In recent years, the global acclaim for U.K. indie filmmaking has seen a convergence between the British Independent Film Awards and more mainstream ceremonies such as the BAFTAs and Oscars. But this year’s BIFAs are returning to their funky alternative roots.

The nominations are led by four genre-bending, low-budget films: “Berberian Sound Studio,” “Broken,” “The Imposter” and “Sightseers,” which are vying for the best film and director prizes with John Madden’s more conventional and commercial “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”

This quirky quintet clicked with the BIFA jury ahead of several films by established directors with more substantial BAFTA or Oscar ambitions. These include Roger Michel’s “Hyde Park on the Hudson,” Ken Loach’s “The Angels’ Share,” Dustin Hoffman’s “Quartet,” James Marsh’s “Shadow Dancer,” Sally Potter’s “Ginger & Rosa” and Paul Andrew Williams’ “Song for Marion,” which picked up a smattering of other nods, mostly in the acting categories.

“The Iron Lady,” which qualified for this year’s BIFAs by a quirk of the U.K. release schedule, also took a script nomination for Abi Morgan and an incongruous lead actress nod for Meryl Streep.

But there was no love for Mike Newell’s “Great Expectations,” Ol Parker’s “Now Is Good” or Lasse Hallstrom’s “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.” The snub for James Watkins’ crowd-pleasing horror “The Woman in Black” continues BIFAs’ traditional reluctance to honor well-crafted commercial hits.

“Broken,” the directorial debut of Rufus Norris, is the nomination leader with nine. This dark drama about a disturbed girl, which premiered in the Critics’ Week at Cannes, won’t even get released in time for this year’s BAFTA race, because distrib Studiocanal judged that it’s simply too niche to compete against more mainstream awards contenders.

It’s followed with seven nods apiece for Ben Wheatley’s macabre third film “Sighteers” and Peter Strickland’s experimental sophomore feature “Berberian Sound Studio.” Bart Leyton’s debut documentary “The Imposter” got six nods, despite having no actors to nominate, while “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” took five, including three for its veteran cast.

Norris and Layton are both in the running for rookie director at the BIFAs, along with rapper Ben Drew for his incendiary inner-city drama “Ill Manors,” Rowan Athale for heist thriller “Wasteland” and Sally El Hosaini for “My Brother the Devil,” about two British Egyptian brothers growing up in London.

The acting categories embrace a vast range of age and experience. For lead actress, Streep and Judi Dench (“Marigold Hotel”) face rising star Andrea Riseborough (“Shadow Dancer”), the precocious Elle Fanning (“Ginger & Rosa”) and newcomer Alice Lowe (“Sightseers”), who’s also nominated for co-writing the script.

In lead actor, Lowe’s writing partner and co-star Steve Oram (“Sightseers”) is up against the fast-rising Riz Ahmed (“Ill Manors”), plus veterans Terence Stamp (“Song for Marion”), Toby Jones (“Berberian Sound Studio”) and Tim Roth (“Broken”).

The edgy indie spirit is continued in the nominations for best international film. These include two French films, “Amour” and “Rust and Bone,” along with Sundance prize-winner “Beast of the Southern Wild,” Danish drama “The Hunt” and doc “Searching for Sugar Man,” which is British-produced but directed by Swede Malik Bendjelloul.


Nine noms: film, director (Rufus Norris), debut director, script, actor (Tim Roth), supporting actor (Cillian Murphy, Rory Kinnear), newcomer (Eloise Laurence), technical achievement (Electric Wave Bureau for music).
Logline: A young girl’s life is fractured after she witnesses a violent attack.
Companies: Cuba Pictures (part of talent agency Curtis Brown) produced for BBC Films. U.K. distrib: Studiocanal. Sales: Wild Bunch.

Seven noms: film, director (Ben Wheatley), script, actress (Alice Lowe), actor (Steve Oram), supporting actress (Eileen Davies), achievement in production.
Logline: An oddball couple go on a caravan holiday and leave a trail of bloody mayhem behind them.
Companies: Big Talk Films and Rook Films produced for Film4, Studiocanal. Sales: Protagonist Pictures.

Seven noms: film, director (Peter Strickland), script, actor (Toby Jones), achievement in production, technical achievement (cinematographer Nic Knowland, sound designer Joakim Sundstrom).
Logline: A shy British engineer, recruited to record the soundtrack for a 1970s Italian slasher movie, becomes profoundly disturbed by the sonic horrors he is asked to create.
Companies: Warp Films and Illumination Films produced for Film4, U.K. Film Council, Screen Yorkshire. U.K. distrib: Artificial Eye. Sales: Match Factory.

Six noms: film, director (Bart Leyton), debut director, documentary, achievement in production, technical achievement (editor Andrew Hulme).
Logline: The extraordinary story of fraudster Frederic Bourdin, a 23-year-old Frenchman who managed to convince a troubled Texan family that he was their missing 16-year-old son.
Companies: RAW and Red Box Films/Passion Pictures produced for A&E Indie Films, Film4. U.K. distrib: Revolver/Picturehouse. Sales, Protagonist.

Five noms: film, director (John Madden), actress (Judi Dench), supporting actress (Maggie Smith), supporting actor (Tom Wilkinson).
Logline: A motley bunch of elderly Brits suffers a severe dose of culture shockafter moving into a cheap retirement home in India, run by an optimistic young entrepreneur who’s trying to prove himself.
Companies: Blueprint Pictures produced for Fox Searchlight, Participant Media.Companies: Blueprint Pictures produced for Fox Searchlight, Participant Media.

British Independent Film Awards 2012
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