IT IS envisaged as a celebration of the cream of Scotland's cinema and television talent – even though there are no film actresses shortlisted and two of the films regarded as the best of the year do not have distribution deals.
The nominations for the annual Bafta Scotland awards were announced yesterday, showcasing the work of well-kent faces and new talent, but inviting scorn from critics who claim the entire prize-giving ceremony is a politically-motivated exercise designed to promote little-known films.
One producer denounced the organisation as an "inward-looking body which rewards effort, not excellence" and shuns those films which dare to have an international outlook.
This year's shortlist is not without its star attractions. Robert Carlyle, a previous winner, has been nominated for best male television actor for his role in Unloved, while David Tennant also receives a nod for his central turn in Doctor Who. So too, In The Loop – the celebrated political satire which features Scots actor Peter Capaldi and is directed and written by Armando Ianucci has garnered three nominations.
Further afield, however, it appears the Bafta jury has had its work cut out. There is, for example, not a single film actress shortlisted, with the single category Acting In Film featuring three male nominees.
The last time Bafta Scotland invited submissions for film actresses, in 2007, it triggered embarrassing scenes. There was only one nominee, Sophia Myles, who duly took home the prize for her role in Hallam Foe.
Since then, the more general category has been used. "I'm not sure why there's not any actresses in the Acting in Film category," said Helen Anderson, director of Bafta Scotland. "The competition works on the basis of entries that are submitted to us."
Celia Stevenson, head of communications at Scottish Screen, said that while it appeared to be "the boys' year," the film acting category was open to both sexes.
"I think a lot of our actresses are off in other countries on other productions, and don't perhaps meet the criteria," she added.
The nominations for the flagship award of Best Feature Film, previously won by the likes of The Last King of Scotland, have also raised eyebrows. One esteemed film critic told The Scotsman he has not heard of some entries, let alone watched them.
Of its three nominees – Richard Jobson's frantic Edinburgh-set thriller, New Town Killers, Crying With Laughter, a dark comic tale also based in the capital, and Kurdi, a documentary following an exiled Kurd living in Glasgow – only the first has received a nationwide cinema release.
Crying With Laughter, which has three nominations altogether, was screened at this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival, while Kurdi was shown for a week in June at Glasgow Film Theatre as part of the Scottish Refugee Council's Refugee Week Film Festival.
According to film critic Brian Pendreigh, the standard of nominations has not reached the heights of previous years.
He said: "I'm a full-time film writer based in Scotland, but not only have I never seen half of these films, I've never heard of them.
"You would be hard pushed to find anyone outside of Bafta Scotland or Scottish Screen who have seen all these productions, and even then I'm not so sure."
Pendreigh expressed astonishment that Valhalla Rising, a historical epic filmed in Argyll, was not shortlisted.
He added: "To me, the idea of a best film prize in this instance is not for the best feature. The ground rules have been changed in the hope that a prize will provide a boost to an unknown film.
"Valhalla Rising is an internationally acknowledged film that's shot entirely in Scotland that stands head and shoulders above anything else."
Karen Smyth, the co-producer of Valhalla Rising, said that while she wished the nominated films well, she was "speechless" and "hurt" to discover that her feature had not made the Bafta list.
She said: "Bafta Scotland is a very inward-looking organisation that rewards effort, not excellence. Sadly, Scotland is too small a country for a jury to gracefully concede the value of a film.
"I cannot believe that films have been nominated that have not had distribution deals. Our film is opening nationwide in March, and has been at Venice and Toronto, where it was the first film to sell, and it's going to the London Film Festival. I think that because it has an international outlook, we're being punished with the 'tall poppy syndrome'."
Stevenson admitted she was "surprised" at the exclusion of Valhalla Rising, which received Scottish Screen funding. Asked whether the Bafta jury deliberately set out to give publicity to little-known films, she said: "I could not disagree more."
She added: "The nominations for 2009 make for a very interesting list, with a real mix right across film and television. There's a really good spread."
Anderson, meanwhile, said that the nominations "reflect the talent that's out there".
She said she was unable to comment on those titles shortlisted for best feature film as she was "not included in the judging process," but said there were a record number of entries across all categories.
