Monday, 22 February 2010

The problem with BAFTA

Really, this should be titled "the problem for BAFTA", or "Right winners, wrong idea."

I'm really not sure what to make of last night's BAFTA Awards. On one had, I find it very hard to knock a ceremony that gives the Best Actress to Carey Mulligan for An Education, Best Actor to Colin Firth for A Single Man, and where The Hurt Locker wins Best Picture and Best Director. If that happens at the Oscars I'd be delighted.

My problem with the awards, and the problem the people responsible face every year, is the B of BAFTA. The ceremony tries to do two things; showcase, promote and celebrate British film, and be seen internationally as a serious event and good predictor of who will win at the Oscars. Sometimes, you can't do both.

In Britain, we benefit and suffer from sharing a language with the US; American cultural product finds it easier to get a foothold over here than it probably does in, say, France. Sometimes this is good - we get to watch great American TV and films without them being dubbed or subtitled, and sometimes this is bad - as soon as they get any attention, our best acting talent sods off to Hollywood where they do not face a language barrier (and who can blame them).

A similar French film awards ceremony would have a nice cut off point; any film not in the French language could be excluded from everything except the best international film. We don't have that luxury, and none of the big names that the sponsors demand would turn up if it was solely British film only (what constitutes a British film is deserving of a post in itself). The organisers, then, after moving the date the awards are given out a few years ago, try to pitch it as an Oscar indicator. Fair enough, but if you're going to do that, why have Outstanding British Film and Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer as awards? You cannot claim to be an award of international importance and then hand out a couple of parochial awards as a token nod to your Britishness.

If they want to be taken seriously, BAFTA either need to drop the "B", relocate their ceremony to LA and forget about being British, or they need to go the other way and give only allow films that are British - that is, deal with a British issue, are set in Britain, shot in Britain and have a cast and crew that is largely British - to be nominated. Of course, neither of those things are going to happen, so I'm going to be annoyed by them for the forseeable future.

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