The full list of British Academy of Film and Television Arts nominations has been announced, here’s what Film & TV Editor, Frankie Crossley, has to say about it.
This year’s BAFTA nominations list tops off a year in film that haemorrhaged allegations of sexual misconduct from Hollywood heavyweights ranging from now-disgraced producing powerhouse Harvey Weinstein, to actor famed for The Usual Suspects and House of Cards, Kevin Spacey. At the Golden Globes this week, women attending the event wore black, with just a few notable exceptions, in support of the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns in which many women spoke out about their own experiences of sexual harassment and abuse. In the days following the event, where he donned of the #TimesUp badge, accusations of assault have now been levelled at actor James Franco, and Ed Westwick has been replaced on a new BBC One drama, Ordeal by Innocence in light of recent reports about his behaviour.
It’s a movement that’s not only spanned the arts and entertainment industries, but has reached the highest levels of politics. With the Womens’ March held on January 21 last year in protest at the revelations about President Donald Trump’s attitude and conduct towards women, 2017 also saw the House of Commons face a flurry of allegations against male MPs ranging from accusations of being ‘handy in taxis’ to unwanted propositions.
Reading journalist Sophy Ridge’s book The Women Who Shaped Politics, it’s amazing how with each step forward, we never fail to amaze ourselves by taking two steps back. Ridge writes about the waves made by women ranging from first-wave suffragettes Millicent Fawcett, through the second wave of militant WSPU members, on to the no-nonsense female fighters like Anne Widdecome, Betty Boothroyd and Thatcher, and all the way along the top of the wave to modern feminists Dianne Abbott, Harriet Harman and Ruth Davidson.
Written before the Parliamentary revelations about last year, it’s clear that hope is the message of the book, and that the future can be female if we fight for it. However, with every set back comes a wave of depression about the current state of affairs. This week, the BBC’s China Editor Carrie Gracie resigned, saying she would not be part of a company that employs a policy of “unlawful pay discrimination” (equal pay that was supposed to have been won in the UK in 1970 following the Ford machinists strike). Then Toby Young stood down from his recently-appointed position on the new Office for Students (which as it turns out had more to do with his interest in eugenics rather than the tweets themselves, which apparently weren’t bad enough to get you sacked). In any case, through Mr Young’s infantile tweets it’s clear the appropriation, degradation and harassment of women across both fronts of entertainment and politics is widespread and deeply engrained across a small but very powerful minority of men’s psyche’s. To be clear, that is not to say it’s all men. It definitively isn’t.
Here’s some insight into the mind of Toby Young via his Twitter:
“Helen Mirren is looking good. #GoldenGlobes. #GrandmasI’dLikeToShag”
“Danny Boyle’s wife’s got huge knockers #Oscars.
“What happened to Winkleman’s breasts Put on some weight, girlie. #comicrelief”*
“Ricky Gervais was wrong about this #Emmys crowd. The women here are smoking hot. There should be an award for Best Baps.”
In 2018, then, it’s apt that a new year should demand the turning over of a new leaf. At the Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey received rapturous applause for her speech, resulting in odds of her running for the presidency in 2020. It befuddles me that celebrities and television personalities are now common fodder for the USA’s most elite governmental roles, but Winfrey was right when she commended those women who had withstood years of assault and harassment, across the board, and gave hope to so many that it would stop.
The opportunity to rouse the audience in quite such an arresting way falls to Joanna Lumley, newly promoted to host the BAFTAs as Stephen Fry’s replacement. She leads a long line of women who will grace the stage at this year’s awards. Up for leading actress we have Annette Bening for Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, Sally Hawkins for The Shape of Water, Frances McDormand for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Margot Robbie for I, Tonya, and Soirse Ronan for Lady Bird. They are followed up by Allison Janney, Kristin Scott Thomas, Laurie Metcalfe, Lesley Manville and Octavia Spencer for Best Supporting Actress.
What’s interesting this year is the number of films in which women take centre stage. The Shape of Water, in which Sally Hawkins’ mute character falls in love with a water creature, is nominated in 12 categories. In Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, a mother searches for her missing daughter and challenges the head of police in her town. I, Tonya follows the rise and fall of figure skater Tonya Harding, while Lady Bird follows a Californian nurse who works to keep hold of her family after her husband is made redundant.
