13 February, 2008

My annual BAFTA annoyance

Every year I get annoyed by the BAFTAs (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Awards. This is not the same sort of annoyance you might have about the Oscars (why was THAT nominated?), its based on the absurd timing when they moved the BAFTAs several years ago to be awarded between the Golden Globes and the Oscars, a really pathetic

This year has been better than recent years in terms of having nominees that have received genuine releases within the qualifying calendar year. However, and this is not to debate the relative merits of the nominated film, There Will Be Blood does not qualify under the
eligibility rules:


Films must be released theatrically in the UK, within the Academy awards
1 January - 31 December 2007. Films that open between 1 January and 8
February 2008 inclusive may be 'qualified' by Distributors by being
screened to Academy Film Voting Members by Thursday 20 December 2007.

To be eligible, a feature film must:

* be feature-length, i.e. with a running time exceeding 60 minutes;
* receive its first public exhibition or distribution in the UK as a
theatrical release;
* be exhibited publicly to a paying audience within a commercial
cinema in the UK for no fewer than seven consecutive days.
Films from all countries are eligible in all categories, with the
exception of Best British Film, The Carl Foreman Award, Short Film and
Short Animation which are for British films only.

There Will Be Blood has not been released by 8th of February 2008, it's
UK release date is the 15th. I saw a free preview on the 11th. So the
film fails to meet the requirements of by the 8th of February, and seven
consecutive days to a paying audience within the allotted time. OK,
there's the possibility that the distributor has done a faux release
somewhere, just to qualify ahead of the actual release in order to gain
kudos before it gets in the theatres. Really, these sort of loopholes
should be closed, films should only be eligible within the calendar year
and with one week of actual commercial release within that year.
Perhaps they should even revoke eligibility if a film is given a proper
release near or after the BAFTA awards themselves.

I should add that I thought Daniel Day-Lewis performance was very good
and should happily enjoy nomination. But lets not kid ourselves about
how distributors are using awards.

I concede that given that vagueness the film just squeaks in, but should we have a system so open to such abuse? I was aware that there was a limited release starting on Feb 8th (the last qualifying day!). The film does not have a full week run within the period (OK, the rule vaguely doesn't stipulate that the run must be within, but my point is that this part of the rules is simply dodgy).

My real point is still that eligibility should be limited to a given calendar year. This artful method of qualifying only serves the distributors. It also makes the Academy seem desperate to make sure that their nomination list seems relevant against the Oscars and the Golden Globes by including films that were released in the US in the year but not in the UK (and yet get to "qualify" from either a proper January or early February release, or, and I've been to screenings where a film has had a special one-off one cinema release to get qualified before its actual wide release). Actually these films that qualify this way, are still qualified for nomination in the subsequent year, and this in particular makes a nonsense of this system.

Finally, I don't begrudge the actual filmmakers their honors. Recognition of excellence, regardless of which "year" a film appears in, can only be a good thing. Keeping the playing field tilted to end of and beginning of next year release dates only serves to reinforce the notion that the UK and European market are only the poor cousin to North America. And whilst this may be true, the Academy shouldn't be complicit in its confirmation.

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