel Washington, after all. But this year’s list of nominees is particularly galling, especially given that Margot Robbie was nominated twice in the same category, getting Best Supporting Actress nods for Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood and Bombshell.

'No excuses'

BAFTA can really have no excuses for overlooking performances as extraordinary as Lupita Nyong'o’s dual roles in Us; Cynthia Erivo's performance in Harriet; or Awkwafina's performance in The Farewell – and that’s just the actors who missed out in the Best Actress category. Other glaring oversights that would have lead to a more diverse list of actors include Song Kang-ho in Bong Joon-ho's Parasite, Antonio Banderas in Pain and Glory, Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers, Jamie Foxx in Just Mercy or Eddie Murphy’s comeback role in Dolemite Is My Name. To ignore these performances is to seem to be racist by omission, and even BAFTA’s boss, Amanda Berry, appears embarrassed with her organisation’s nominations this year. When asked on Radio 4 about the diversity of today’s nominations, the BAFTA CEO said, “If I'm being totally honest, I'm very disappointed.” If only Berry was in a position to do something about it, eh?

Based on this year's shortlists, BAFTA also appears to have a woman problem. Once again no women directors have been worthy of recognition: not Little Women director Greta Gerwig, not A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood director Marielle Heller, not The Farewell director Lulu Wang, not Hustlers director Lorene Scafaria. And not even British director Joanna Hogg, whose knockout feature The Souvenir was not only The Skinny’s film of the year, but also voted 2019's top film by critics at Little White Lies and Sight & Sound.

'Who are the BAFTAs for?'

And this gets to the real problem with BAFTA: who is it for? If its raison d'etre is to celebrate British achievement, how can it overlook a film like The Souvenir (which didn’t even get nominated in the ceremony's Best British Film ghetto) or a performance as compelling as Nyong'o’s? As ever, the BAFTA jury seems more taken with work from across the pond.

Todd Phillips’s Joker emerges as the frontrunner with 11 nominations, with Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman and Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood following with ten nominations each. Instead of being a dress rehearsal for the Oscars, maybe it's time for the BAFTAs to have a rethink in order to bring the ceremony into the 21st century and break its slavish devotion to Hollywood.

If you're interested, the full list of BAFTA nominations can be found here.