Longlists in all 24 categories for the 2024 Bafta Film Awards were unveiled today, Friday, January 5. Screen looks at the key discussion points from the selection.
The Barbenheimer Baftas?
The observation that film awards are distinct from cinemagoers’ tastes will likely not be levelled at this year’s Bafta Film Awards. Greta Gerwig’s Barbie (£96.1m) and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer (£58.7m) were the two biggest films at the 2023 UK-Ireland box office and are both favourites to go all the way.
Never before have the two highest-grossing films also been the two most-represented in the longlists (jointly, alongside Killers Of The Flower Moon). The last time a blockbuster was so roundly championed by Bafta voters was Titanic, the highest-grossing film of 1997, nominated for 10 Baftas in 1998.
Although Titanic went home empty-handed on the night, both Barbie and Oppenheimer are longlisted in categories for which they are considered the frontrunner. Their strong showing is good news for the ceremony on February 18 and the hoped-for attendance of major stars Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, Cillian Murphy and Emily Blunt, plus directors Gerwig and Nolan, both of whom bring their own fanbases. Bafta, and the industry as a whole, will hope the presence of the year’s two biggest films will draw viewers to the as live TV broadcast – which in turn would put the spotlight on smaller films and cinema-going overall.
Tetris, Nuggets find favour ahead of UK indie darlings
Mainstream contenders Warner Bros’ box-office hit Wonka, Netflix/Aardman Animation’s Chicken Run: Dawn Of The Nugget, Apple’s Tetris, Warner Bros’ One Life and Pathe UK’s The Great Escaper made the longlist in the Outstanding British film category ahead of notable indie omissions led by Signature Entertainment’s thriller Femme, directing debuts such as Earth Mama, The End We Start From, Polite Society and The Kitchen, plus The Eternal Daughter from seasoned director Joanna Hogg. (Hogg has never found much love from the British Academy – she has yet to be nominated for a Bafta award despite six personal Bifa nominations.)
However the 15 titles include all the major UK contenders tipped to be there by Screen International last month – Poor Things, Saltburn, Napoleon, All Of Us Stranger s and The Zone Of Interest. All have multiple inclusions across the Bafta longlists announced today.
Also included in the British film longlist are three key indie titles Rye Lane, How To Have Sex and Scrapper – all films that performed strongly at December’s British Independent Film Awards, and benefited from effective campaigns by respective distributors Disney, Mubi and Picturehouse Entertainment.
Rounding out the list of 15 are Studiocanal’s Cannes competition title The Old Oak from Ken Loach (a film that earned little love at the Bifas) and Netflix documentary The Deepest Breath.
The top five of these titles by member vote are automatically nominated – almost certainly including the three that are also on the best film longlist (Poor Things, All Of Us Strangers and The Zone Of Interest). A jury will then pick five more from the other 10 on the longlist – creating a list of 10 nominees. Bafta voters will pick the winner in final round of voting.
Women directors dominate British debut
Once again, films directed by women dominate the Bafta longlist for outstanding British debut by a British writer, director or producer. This is a category that produced a wholly female set of nominees last year, and is the sole province of a jury – which votes for the longlist of 10, five nominated teams and winner.
This year, there are eight films solely directed by women, plus Blue Bag Life (which has two female and one male directors) and Bobi Wine: The People’s President, which has a male directing team. (More men will likely appear among the nominated team names – for example Rye Lane writers Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia.)
Documentaries make a strong showing: in addition to Blue Bag Life and Bobi Wine, also on this longlist are If The Streets Were On Fire and Is There Anybody Out There?.
While it’s encouraging to see these choices, they come at the expense of one notable exclusion from the debut longlist: Femme, written and directed by Sam H Freeman and Ng Choon Ping. Femme is a contemporary queer story from queer filmmakers. (Salvation for Femme comes from Bafta’s performance chapter – MacKay is longlisted for leading actor.)
The film’s failure to make the longlist echoes a similar disappointment for Francis Lee’s God’s Own Country, which was not nominated by the outstanding British debut jury in 2018.
(Slightly) improved representation for women
Three female directors out of 10 (30%) are in the running in this year’s best film category: Justine Triet for Palme d’Or winner Anatomy Of A Fall, Greta Gerwig for Barbie and Celine Song for Past Lives. No UK female filmmakers have made the cut.
This marks an improvement on the past three years. In 2023, just one female director out of 10 made the best film category longlist – Charlotte Wells for Aftersun, with no female directors going on to make the final shortlist. In 2021 and 2022, three out of the 15 directors longlisted in this category were female (20%). While there is a marginal improvement on gender, this category’s ongoing issue with racial diversity continues – as per last year, there is only one Black, Indigenous, or People of Colour (BIPOC) filmmaker, South Korean Canadian Song.
In the outstanding British film category, five out of 15 longlisted are women, slightly down on last year’s six. Laura McGann’s The Deepest Breath, Molly Manning Walker’s How To Have Sex, Raine Allen-Miller’s Rye Lane, Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn and Charlotte Regan’s Scrapper have all been included. This is not a strong category for BIPOC directors, with only Allen-Miller receiving a nod.
