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And the Bafta for most improved nation goes to Scotland

Category: Dear Frankie News
Article Date: October 31, 2004 | Publication: Scotland on Sunday | Author: ALLAN HUNTER
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ITíS easy to forget just how far Scottish film has come. In the course of a single generation, film-making in Scotland has grown from the endeavours of a few hardy pioneers to a profession that consistently produces world class work.

Inevitably, there are disappointments, frustrations and failings, but the landscape of opportunity is almost unrecognisable in the 20 years that have elapsed since Local Hero and Comfort and Joy.

It is a sign of that growth and consistency that Bafta Scotland is now celebrating the achievements of homegrown talent with an annual awards ceremony that initially takes place in Glasgow next month, with Lorraine Kelly hosting.

A dedicated supporter of indigenous film-making, Bafta Scotland was previously responsible for hosting a series of biennial awards honouring new talent from May Miles Thomas to Lynne Ramsay and Gillian Berrie.

The new awards will recognise Scottish achievement at all levels, as well as acknowledging developments in short films, new media, animation, documentaries and new technology.

The first set of awards have the advantage of drawing from the past two years of film releases, which means at least a dozen major feature films have been in contention for the top prizes. David Mackenzieís powerful adaptation of the Alexander Trocchi novel Young Adam leads the field with five nominations in the categories of best film, best director, best screenplay, best actor for Ewan McGregor and best actress for Tilda Swinton.

Fellow best film contender American Cousins, a gentle, old-fashioned comedy, was also nominated for screenplay and best director, while the award-winning, low-budget drama Afterlife has been recognised for screenplay, first time director Alison Peebles and first time performer Paula Sage. Other films with multiple nominations included Richard Jobsonís striking, semi-autobiographical directorial debut 16 Years of Alcohol, Beirut hostage drama Blind Flight and heartwarmer Dear Frankie.

The greatest sign of how much the industry has matured is the fact that none of the awards is a foregone conclusion. There is no category with an obvious runaway winner where everyone else is just there to make up the numbers. McGregor might well be a worthy best actor winner for his charismatic performance in Young Adam, but the same could be said for Kevin McKiddís performance in 16 Years of Alcohol.

Ian Hart and Linus Roache were extraordinarily touching as hostages Brian Keenan and John McCarthy in Blind Flight, which also puts them in strong contention for best actor in a Scottish film. All four contenders gave performances of real stature, and thatís before we consider some of those who didnít even make the nominations list, including Jamie Sives for Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself and Peter Mullan for Blinded.

Once upon a time, the industry might have been hard pushed to provide a sufficient number of nominations in each category to lend the awards some validity. That hasnít been a problem this year, although the announcement of just two nominations in the best actress category does perhaps reflect the way in which Scottish film has failed to provide a wide diversity of challenging roles for its female performers.

Eva Birthistleís fiery schoolteacher in Ae Fond Kiss and Tilda Swintonís steely mother and lover in Young Adam will provide plenty of food for thought for the jury, but surely the hard-working Shirley Henderson deserved at least one nomination for American Cousins or Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself.

The awards, to be held on November 14, are not a coming of age for Scottish film, that happened a long time ago. They are another step in building self-confidence and reflecting the great range of work and talent that is produced within this country.

Bafta Scotland is even confident enough to let the public have its say with an audience award that has been sponsored by UGC Cinemas, in which filmgoers can vote from 12 contenders, including Young Adam, Dear Frankie and The Purifiers. Film-makers throughout the land will no doubt be encouraging friends and family members to vote as often as they can.

The awards also have the advantage of providing a platform where a lifetimeís contribution to the Scottish industry can be recognised. In the past Bafta Scotland presented special awards to actor Ian Bannen and inspirational all-rounder John McGrath. This year, there is the promise that a recipient of similar stature will be honoured.

The problem will be in maintaining the sparkle of this year. Indigenous production has been going through one of its quieter spells in recent months, with Annie Griffinís ensemble comedy Festival one of the few high profile projects to film this year. The resourcefulness of Scottish film has always managed to surprise us in the past, and thatís where the challenge lies for the future.

 


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