However, there are a number of glaring omissions. In the realm of documentaries, just one woman’s name makes the cut. In partnership with Jon Shenk, Bonni Cohen is nominated for best Documentary for An Inconvenient Sequel. In the best Director category, there are no women at all. Not even Greta Gerwig is nominated for Lady Bird, and she is the only representative of women in the Original Screenplay category except for Vanessa Taylor, nominated in conjunction with Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water. In adapted screenplay, again no women.
In fact, the Original Music, Cinematography, Director, Editing and Special Visual Effects categories contain no women’s names at all. Sound has just one, Mary H. Ellis and her team for Baby Driver, as does Film Not in the English Language; Angelina Jolie for First They Killed My Father. In the category of Best Film, just three of the 16 names nominated are women; Emilie Georges for Call Me By Your Name, Lisa Bruce for Darkest Hour, and Emma Thomas for Dunkirk. For Outstanding British Film, four women of 21 nominees make the cut; Lisa Bruce, Manon Addison for God’s Own Country, and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly and Alice Birch for Lady Macbeth. Paloma Baeza and Ser En Low are nominated in the British Short Animation category for Poles Apart, but in British Short Film, just three nominees are female, (Emma Stone and Vika Evdokimenko for Aamir (review coming soon), and Signe Byrge Sørensen for A Drowning Man).
In Production Design, it’s a pretty even affair with five female nominations and six male, and in Make Up and Hair, with six each. Furthermore, progress is clearly coming up from the ranks with almost equal numbers of male and female nods for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer. Writer Rungano Nyoni and Producer, Emily Morgan are nominated for I Am Not A Witch, while Lucy Cohen is up for Kingdom of Us, and for Lady Macbeth, Alice Birch and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly. In the EE Rising Star Award voted for by the public, Florence Pugh and Tessa Thompson are nominated, having most recently starred in Lady Macbeth and Thor: Ragnarok respectively.
We know that just 7 per cent of directors are female according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film based in San Diego, and the BFI revealed back in September that 31 per cent of actors cast in films made in 1913 were female, compared to just 30 per cent today. The inevitable argument of nay-sayers is one of meritocracy; the BAFTAs can only nominate those women who are making films. What the film industry needs to do is to support women in writing, producing, directing and telling their stories. Women in the film business need to feel that the ideas and content they produce is relevant and matters, and that audiences want to pay to see it at the cinema. That might mean more funding for female directors or sponsorship for female creatives.
One thing that it might mean is serious consideration of all-female shortlists. Following the Labour Party’s decision to roll out all-female shortlists in 1993, 101 women were elected to Parliament and nicknamed ‘Blair’s Babes’ when they won the election in 1997. While all-female shortlists are problematic, and face the argument that they are anti-meritocratic and keep out talented male candidates unfairly, it is perhaps time to take seriously the idea in relation to the world of film and television awards. Positive discrimination is a complicated and much debated concept, but if it encourages more women into the film and television business, and they go on to inspire others to do the same fuelled by the fire that they can be successful, eventually the time comes around when true gender equality exists and we no longer need to employ the tactic. Even if there’s a target for female inclusivity, that would be better than not having any women up for Best Director, surely? It’s something to think about.
Whatever we do, it’s clear something has to be done, since totting the number of women nominated in all categories in relation to their male peers, women make up just 22 per cent of the total. That’s 40 women, out of a total of 185 nominees (excluding Best Actor and Actress and Supporting Actor and Actress categories). If we lived in a society where men and women were truly equal and paid the same as their male counterparts, we could make the argument that gender is irrelevant, but with the balance so clearly skewed and the evidence to the contrary, that argument can’t yet be made. BAFTA chair Jane Lush has this week said that the lack of women in the Best Director category is “a reflection of the industry”. If so, that’s what we need to change. If not, we need to start recognising the women who actually are in the industry and producing great work.
Women might be making bold and impassioned statements, whether with their dress or their words as it was at the Golden Globes, they might be getting more of their stories told as this year’s BAFTAs demonstrates, they might be centre stage, but that stage still remains, courtesy of a Taylor Swift song, tilted towards men. As we put a troubling 2017 for women behind us, it’s clear that behind the camera there’s still a lot of work to be done.
The EE British Academy Film Awards take place on Sunday 18 February at the Royal Albert Hall, London.