Published on: 09 March 2021 in Industry

“A huge step forward”: Directors UK responds as 2021 BAFTA Film Award nominations announced

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On Tuesday, the 2021 BAFTA Film Award nominations were announced.

These are the first film nominations since BAFTA implemented a wide-ranging review of their processes, involving Directors UK alongside other organisations, and we are pleased to see the fantastic breadth and freshness of talent that has been recognised, particularly in the directing category.

The nominees for Best Director represent a huge leap forwards in terms of representation, including four women directors and three foreign-language directors. 

Directors UK Vice-Chair Susanna White, who is herself a BAFTA-winning director, was involved in the consultations with the BAFTA 2020 Review Steering Group. Susannah welcomed the nominations:  

“Having taken part in the consultations with the 2020 Review Steering Group, I was impressed by BAFTA’s extensive review process; their actions show that they really listened and have taken bold steps as a result. To see this commitment being made by such a significant organisation feels like a seismic shift towards dismantling systems that stand in the way of equality and representation.

As a director, I consider myself very lucky to have worked in film and high-end drama, and to have won a BAFTA for doing that. Even so, like so many of my female contemporaries, throughout my career I feel I have struggled to have my voice heard - and I can only speak to my experience as a woman, I can’t begin to speak to the experiences of my colleagues from other underrepresented groups. Systemic bias works in complex ways and the nature of the BAFTA reforms recognise that.

At Directors UK, we know how hard it is to build a sustainable career in this industry, especially if you come from a less than privileged background, let alone be recognised for that work. It was vital that Directors UK put forward recommendations during the 2020 Review process that attempted to address the inequities felt so acutely by all underrepresented groups. 

I hope that this commitment to change will have wide reaching impacts in terms of gender equality, overcoming barriers for those with disabilities, for racial diversity and provide us all with a massive opportunity to rebuild, from the ground up, an industry that’s fairer and representative of our society.”

Directors UK CEO Andy Harrower added: “In January, Directors UK challenged BAFTA to review their voting processes following the lack of representation across BAFTA’s 2020 Film Awards nominations. Today, as their 2020 Review is shared, we’re pleased to see our challenge taken seriously.

We called for radical voting reform across all categories, recognising that the awards process was failing to reflect the diversity of the films being made. To truly serve and represent the breadth of talent working across our industry, a bold and holistic review was needed. The proposed changes to address the lack of representation in their Film Awards and their membership are wide ranging and clearly deeply considered. 

The significant changes that have been made to the directing category to address the historic lack of female representation are a huge step forward for gender equality – it is a levelling up for women that is long overdue and a welcome progression. 

It is not insignificant for a leading institution in the UK screen sector to begin to reform the structures that uphold systemic inequities. We’re delighted that BAFTA have taken action and we look forward to continuing to work closely with them to ensure that these and future changes have a positive and sustained impact across all underrepresented groups. We urge others to be as ambitious in their commitments to address privilege and use their power to achieve equity for all.”

The Best Director nominees this year are Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round), Shannon Murphy (Babyteeth), Lee Isaac Chung (Minari), Chloé Zhao (NomadlandJasmila Žbanić (Quo Vadis, Aida?) and Directors UK member Sarah Gavron (Rocks). Congratulations to all of the above!

The BAFTA Film Award winners will be announced across two days on April 10 and April 11. Read the full list of nominations here.

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