The day after…
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THERE were a few surprises last night at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Film awards (BAFTAs) last night – and there was disappointment that no person of colour won in any of the personal nomination categories.
We were covering the BAFTAs from the press room and watched and listened as the winners came in to talk to the small band of select media…
The big winner on the night were the German language Netflix film, ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ – it won seven awards, then the British/Irish absurd comedy, ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ won four, as did the biopic of Elvis Presley, ‘Elvis’ by Baz Lurhmann – pictured here is its star, Austin Butler (left) talking to the press after his Best Actor BAFTA and Cate Blanchett, who won the Best Female Actor BAFTA. Her fourth.
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March 3 2023
Reflections: Baftas So White and so Not (British) Asian…
IT’S BEEN over a week now since the Bafta Film Awards were handed out (February 19) and it became quite apparent even then, sitting in the winners press conference room that it was not a good night for Diversity.
Indeed, the hashtag #baftassowhite trended that evening – it was difficult to follow because when you are in the winners’ press conference room, you are essentially focused on the folks who come in and tell the press how amazing it is to get a Bafta.
Alas, no one of colour did – even though 50 per cent of the nominations for EE Rising Star were for British or Irish stars of Afro-Caribbean or African heritage – Sheila Atim, Daryl McCormack, and Naomi Ackie – in the end it went to Emma Mackey (of Netflix ‘Sex Education’ and ‘Emily’ fame).
Perhaps, we could forgive this, as it is the only award that is voted for – by members of the public.
For all the other awards, you have to be a member of Bafta itself to vote and look where that got us.
Such great talents as Viola Davis (‘The Woman King’), Danielle Deadwyler (‘Till’), Michelle Yeoh (‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’) Angela Bassett (‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’), Hong Chau (‘The Whale’), and Dolly de Leon (‘Triangle of Sadness’) all fell by the wayside.
It isn’t to say that any of the Bafta winners didn’t deserve their moment – it is only that despite a range of nominations, no one of colour triumphed.
Andrew Pulver in The Guardian makes a very strong point on our behalf…a day after, he wrote: “A wide concern is that the British Asian population of the UK is particularly badly served by Bafta, and the British film industry in general: the 2021 census for England an Wales identified 9.3 per cent (around 5.5 million people identifying as ‘Asian, Asian British or Asian Welsh’. It can’t be a great situation when nearly 10 per cent of the population is practically invisible at the nation’s film awards.”
But then Krishnendu Majumdar is the current chair of Bafta and made an opening address at these Baftas. Last year he highlighted Diversity more – and has made it a point to widen the membership of Bafta – looking to get male/female membership to be roughly 50/50 and have about 20 per cent of minorities making up that membership. He instituted these reforms after a major report and last year we were able to celebrate the film, ‘After Love’ by Aleem Khan.
The writer-director of this poignant family drama of a British white woman finding out about her (Pakistani origin) Muslim husband’s other life across the Channel was superb in many ways and bagged the film many nominations though it only triumphed in the Leading Actor category with Joanna Scanlan winning for her lead role in ‘After Love’.
As our post-awards story reflected there was some diversity.
This year – nada.
We can’t even find an official clip of Majumdar’s opening address – the PR company told us it wasn’t available (unlike last year).
Shazad Latif, one of the stars of the current Jemima Khan film, an ostensibly cross-cultural romantic comedy, ‘What’s Love Got To Do It?’ did attend and handed out a Bafta – but apart that, there weren’t too many other Asian actors or talent from what we could see on the day – or from the press pictures. Jemima Khan attended and both her film and she are good ambassadors for a more modern, inclusive-looking Britain.
As it was, we were there covering ‘All that Breathes’ a wonderful documentary about the environmental degradation around Delhi and centred around the Saud brothers and their amateur bird sanctuary. (See here more here.)
It’s a film we have followed right from its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 2021.
Late year, iconic Bollywood director Sanjay Leela Bhansali was at Bafta talking about his career and there was a modest campaign behind his last feature film, ‘Gangubhai Kathiawadi’ to feature in the 2023 nominations.
Bhansali is an amazing director and very worthy of Bafta’s attention; while his films are within the mainstream of Indian commercial moviemaking, there is also a real artistry behind many of them too – especially in the way that he is able to seamlessly weave original music (which he can write himself), into plot and set piece sequences – see ‘Gangubhai Kathiawadi’ – a story based on a real life woman who went onto wield power and influence in post-war Bombay after being sold into prostitution. His Bafta campaign didn’t get anywhere.
Attention will now turn to the Oscars (On March 12) and India is tending better there – the makers of ‘RRR’ – writer-director SS Rajamouli (already famous in India for ‘Baahubali’) have focused their awards attention on the US; and the film and its stars Ram Charan and NT Rama Rao Jnr are known entities there now, as is music director MM Keeravaani, whose track, ‘Naatu Naatu’ has already won The Golden Globe and could now bring an Oscar to India.
Following Indian success is all well and good – many of us have South Asian heritage and share its success stories and there is a diaspora that follows avidly – but what we really crave is something like an ‘After Love’ really smashing through – British Asian stories with South Asian talent hitting the high mark, globally – but at home would be a start!
Sailesh Ram (editor-founder www.asianculturevulture.com)