You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

BAFTA evolves to handle doc boom

BAFTA: Down to the Wire 2013

Success has bred success for U.K. documentaries, with a new wave of filmmakers inspired to explore the form by previous breakout British hits.

Bart Layton, who made his feature debut with “The Imposter,” winning twice at the British Independent Film Awards, says Kevin Macdonald’s “Touching the Void,” which won the BAFTA for British film in 2004, opened his eyes to the potential for theatrical docs.

“It was as compelling, as gripping, as escapist as any thriller,” Layton recalls.

When he was developing “The Imposter,” which recounts the scarcely believable story of how a 23-year-old French-Algerian conman persuaded a Texan family that he was their missing 16-year-old son, Layton was determined to appeal to an audience that wouldn’t normally watch a documentary in the cinema.

“Films like ‘Senna’ and ‘Man on Wire,’ and hopefully now ‘The Imposter,’ have opened more doors for documentaries,” he says.

The snowballing success of such British films finally forced BAFTA to introduce a dedicated documentary category last year. After only having three nominees last year, when “Senna” took the prize, BAFTA is set to allow five this year, in recognition of the creative strength of the category.

“The Imposter” and “Searching for Sugar Man,” both co-produced by Blighty’s doc powerhouse Passion Pictures, are among this year’s leading contenders after making the Oscar shortlist. Macdonald’s “Marley” biopic is a pedigree entry, while other high-profile Brit docs include Julian Temple’s “London: The Modern Babylon” and Stevan Riley’s “Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007.”

With 52 films qualified for the race, BAFTA’s documentary chapter also has a wide global selection in a vast range of styles to choose from, ranging from the Palestinian Territory’s “5 Broken Cameras” and Chile’s “Nostalgia for the Light” to American docs “West of Memphis,” “The House I Live In,” “Bill Cunningham New York,” “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” and “Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present.”

Many of these films push the boundaries of the art form. That’s what Layton sought to do with “The Imposter,” mingling real interviews with dramatized memories, and putting an unreliable narrator at the heart of his film.

“This story was stranger than fiction, and it warranted a treatment that was stranger than documentary,” Layton says.

Such innovation is helping docs to connect in new ways with cinema audiences. “People are realizing that documentaries can give them the experience that they demand from movies,” Layton says. That, in turn, is drawing more filmmakers to experiment with factual stories.

“You can make a TV documentary that’s watched by four million people, but they are not all in the same room,” Layton notes. “Being in a cinema with 1,200 people who are all watching your film is an amazing thing.”

BAFTA: Down to the Wire 2013
Genius does not fade away | BAFTA evolves to handle doc boom | A case study of Internet’s impact on filmmakers

More Film

  • Cannes 2019 Winners: 'Parasite' Wins Palme

    Bong Joon-ho's 'Parasite' Wins the Palme d'Or at Cannes

    CANNES — The 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival wrapped with jury president Alejandro González Iñárritu announcing the group’s unanimous decision to award the Palme d’Or to South Korean director Bong Joon-ho for his sly, politically charged “Parasite.” Following last year’s win for humanistic Japanese drama “Shoplifters,” the well-reviewed Asian thriller represents the yin [...]

  • Invisible Life Brazilian Cinema

    Cannes Film Review: 'The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão'

    A “tropical melodrama” is how the marketing materials bill “The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão.” If that sounds about the most high-camp subgenre ever devised, Karim Aïnouz’s ravishing period saga lives up to the description — high emotion articulated with utmost sincerity and heady stylistic excess, all in the perspiring environs of midcentury Rio de [...]

  • Best Movies of Cannes 2019

    The 10 Best Movies of Cannes 2019

    The Cannes Film Festival is too rich an event to truly have an “off” year, but by the end of the 72nd edition, it was more or less universally acknowledged that the festival had regained a full-on, holy-moutaintop-of-art luster that was a bit lacking the year before. It helps, of course, to have headline-making movies [...]

  • Aladdin

    'Aladdin' Soaring to $100 Million-Plus Memorial Day Weekend Debut

    Disney’s live-action “Aladdin” remake is on its way to a commendable Memorial Day weekend debut with an estimated $109 million over the four-day period. The musical fantasy starring Will Smith and Mena Massoud should uncover about $87 million in its first three days from 4,476 North American theaters after taking in $31 million on Friday. [...]

  • 180423_A24_Day_03B_0897.jpg

    Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe's The Lighthouse' Wins Cannes Critics' Award

    Robert Eggers’ “The Lighthouse,” with Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, won the Cannes Film Festival critics’ award for best first or second feature in Directors’ Fortnight and Critics’ Week, one of the first prizes for which “The Lighthouse” has been eligible at Cannes. The award was announced Saturday in Cannes by the Intl. Federation of [...]

  • promenade Cannes Croisette Cannes Placeholder

    Cannes Market Claims Record Visitor Numbers

    The Cannes Market, the Cannes Film Festival’s commercial wing, says that its 2019 edition welcomed a record number of participants. It reported 12,527 attendees. The largest group by nationality was from the U.S. with 2,264 participants, followed by France with 1,943 participants, and the U.K. 1,145. Comparable figures for 2018 were not available. The number [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    'Alien' at 40: Ridley Scott Explains Why 'You Don't Show the Monster Too Many Times'

    It’s difficult to imagine Ridley Scott’s sci-fi/horror classic “Alien” without the clear-minded, strong presence of Tom Skerritt as Dallas, the captain of the ill-fated Nostromo. But originally, the actor turned down “Alien,” which celebrates its 40th anniversary on May 25, though he thought Dan O’Bannon’s script read well. “There was nobody involved at the time [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content