If Kenneth Branagh is feeling a little disappointed today, we can hardly blame him.
Despite leading this year’s British Independent Film Awards nominations with 11 nods for his cinematic ode to Belfast, the picture didn’t land a single gong.
Boiling Point, which tied Belfast with its number of nominations, took home four awards at the ceremony on Sunday night. But the big winner was After Love by filmmaker Aleem Khan, who won six awards, including Best British Independent Film and Best Director.
Belfast had received nods for its casting, with Caitriona Balfe, Dame Judi Dench, Ciaran Hinds and young Jude Hill all in the running, but Hill – considered a big favorite to win a groundbreaking performance – lost to Nell Barlow for Sweetheart.
Since Branagh’s semi-autobiographical Belfast premiere at the 48th Telluride Film Festival in September, he has won numerous awards and nominations and much has been said about the potential glory of the Oscars. He has won audience awards at various film festivals, including in Middleburg and Newport Beach, and won the prestigious People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. Just last week, Belfast won nine Hollywood Critics Association nominations.
Last year, psychological horror flick Saint Maud topped the field at the British Independent Film Awards with 17 nods, winning just two gongs on the night for Best Cinematography and Best Debut Director. The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2019, but – significantly – failed to win the People’s Choice Award. This went in place of Jojo Rabbit, who, in turn, was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.
Only two films that won best gong at the British Independent Film Awards have progressed to win the Oscar for Best Picture – Slumdog Millionaire and The King’s Speech. Many others have missed out on BIFA accolades over the years, but have enjoyed BAFTA and / or Oscar triumphs, not to mention commercial success – Nil by Mouth, Mrs Henderson Presents, The Last King of Scotland, The Queen , Notes we have Scandal and Philomena among them.
On the other hand, it should be noted that past recipients of the People’s Choice Award in Toronto have won Oscars, such as Life is Beautiful, American Beauty, Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, 12 Years a Slave, La La Land, Three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, Green Book and Nomadland.
Veteran film writer and speaker Mike Catto said Branagh shouldn’t be too disheartened by the results of the British Independent Film Awards because he doesn’t think they are any indicator of what will happen at the awards ceremony. Oscars next year.
âThere are so many film festivals and awards now that it’s pretty hard to keep up with them all,â Catto said.
âBut the most important is the People’s Choice Award from the Toronto Film Festival, which Belfast has already won.
“In recent years, that’s pretty much indicated which movie is going to take home the Best Picture award, so Branagh can take something from that.”
Catto said he would be surprised if Belfast didn’t get at least two Oscar nominations.
âIn terms of Oscar nods, I think Belfast should do pretty well,â he said.
âThe only problem is that just like the Oscar-winning semi-autobiographical Mexican film Roma, Belfast is shot in black and white and set in a time of turmoil, so it could be seen as too similar.
âBut I don’t think the British Independent Film Awards are hinting at what’s going to happen to the Oscars next year. BIFAs were created, not as opponents of BAFTAs, but to support smaller feature films, documentaries and short films that were not pushed enough towards major awards.
âAs we know, the UK film industry has grown tremendously. Until a few years ago, BAFTAs were held after the Oscars and were seen as a showcase for British or James Bond films only.
âBut everything has changed too. BAFTA has emerged into the world and embraces a wider range of diversity.
âIt will be interesting to see how Belfast fares in the BAFTA nominations, but I really think it will attract some nods at the Oscars. These latest awards won’t change that and having so many nominations will only help. ‘To give more kudos to the film when it comes to promoting it.