Diverse debuts energize BAFTAS

BAFTA Awards 2013

If the BAFTA jury set out to pinpoint the sheer diversity of new Brit talent, it couldn’t have done a better job with this year’s choice of nominees for debut by a British writer, director or producer.

From a Hollywood kids’ musical to a low-budget movie shot clandestinely in Iran, two contrasting documentaries and the directing debut of a former child star, the nominated films prove that British cinema is a very broad church indeed.

Tina Gharavi was unknown to the U.K. film industry before her nomination as writer-director of “I Am Nasrine,” a drama about an Iranian woman who escapes from Tehran to the bleak city of Newcastle in northeast England.

Gharavi’s own family left Iran during the 1979 revolution, when she was 6. She lived in the U.K., the U.S., France and New Zealand before settling back in Newcastle, where she runs her own production company Bridge and Tunnel and lectures in digital media at Newcastle U.

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She secretly shot the Iranian sections of “I Am Nasrine” by pretending to be a second-unit crew from another feature, which has an ironic echo of “Argo” — a film she dismisses for its inaccurate representation of her native country. The finished film premiered at the tiny Berwick festival and had only been screened a few times in her local area before her BAFTA nod flung her into the industry spotlight.

At the other end of the spectrum, James Bobin wrote for Sacha Baron Cohen and co-created “Flight of the Conchords” before being offered his feature directing debut with “The Muppets.” His deft comedic touch matched Jason Segel’s affectionate vision, and he’s signed up for the sequel.

Dexter Fletcher made his movie debut 36 years ago in the seminal kids musical “Bugsy Malone,” before segueing into a successful adult career with “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Band of Brothers.”

His directing debut, for which he’s nominated alongside co-writer Danny King, is “Wild Bill,” a nicely crafted tale of an ex-con whose sudden re-appearance after eight years inside isn’t welcomed by his teenage son.

Fletcher is now shooting his second movie, “Sunshine on Leith,” a Scottish musical based on the songs of the Proclaimers.

Director Bart Layton and producer Dimitri Doganis premiered their doc “The Imposter” at Sundance last year. The extraordinary true story of the French conman who convinced a Texan family he was their long-lost son has chalked up boffo U.K. box office and many awards. “The Imposter” is also nominated by BAFTA for top documentary.

So is “McCullin,” a more straightforward doc about the legendary Brit war photographer Don McCullin, shot by brother-and-sister team David and Jacqui Morris, who share a debut nomination. Jacqui Morris originally worked as McCullin’s assistant. She and her brother then worked in advertising as casting directors, before self-financing their first feature, the gay-themed drama “Mr. Right,” in 2009.

Because that movie only got a couple of festival screenings but not a full theatrical release, they still qualified for BAFTA’s debut award with “McCullin.”

BAFTA Awards 2013
BAFTA and Oscars: Separate and almost equal | Diverse debuts energize BAFTAS | BAFTA’s Rising Star kudo takes femme turn

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