What happened to “Barbie”?
This is likely to be one of the hot-button questions following the announcement of the 2024 BAFTA Film Awards nominations on Thursday, which saw Greta Gerwig’s cultural phenomenon and box office juggernaut emerge without nods in the best film and director categories.
While the film’s five BAFTA nominations (including leading actress, supporting actor and original screenplay) is, of course, still a tally to be very proud of, the figure is likely to have caught many awards-watchers off guard. The film landed 15 places in the BAFTA Longlists earlier this month following the first round of voting, tying for first place alongside “Oppenheimer” (which ultimately earned 13 nominations) and “Killers of the Flower Moon” (nine nods). Given its standing as the biggest film of 2023 and one that has smashed so many significant records along the way, many may have assumed a best film and director nomination were all but guaranteed.
But for BAFTA, it’s simply not the case.
“There’s no such thing as expected at BAFTA,” says Anna Higgs, chair of BAFTA’s film committee, speaking to Variety following the nominations announcement. “I think to play a guessing game with our expert members and where they can go, particularly in a year that’s so competitive, is really hard.”
Higgs notes that both the number of BAFTA film entries and the number of movies voters are watching is up year-on-year, making it “more and more competitive, and more intense.”
While Gerwig may not have landed a director nomination, neither did many female directors, with “Anatomy of a Fall’s” Justine Triet the solitary woman among the six. This is an area that BAFTA sought to improve with the major overhaul of its voting process in 2020 (following a year where zero female directors were nominated), which added the Longlist stage that included an intervention to ensure gender parity.
“But we know it’s not a fair race from the start,” says Higgs, who points to recent research showing that, of the top 100 grossing films of the last year, only 12 were directed by women. “For every three film submitted directed by a man, we only have one film submitted directed by a woman. So to see a woman in that nominations list is a really good thing.”
But she points to huge positives elsewhere, including four women directors in the outstanding British films category: Molly Manning Walker (“How to Have Sex”), Raine Allen Miller (“Rye Lane”), Emerald Fennell (“Saltburn”) and Charlotte Regan (“Scrapper”).
“We’ve got lots of women across the board,” Higgs notes, adding that of the 33 directors nominated across categories this year, 11 are women. “And we’re seeing brand new emerging filmmakers with debut films up against legendary filmmakers, which speaks to the excitement and also the range of films that BAFTA celebrates for their excellence on their own merit.”