Why BAFTA Matters

I’m a proud BAFTA member. I’ve voted with the membership and sat on multiple Film Awards juries. I’ve been moved to see our decisions turned into life-changing nominations and awards. I’ve seen the genuine joy on winners’ faces, and the pride with which they stare at their prizes, at the parties that follow the show. I’ve watched as careers have taken off following a BAFTA nod.

It’s for these very reasons that I take my role as a voter incredibly seriously. On a macro level, it might appear that the BAFTAs slot into the calendar along with any number of other events that provide little more than a self-congratulatory back-slap for a luvvie industry, and that their true worth is measured only in the extra box office that some of the buzzed-about titles generate. That may not be entirely false, but to witness the human, emotional side effect of the role played by the BAFTA Film Awards is to understand their real importance.

In reaction to a piece run by an anonymous “whistleblower” on one tabloid newspaper’s website, I feel compelled to defend the process by which film awards voters go about their task. The piece alleges that the voter in question happily votes for films they haven’t bothered to see, because there’s not enough time to see them and the momentum carries the favourites to victory anyway.

It’s an odd idea that begins with one bizarre plot-hole: it’s actually much, much easier to simply abstain than it is to vote for films you haven’t seen. To vote in Round One – the nominations stage – the BAFTA system requires you to assemble a shortlist of films you might choose and then go through each category, digging out the eligible parties and arranging them in order of preference. Since abstaining in any category – or all of them – involves a simple click, and doesn’t affect your right to vote in subsequent years, doing so is entirely without effort or consequence. So what’s the point of doing anything else?

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