The Best Director nomination for Steve McQueen, whose film 12 Years a Slave is up for another eight Oscars, will rightly be a cause of national celebration. So, too, will the success of the star of the film, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and fellow British performers Judi Dench and Christian Bale, nominated for their roles in Philomena and American Hustle respectively.
Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress – these are the Oscar categories that attract the biggest headlines and the most flash photography. And the speeches of those who claim these prizes are the ones to which we listen most attentively.
But the nominees for this year’s Academy Awards tell a story that goes beyond the star categories. It is a picture of a British film industry in good health across the full and remarkable breadth of its capabilities.
Gravity, overwhelmingly a British-made film, was shot at the Pinewood and Shepperton studios and is a fine symbol of the production and special effects skills found in this country. It is nominated not just for Best Picture but also for Best Visual Effects, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Music, Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. Meanwhile, the recognition of the documentaries Karama Has No Walls and The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life also demonstrates the British industry’s talent in short form production.
This is British film’s best Oscars showing for some time. It is testimony to the system that helps these movies get made. Philomena, which has four nominations, was backed by the British Film Institute and BBC Films, as was The Invisible Woman, which is cited in the Best Costume Design category.
12 Years a Slave is yet another triumph for Film4, which has such a great tradition at the Academy Awards. The nine nominations follow the 10 the film received from the Baftas and an award for Best Picture, Drama at the Golden Globes. It is a lot to ask to match the eight Oscars achieved by Film4’s Slumdog Millionaire in 2009 but it has already been a good awards season for British cinema.