'Vera Drake' in frame for independent honours

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The plaudits for Mike Leigh's award-winning film Vera Drake, starring Imelda Staunton as a back-street abortionist in the 1950s, continued yesterday when it received seven nominations in the British Independent Film Awards (Bifas).

But the film, which won top prize at the Venice Film Festival in September, will find itself battling for glory against Shane Meadows's hotly-tipped film, Dead Man's Shoes, which received eight nominations.

The winners of the awards, which will be announcedon 30 November, will be chosen by a jury chaired by Anthony Minghella, the director. Members of the jury include the actors Christian Slater and Cate Blanchett, and the artist Sam Taylor-Wood.

A rare American nominee will be among this year's contenders for best actress with Scarlett Johansson receiving a nomination for her performance in Girl With a Pearl Earring. Former Bifa winners Daniel Craig and Samantha Morton have been nominated for performances in Enduring Love, which premiered at the London Film Festival last night.

It had been a good year for British film, said Elliot Grove, the founder of the Bifas. "Any nation in the world would surely be proud to say they produce these films. Any British person has to be proud of the diversity of films that come out of this cold, dark island."

The diversity of the films and documentaries produced is reflected in the range of nominees for the best British independent film award, from the mountaineering documentary Touching the Void, to the zombie-comedy Shaun of the Dead and My Summer of Love, a new coming-of-age movie backed by the BBC.

Matthew Vaughn, producer of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, was nominated for his directorial debut, Layer Cake, and Paddy Considine is in the running both for best actor and best supporting actor for his performances in Dead Man's Shoes and My Summer of Love. However, there were few nominations for the Bollywood adaptations of Jane Austen and Bride and Prejudice, or for Inside I'm Dancing, which caused controversy by casting able-bodied actors as disabled people.

J K Rowling, the Harry Potter author, will receive a special award for her contribution to the industry after film adaptations of her books have proved massive hits.

James Purefoy, star of the forthcoming Vanity Fair, announced yesterday's shortlists and said the financial pressures on the British film industry forced an inventiveness that produced better films. "When people have to work a lot harder to raise finance, they have to look at the script a lot harder. Not developing scripts has been our biggest problem in the past."

"I think people are becoming less intrigued by Hollywood blockbusters and leaning a bit more towards something unique and arthouse," said Emily Blunt, the actress who has been acclaimed and nominated for her performance in My Summer of Love.

Christian Slater, who is appearing on the London stage in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, said he was "curious" to see the shortlisted films. "Britain definitely creates some of the most influential writers, producers, directors, actors and films in the business."

THE NOMINEES

Best British Independent Film

Dead Man's Shoes; Touching the Void; Vera Drake; Shaun of the Dead; My Summer of Love

Best Actor

Paddy Considine (Dead Man's Shoes); Geoffrey Rush (The Life & Death of Peter Sellers); Daniel Craig (Enduring Love); Phil Davis (Vera Drake); Ian Hart (Blind Flight)

Best Actress

Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake); Natalie Press (My Summer of Love); Eva Birthistle (Ae Fond Kiss...); Anne Reid (The Mother); Scarlett Johansson (Girl With A Pearl Earring)

Best Supporting Actor/Actress

Paddy Considine (My Summer of Love); Gary Stretch (Dead Man's Shoes); Romola Garai (Inside I'm Dancing); Samantha Morton (Enduring Love); Eddie Marsan (Vera Drake)

Most Promising Newcomer

Toby Kebbell (Dead Man's Shoes); Emily Blunt (My Summer of Love); Nick Frost (Shaun Of the Dead); Ashley Walters (Bullet Boy); Atta Yaqub (Ae Fond Kiss...)

Best Director

Kevin Macdonald (Touching the Void); Shane Meadows (Dead Man's Shoes); Mike Leigh (Vera Drake); Pawel Pawlikowsky (My Summer of Love); Roger Michell (Enduring Love)

Best Screenplay

Shane Meadows & Paddy Considine (Dead Man's Shoes); Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright (Shaun Of The Dead); Paul Laverty (Ae Fond Kiss...); Mike Leigh (Vera Drake); Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (The Life & Death Of Peter Sellers)

Best Foreign Film

Motorcycle Diaries; Oldboy; Fahrenheit 9/11; Hero; Pieces of April

Best Documentary

Touching the Void; Aileen; Trollywood; Drowned Out; Peace One Day

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