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BAFTA hopefuls tackle ‘Candide’

Sharpe, Kingsley nommed for 'Black Pond'

LONDON — The next feature by Will Sharpe and Tom Kingsley, the youngest ever nominees for BAFTA’s outstanding British debut award, will be a contemporary reworking of Voltaire’s 18th century French satire “Candide.”

Sharpe and Kingsley, who are 25 and 26 respectively, received their BAFTA nod for “Black Pond,” a quirky comedy about a middle-class family who invite a stranger to dinner, and find themselves accused of murder when he dies at the table.

They raised the $39,000 budget from private investors and their own pockets. Sharpe wrote the script from a storyline they created together. They co-directed, co-edited and co-produced the film, as well as handling the distribution themselves.

Sharpe, who has acted in the Royal Shakespeare Company and appeared in a season of BBC hospital soap “Casualty,” is also part of the ensemble cast, alongside Chris Langham and Simon Amstell.

The pair are currently finalizing negotiations with an experienced comedy producer to make their next project, which Sharpe describes as an “epic comedy adventure about happiness.” The budget is projected at $2.3 million.

“Candide,” first published in 1759, is the picaresque story of a ridiculously optimistic young man who travels around Europe suffering the worst catastrophes imaginable. This gradually dents his belief in the doctrine of his tutor Pangloss that “all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.”

Hugely controversial in its time for its savage political and religious satire, “Candide” has long been established as a classic of world literature. But Kingsley explains that by updating the story to the present day, he and Sharpe want to restore some of its original topical impact.

“We want to stay as faithful as we can to the book. But when it was written, it was banned for being satirical, whereas when you read it now, you are not aware of the references. So we want to modernize it and give it the impact the book has lost. By doing so, we feel it’s more faithful to the spirit of the original.”

Despite the tiny budget, Sharpe and Kingsley are aiming to maintain Voltaire’s sweeping international storyline, by applying the lessons they learnt on “Black Pond” about shooting on a shoestring to a bigger story.

“The scope is very large, it will have a blockbuster scope on a £1.5 million ($2.4 million) budget,” Kingsley said.

Sharpe and Kingsley, along with “Black Pond” co-producer Sarah Brocklehurst, are nominated for BAFTA’s outstanding British debut award against Ralph Fiennes for “Coriolanus,” Richard Ayoade for “Submarine,” Joe Cornish for “Attack the Block,” and Paddy Considine and his producer Diarmid Scrimshaw for “Tyrannosaur.”

The winner will be announced at the BAFTA ceremony Feb. 12 at London’s Royal Opera House.

“Black Pond” was also nominated at the British Independent Film Awards, the Guardian First Film Awards and the Evening Standard British Film Awards.

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