Elsewhere, as has been the case in previous years, the Academy has also shortlisted actors, writers, and directors who have worked on productions with no direct association to Scotland, but have been included courtesy of their nationality.
Bafta Scotland believes the nominations highlight the "staggering" volume of new work produced in the country over the past 12 months.
The annual "MacBafta" ceremony was first held in 2004. Previously, the awards were held every two years – or not at all, as was the case in 1999 when they were cancelled – and between 1998 and 2002 they recognised new talent only.
Since being revived as an annual event four years ago, the criteria for entries has gradually changed.
Last year's rules, for instance, stipulated that all feature films must have been theatrically screened. However, entries are now accepted from films which have only been shown at industry festivals.
Similarly, whereas the Academy once ruled that all entries must meet at least four criteria of a list – the work had to have been originated, created, designed, written, financed, cast and crewed, produced, or directed in Scotland – the 2009 awards accept films, for example, where only 15 per cent of the overall production costs have been spent in Scotland.
Similarly, its rules governing individuals – whether actors, writers or directors – were once strict on the issue of nationality, with only those people either born in Scotland, with Scottish parents, or starring in a Scottish production eligible. But now, Bafta Scotland accepts those who have been resident in the country for at least five years.
"We have strict criteria," Anderson said. "It's not just about funding, it's about talent, and the percentage of a production made in Scotland."
She added that the awards sought to "give out a positive message about the industry and shine a light on our talent".
In other categories, Eilbheas, a drama set on Lewis which explores Elvis Presley's influence on a young punk, will compete with River City in the TV drama category. Eadar-Chluich, six films without words and each based on a Gaelic song, and New Town, a mystery set in Edinburgh, are also in the running for the same award.
The film acting category has three nominees – Stephen McCole for Crying With Laughter, James Anthony Pearson for New Town Killers, and Peter Capaldi for In The Loop.
Characters familiar to generations of Scots audiences also make an appearance, such as Rab C Nesbitt. The Glasgow philosopher's Christmas special is nominated for best entertainment programme alongside No Holds Bard, Cowards and Shrink Rap – Billy Connolly.
For the first time, 2009 sees three awards for digital media, which recognise the contribution to the industry from Scotland's computer games, web and interactive markets.
Championship Manager 2010 Express is nominated for the game category, taking on Low Grav Racer and Flock.
"It's a way of acknowledging the developments in digital content," explained Anderson. "People are consuming content in different ways and across different platforms."
• The awards ceremony will take place at the Glasgow Science Centre on 8 November.
AND THE NOMINATIONS ARE …
ACTING IN FILM
Stephen McCole as Joe Frisk – Crying With Laughter
James Anthony Pearson as Sean Macdonald – New Town Killers
Peter Capaldi as Malcom Tucker – In The Loop
ACTING IN TV – FEMALE
Daniela Nardini – New Town
Lindsay Duncan, right – Margaret
Stella Gonet – Holby City
ACTING IN TV – MALE
Robert Carlyle –The Unloved
Bill Paterson, below – Spanish Flu – The Forgotten Fallen
David Tennant – Doctor Who
The Happy Duckling
KNTV The Act of Sex
Armando Iannucci – In The Loop
Richard Jobson – New Town Killers
Caroline Paterson/Stuart Davids – Wasted
No Holds Bard
Rab C Nesbit Christmas Special
Shrink Rap: Billy Connolly
Dave Kidney Superstar
In Shackleton's Footsteps
New Town Killers
Crying With Laughter
A History of Scotland
Terry Pratchett: Living With Alzheimers
Girls Behind Bars
Championship Manager 2010 Express
Low Grav Racer
The Lost Book
British Music Experience
NEWS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS
BBC Scotland Investigates: Scotland's Brand New Bank
Panorama – Britain's Homecare Scandal
Life of a Pigeon
Peter in Radioland
Little Red Hoodie
Eadar-Chluich (The Tears Welled)
BBC: China Stories
BBC Robert Burns Website
The Big Plus Work Signs Academy
Annie Griffin – New Town
Jesse Armstrong/Simon Blackwell/Armando Ianucci, above – In The Loop
Justin Molotnikov – Crying With Laughter
Ed McArdie – Shameless