FILMS about the Glasgow gangster Paul Ferris, a modern-day cannibal clan, one man’s fight against motor neurone disease and the Piper Alpha disaster are in the running for the flagship audience award at this year’s Scottish BAFTAs.
An eight-strong shortlist has been unveiled by the Scottish academy, which will screen the contenders around the country in the run-up to next month’s ceremony in Glasgow.
Also included on the shortlist are a film about the impact of a 1926 strike affected Scottish mining communities and a drama about a young man struggling to keep his fishing village’s traditions alive.
The eight films - Blackbird, The Devil’s Plantation, Fire in the Night, The Happy Lands, I Am Breathing, Sawney: Flesh of Man, We Are Northern Lights and The Wee Man - will also be in the running for best feature at the event, with the full list of nominees in the TV and film categories due to be announced later this month. Four are classed as documentaries.
However two major new Scottish films - Filth and Sunshine on Leith - which are currently packing cinemas across Britain will miss out completely at next month’s awards, as they were released too late. They would have been in the running had they been screened at a major festival anywhere in the world before the end of August.
But the Edinburgh International Film Festival, which moved its dates from August back to June several years ago, failed to land either movie.
The Great Hip Hop Hoax, a hit documentary about two Scottish rappers who famously duped the music industry after masquerading as a Californian duo, was also ruled out because it was not deemed a “Scottish” film production.
Alan de Pellette, acting director of BAFTA Scotland, admitted the organisation would look at moving its eligibility dates in future, but said that any move would have an impact on when the actual awards could be held.
Most films on the audience shortlist have been rarely seen in cinemas, with The Wee Man, English director Ray Burdis’ adaptation of Paul Ferris’s own life story the most high-profile, although it was not shown in cinemas outwith Scotland.
Several films from this year’s EIFF are in the running, including Fire In The Night, the Piper Alpha documentary made by STV and based on a book by The Scotsman journalist Stephen McGinty, which won the audience award in Edinburgh in June.
Also shown in Edinburgh were Blackbird, Jamie Chambers’ debut film, about the distress of a young singer witnessing the slow demise of his home village, and I Am Breathing, the documentary charting the final months of motor neurone sufferer Neil Platt, which has since been screened in more than 40 countries around the world.
The BAFTA screenings, which will run from 20-29 October, will be the latest chance to see We Are Northern Lights, the crowd-sourced documentary which saw 1500 people across the country submit foootage. It has already been shown 200 times since being unveiled at the Glasgow Film Festival this year.
The Happy Lands, a documentary recalling the impact of the 1926 general strike on various communities in Fife, Sawney: Flesh of Man, which saw David Hayman head up a modern retelling of the legend of a 16th century cannibal, and The Devil’s Plantation, a drama lifting the lid on “the hidden corners of Glasgow”, were also screened at the city’s festival back in February.
Mr de Pellette said the number of entries for the main film categories were roughly the same as in recent years, but admitted some people would be confused that Sunshine on Leith and Filth were not in the running this year.
He told The Scotsman: “Our eligibility period each year is from 1 August in one year to 31 July the next. There are films that are out just now that won’t fit that, sadly.
“Every awards are the same. You have a year of judging work. With films, they don’t have to have been released in that period.
“If they have been released at a major film festival that also qualifies you. It is the same with the Oscars, where often things can win and are only released a month or two later.
“I’m sure it will seem confusing, but we have our ceremony in the middle of November, we have to announce our nominees in the middle of October and everything works back from that. We obviously work with everyone in the industry to try to get the best and most varied amount of work possible to enter.
“We need to launch our call for entries in June to get the films in, accepted, verified and then viewed by all our members for the first round of judging. The shortlist then goes to juries made up of industry professionals.
“If we moved the eligibility period, we would have to move the awards, and that is not as simple as it seems, as we have to fit in with other big events that are on in Scotland and BAFTA’s other awards.”
Eyebrows were raised at the absence of Filth from this summer’s EIFF and it did not get a festival premiere anywhere before its release, despite largely positive reviews. Sunshine on Leith only received its world premiere in Toronto last month, with director Dexter Fletcher filming a brand new ending in Edinburgh in the spring, even though the bulk of the shoot was carried out in November and December.
Mr de Pellette added: “It is difficult for us, because you have things like Filth coming out in September, which is two months into next year’s eligibility criteria. If they enter next year, it is going to seem weird, because it will feel like an old film, but that’s just one of the vagaries of trying to manage a timescale. I was surprised Filth wasn’t on at a festival this year, as I assumed it would be.
“We don’t want to disparage any of the other really-interesting films that are on our shortlist, which maybe are less high-profile than Filth or Sunshine and Leith.
“It is actually quite unusual for Scotland to have two films like that coming out at the same time.
“Will they seem old hat this time next year? Will it seem weird to the public if they win awards? Quite possibly. But that happens quite frequently with awards.
“It’s a bit of a shame for us in a small industry that doesn’t get much attention. We have such a small number of films getting made.”