British Independent Film Awards 2011

There’s a familiar feel to this year’s British Independent Film Awards, with the nominations dominated by past winners and by companies such as Warp, Working Title, See-Saw and Studiocanal that have a strong history at the ceremony.

All five candidates for best film — “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” “Senna,” “Shame,” “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and “Tyrannosaur” — are directed by people who already have a BIFA on their mantelpiece.

Lynne Ramsay, Asif Kapadia and Steve McQueen won BIFAs for debut director, while Tomas Alfredson took the foreign film prize and Paddy Considine won for short.

Ben Wheatley, who replaces Kapadia alongside the other four in this year’s director list for his sophomore pic “Kill List,” is also a previous winner of BIFA’s Raindance Award for his rookie effort “Down Terrace.”

Even the nominees for debut director aren’t exactly fresh-faced unknowns. Considine, Ralph Fiennes for “Coriolanus,” Richard Ayoade for “Submarine,” Joe Cornish for “Attack the Block” and John Michael McDonagh for “The Guard” are all established talents, either as performers, writers or both, who moved into the feature director’s chair for the first time this year.

But lest the BIFAs be accused of losing their edge and simply rounding up a cosy cabal of usual suspects, several eminent past winners have been left out in the cold, with no room for Andrea Arnold’s “Wuthering Heights,” Terence Davies’ “The Deep Blue Sea,” Ken Loach’s “Route Irish” or Michael Winterbottom’s “Trishna.”

In fact, it could be argued that the familiarity of this year’s nominees is not a sign of conservatism, but just that British indie filmmaking is maturing, with the best talent finding a greater consistency of support to build their careers and their audience. Perhaps the BIFAs have simply grown up with the industry.

There’s certainly no shortage of boldness and originality among these nominees — yet their risktaking has also been rewarded with an encouraging and surprising degree of commercial success.

“Tinker,” “Senna,” “Kevin” and “Guard” are among the year’s most significant breakthrough hits at the U.K. box office. “Shame” has yet to be released, but reactions at the London Film Festival suggest that it’s set for a similar result.

“Attack the Block” fell short of its high expectations, while “Kill List” and “Tyrannosaur” both failed to find a significant cinema audiences, but among the other nominees, “Jane Eyre,” “Submarine” and doc “TT3D: Closer to the Edge” all posted healthy box office returns.

However, there’s no room at the BIFAs for the year’s most remarkable indie success story, “The Inbetweeners Movie,” which grossed $74 million in the U.K. and met with critical acclaim. That’s a striking omission, given that it was created by first-time feature writers and a debut director, exactly the kind of talent the BIFAs were created 14 years ago to promote. Perhaps the committee — comprising 70 industry pros — felt that a TV spinoff did not merit recognition as a work of cinema.

That’s not the only curious decision among this year’s nominations. There’s questioning of the reasoning behind the omission of Kapadia from the director list, for example, or the “Tinker Tailor” writers from the script nods. Such anomalies are prompting some BIFA insiders to ask whether the selection process needs reviewing, to ensure that it remains rigorous enough to support the growing status of the awards.

TOP IN NOMS

“Shame”
Seven noms: film, director (Steve McQueen), script (Abi Morgan, McQueen), actor (Michael Fassbender), supporting actress (Carey Mulligan), technical achievement (editor Joe Walker, d.p. Sean Bobbitt).
Logline: An eye-wateringly graphic tour-de-force by McQueen about a Gotham sex addict.

“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
Seven noms: film, director (Tomas Alfredson), actor (Gary Oldman), supporting actress (Kathy Burke), supporting actor (Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch), technical achievement (production designer Maria Djurkovic).
Logline: LeCarre redux, with Alfredson bringing a Swedish eye to this classic Brit spy story.

“Tyrannosaur”
Seven noms: film, director (Paddy Considine), debut director, actress (Olivia Colman), actor (Peter Mullan), supporting actor (Eddie Marsan), achievement in production.
Logline: Considine finds humanity in a man who kicks his dog to death.

“Kill List”
Six noms: director (Ben Wheatley), script (Wheatley and Amy Jump), actress (MyAnna Buring), actor (Neil Maskell), supporting actor (Michael Smiley), achievement in production.
Logline: Wheatley brilliantly blends social realism with horror in this hitman thriller.

“We Need To Talk About Kevin”
Six noms: film, director (Lynne Ramsay), script (Ramsay and Rory Kinnear), actress (Tilda Swinton), supporting actor (Ezra Miller), technical achievement (d.p. Seamus McGarvey).
Logline: Ramsay presents an unrelenting parental nightmare.”Submarine”

“Submarine”
Five noms: debut director (Richard Ayoade), script (Ayoade), supporting actress (Sally Hawkins), newcomer (Craig Roberts, Yasmin Paige)
Logline: Ayoade’s quirky coming-of-ager about boy trying to patch up his parents’ marriage.

“Senna”
Two noms: film, technical achievement (editors Chris King, Gregers Sall).
Logline: Asif Kapadia works miracles with archive footage of Formula One’s ultimate tragic hero.

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