08 January, 2012

My Annual Bafta Annoyance 2012: Preamble and Longlist

This year I am making a slightly more concerted effort to breathe life into my quibble with BAFTA's bent rule that allows films released after the standard year in question, but which were in the States and so eligible for OSCAR's.  I hate this because I feel that the general public should have a chance to have seen all the films before the nominations, let alone the awards.  They should remember that the B in BAFTA is for British and so should properly reflect the British film audience and release schedule.

In the past years the BAFTA's have cheated their own eligibility requirements, allowing films to be nominated that do not meet all their own criteria.  Let's look at last year's requirements:


Films must be released theatrically in the UK, within the Academy awards year:
1 January to 31 December 2010. Films that open between 1 January and 11 February 2011 inclusive may be 'qualified' by Distributors by being screened to Academy Film Voting Members by Tuesday 21 December 2010.

    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 Outstanding British Film, Outstanding Debut, Short Film and Short Animation which are for British films only.

Almost every year BAFTA have nominated a film that opens on the last day of eligibility, usually two days before the awards.  This means it cannot have satisfied the seven consecutive days proviso by the date of the ceremony.  Although four films for the 2011 Awards opened after 2010, only one fell foul of this requirement:

2011 Latest Open Date 11th Feb, Awards 13th Feb.
True Grit (11 February 2011)

Previous years have seen these films so dishonourably nominated:

2010 Latest Open Date 19th Feb, Awards 21st Feb.
The Lovely Bones (19 February 2010).

2009 Latest Open Date 6th Feb, Awards 8th Feb.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (6 February 2009)
Doubt (6 February 2009)
Vicky Cristina Barcelona (13th Feb 2009 released after the eligibility and the awards)

2008 Latest Open Date 8th Feb, Awards 10th Feb.
There Will be Blood (15th February 2008 released after the eligibility and the awards)

This year BAFTA have closed this problematic loophole, by making the eligibility even more flexible.  From 2012 the rules now state:

In order for a film to be valid for consideration its first public exhibition must be in a cinema (rather than on television or online), and it must have a UK theatrical release in a public UK cinema for no fewer than seven consecutive days in the calendar year that corresponds to the upcoming awards. If a film opens between 1 January and the Friday before the Awards in February then it may be eligible as long as it is screened to Academy voting members before a certain date. A film must be feature length, i.e. with a running time exceeding 60 minutes. Films from all countries are eligible in all categories, with the exception of Outstanding British Film, Outstanding Debut, Short Film and Short Animation which are for British films only.
BAFTA: Film Awards Judging Process

This means that films that open up to two days before this year's ceremony only need to be screened to BAFTA's members before a given date and are let off virtually all of the eligibility requirements (apart from the feature length of over 60 minutes).  To be honest, this is probably closer to what they intended with the previous version of the rules, and this change has unmuddied the waters that flowed from their previous language.

The Film BAFTA's were moved from April to February in 2001 to occupy the space between the Golden Globes and OSCAR's.  This is when the rules were changed to allow in films with post-hoc release dates, mainly to give the BAFTA's a supposed relevance in the awards season, after all how could they claim relevance if they could fail to nominate a similar list of films to the Globes and OSCAR's if restricted to niggling things like the UK release dates.  This of course does not make the BAFTA's any more relevant, it merely gives the BAFTA members a chance to second guess the OSCAR's.  This leaves the BAFTA's as a cynical exercise for the distributors to get some free ad time on the allegedly non-promotional BBC, and to use award buzz to flog their films to the UK market.

This becomes extremely apparent when you analyse the longlist nominations.  Of the 65 films garnering 279 longlist nominations 9 (13%) are released in 2012, two just two days before the awards themselves.  Those 9 films have 56 longlist nominations, making up 20% of the longlist nominations.  Of the films properly theatrically released in 2011 a whopping 50% of the longlist nominations are for films receiving their UK DVD release in Q1 2012, right around the February awards ceremony.  This leaves only 30% of the longlist nominations for films released in the UK theatrically in 2011 and not premiering on UK DVD within the first quarter of 2012, of these only 17% are for films with both UK theatre and DVD releases firmly in 2011, the remainder with unconfirmed UK DVD release dates (as of January 8th 2012).

Now there is a slight confluence of chicken/egg poultry family planning here when we consider how the films are put forward, again according to BAFTA:

As long as a film passes the rules of eligibility then it may be entered for the film awards. A film may be qualified for consideration by the films[sic] distributor or producer, or by any Academy voting member. Once the film is submitted then a screen credits form will be required to be completed by the distributor or producer.
So this is very much in the hands of the distributors who determine the release dates as well as having major input into the awards process itself.  When we look at a graph of the longlist nominations by film release month, we may find it hard to believe that any decent films have hit the screens before July.

BAFTA will point out that the longlist does not represent nominations until the members vote in the second round to whittle the up to 15 films in each category down to 5 proper nominations.  Furthermore, longlists are not announced in these categories: Outstanding Debut by a Writer, Director or Producer, Short Film and Short Animation.  So these figures are likely to change, but by how much is to be seen.

Film UK release Nominations
The Iron Lady 06/01/2012 14
Shame 13/01/2012 4
War Horse 13/01/2012 13
Coriolanus 20/01/2012 6
J. Edgar 20/01/2012 7
The Descendants 27/01/2012 7
Carnage 05/02/2012 2
A Dangerous Method 10/02/2012 1
Young Adult 10/02/2012 2

For the 2012 awards year I will attempt to get this point across through online forums, letters to BAFTA, and correspondence with the BBC's various film programmes  Watch this space.

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