Films not in the English language has an improved showing from 2023, when only Marie Kreutzer for Corsage cut through. This year, Triet’s Anatomy Of A Fall, Song’s Past Lives and The Eight Mountains, co-directed by Charlotte Vandermeersch, are longlisted As per last year, only one out of eight animated films has a female director credit – Wish, co-directed by Fawn Veerasunthorn. In documentary, three out of 10 films are helmed by women – down on last year’s four.
But lack of racial diversity
A surprising omission is that of Korean American Charles Melton in best supporting actor for May December who had been considered a frontrunner after winning the Gotham and several Critics’ Circle awards in the US. This omission leaves an entirely white supporting actor list. down from last year when both Ke Huy Quan and Micheal Ward were longlisted.
Diversity is also down in the director longlist where just three out of 16 of the nominees (19%) are Black, Indigenous or people of colour (Bipoc) – Jeffrey Wright for American Fiction, Celine Song for Past Lives and Raine Allen-Miller for Rye Lane. Last year that number stood at five with three going on to be nominated. Song, who is South Korean-Canadian, is the only one to also score a spot on the best film list making Past Lives the only film directed by a Bipoc to be featured.
Rye Lane is longlisted for Outstanding British film but is similarly the only film directed by a Bipoc filmmaker in this category. This is on par with last year where Everything Everywhere All At Once and The Swimmers were the only films featured in best film and Outstanding British film lists, respectively.
The other acting lists show stronger representation with supporting and leading actress both showcasing four women Bipoc’s while leading actor has nominated three.
Studio and streamer smiles
The prominence of Warner Bros’ Barbie and Universal’s Oppenheimer makes it a good day for the two studios. Warner Bros will be pleased with the showing for Christmas hit Wonka, with eight spots; while it also handled UK-Ireland distribution on Amazon Studios’ Saltburn, which is in 11 categories. Warner Bros’ further titles include two acting spots for The Color Purple. (It also handled the booking for Pathe UK’s The Great Escaper, longlisted in outstanding British film.)
Universal backs up Oppenheimer’s 15 spots with seven for Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers. Disney’s Searchlight Pictures label has also prospered: firstly with Poor Things (14) and All Of Us Strangers (10), then with UK indie Rye Lane (five), although Next Goal Wins missed out completely.
The big streamers will also be satisfied with their hauls. The 15 spots for Apple’s Killers Of The Flower Moon make it the joint-most longlisted title in Bafta history, alongside Barbie, Oppenheimer and last year’s Netflix winner All Quiet On The Western Front; the film was co-produced by Paramount, which handled theatrical distribution. While Apple’s Napoleon missed out on best film, it made outstanding British film and scored a decent eight spots in total; Sony handled theatrical distribution in the UK and Ireland.
Maestro has conducted itself admirably with 12 spots, leading the Netflix titles ; which also include Chicken Run: Dawn Of The Nugget and NYAD with two each, and one for Rustin – Colman Domingo in best actor – Society Of The Snow and Wham!.
This studio success has squeezed independent distributors; those to have performed well are the big independents: A24 took 10 spots for Jonathan Glazer’s UK-US co-production The Zone Of Interest, plus six for Past Lives, for which Studiocanal handled the UK-Ireland release.
Mubi has a selection of longlisted titles, including How To Have Sex with six spots, plus one each for Passages and Fallen Leaves. The large number of titles from the studios and streamers, though, may make it tough for independent titles to cut through to nominations.
It is a strong showing for UK funder Film4, which backed several of the longlisted films including Poor Things, All Of Us Strangers, The Zone Of Interest and How To Have Sex – the latter also supported by the BFI.
Surprise omissions, category quirks
Perhaps the most high-profile missing title in the best film longlist is Cord Jefferson’s American Fiction, which won the people’s choice award in Toronto and is nominated for best motion picture – musical or comedy at the Golden Globes this weekend. Saltburn also misses out in the top category despite 11 longlist spots overall. American Fiction will likely fare better at the Oscars.
In film not in the English language, Wim Wenders’ Perfect Days, which is Japan’s Oscar entry and made the Academy’s international feature shortlist last month, has missed out.
As well as May December’s Melton, the supporting actor category is missing several big name contenders including Willem Dafoe (Poor Things), Sterling K Brown (American Fiction) and Glenn Howerton (BlackBerry).
In the leading actress category, despite winning the best actress award at Venice in September, Priscilla lead Caillee Spaeny did not make the longlist.
Some other quirks in the longlists; Anthony Hopkins has been placed in the supporting actor category rather than lead actor for One Life (his screen time could work for either, maybe the former category was deemed less competitive?). Sandra Huller has also been put in the supporting category for The Zone Of Interest, despite leading the film alongside Christian Friedel. She is in the leading category for Anatomy Of A Fall so perhaps she could earn two nominations?
Finally, despite a mixed critical reception and zero Golden Globe nominations, UK-born director Ridley Scott’s Napoleon has managed eight spots on the longlist.