This year’s British Independent Film Awards – which take place in early December – offer proof of just how strong 2021 has been for homegrown cinema. Leading the way is Kenneth Branagh’s autobiographical black-and-white tale Belfast and Philip Barantini’s Boiling Point, with 11 nominations each. Both films are due for release within the next few weeks in the UK.
Of particular interest is Boiling Point, which stars Stephen Graham as a restaurant chef spiralling out of control. Barantini, who must be a shoo-in for Best Director, shot the entire film in one single take – a remarkable achievement by the production. Several of the cast including Graham for Best Actor are up for awards, and it’s all the more remarkable considering the production was about to shut down in March 2020 when the pandemic hit.
Also in the running is Prano Bailey-Bond’s acclaimed debut Censor, with nine nominations. A regular at ASFF, Bailey-Bond will compete for Best Debut Screenwriter and The Douglas Hickox Award for Best Debut Director, although she faces tough competition in that category – including Cathy Brady (for the Irish drama Wildfire) and Aleem Khan (for After Love, which also has nine nominations).
Joanna Hogg’s upcoming arthouse sequel The Souvenir Part II also has nine nods, and it’s up for Best British Independent Film along with After Love and Boiling Point. Also in this chief category is Clio Barnard’s soon-to-be-released inter-racial romance Ali & Ava and Sean Durkin’s thriller The Nest, which makes for a very robust selection indeed. Each film would be a worthy winner.
The Nest’s Jude Law and Carrie Coon will both compete in the main acting categories, though personally I’d love to see James Norton take home the statue for Nowhere Special, in which he plays a terminally ill father who must find a home for his son. Claire Rushbrook, star of Ali & Ava, also deserves Best Actress in a cast-iron line-up that also includes Ruth Wilson (True Things), Joanna Scanlan (After Love) and Caitríona Balfe (Belfast).
The Best Documentary category is another intriguing selection, though Andrea Arnold’s Cow must surely be the film to beat. Recalling the recent Gunda, this observational look at the life of a dairy cow on a British farm was the talk of the Croisette when in bowed Cannes earlier this year. It might, though, face stiff competition from I Am Belmaya, about a young Nepalese woman who finds her voice through photography.
One of the year’s sweetest movies – aptly titled Sweetheart – is also up for five awards, including Best Director for Marley Morrison and Best Supporting Actress for Jo Hartley. It’s here where BIFA is at its best, showing solidarity for small British movies that might otherwise be ignored by BAFTA or other glitzier awards shows. Whoever takes away the prizes on 5 December, they have shown just what a sweet spot British cinema is in right now.
The British Independent Film Awards take place on 5 December. For more details, visit: bifa.film
Words: James Mottram