Georgia Oakley, director of the BAFTA-nominated British film “Blue Jean,” says she “wrestles” with awards season and those it chooses to celebrate, when filmmaking is such a collaborative effort.
“I wrestled with this idea in my head,” says Oakley while speaking to Variety about her feature debut “Blue Jean” scoring a BAFTA nomination for outstanding debut by a British writer, director or producer.
“I’ve become very conscious in the last few months that the film industry seems to run on lists and awards and things that are pitting creatives against each other in a way that does in some ways feel quite unnatural when you’re making something that is so collaborative. So there’s definitely a conflict in my mind around this stuff.”
She continues by highlighting recent positive steps within the industry: “But on the other side of my brain, I think that in the same six months, Chantal Akerman topped the Sight & Sound Greatest Films of All Time list, Charlotte Wells has made probably the most-loved indie film of the last decade, and the BIFAs and BAFTA have recognized our film and I can’t help but feel really moved by that. This is a hugely positive step for queer women and the stories they are telling. It means a lot.”
“Blue Jean” has been described by Variety film critic Guy Lodge as “a Thatcher-era period piece that crisply evokes that climate of politically propagated homophobia without preserving it in amber: It effectively puts the past in tacit dialogue with the present.”
The film first premiered at the 2022 Venice Film Festival, where it took home the Giornate Degli Autori’s People Choice Award, and has gone on to earn wide acclaim, landing awards at festivals like Thessaloniki, Seville and Belfast. “Blue Jean” also received 13 nominations at the British Independent Film Awards, with four wins including best debut screenwriter for Oakley. The BAFTA nomination is the latest in the film’s successful run.
The film’s producer, Hélène Sifre of Kleio Films, adds: “We have won many audience awards. It’s not the jury award and it would be great to win that as well, but the jury award is given by maybe five people and the audience by hundreds. So I think the fact that it speaks to the masses is, you know, cinema. That’s a massive win.”
Sifre goes on to mention the challenges of promoting an independent film and how helpful awards like the BAFTA can be.
“For me, the big realization has been how difficult it is for an independent film that doesn’t have any known cast to just even exist out there in cinemas. It’s hard to get reviews, advertising…Just the cost of publicity in general,” says Sifre. “Obviously, we can generate some word of mouth because of the quality of the film but there’s also a cost to that and we can’t compete with even bigger British titles. We’re so far away from it. To me, getting a BAFTA nomination means that people will hear the name of the film, even if it’s just nominated. That’s just additional publicity and hopefully will help the film stay on in cinemas. One more week. That’s what we can hope for.
“Blue Jean,” which is distributed by Altitude Films, had its U.K. release on Friday. When asked how she feels about the film reaching wider audiences, Oakley describes the moment as “surreal.” “Everyone keeps asking me how I’m feeling and I struggle with that in my normal life. I’ve been really pleased with the feedback that we’ve received so far from audiences and whatever happens this weekend, that is what I’ll be holding on to, these conversations and those moments that we’ve had already with audiences around the country. It’s been really special.”
Adds Sifre: “We’re excited to see the numbers. It feels like it’s been doing well. We’ve been to quite a few preview screenings and it’s always packed and sold out, but we’re excited to see the actual numbers.”
Before bidding farewell to enjoy her release weekend, Oakley comments on the personal qualities of “Blue Jean” and what she expects people will take away from it.
“There’s so much of my own experience and angst rolled into the film. Every time I watch it, or every time I speak to an audience, I feel shaken up in a good way. I read the other day that the film ‘seethed with quiet fury,’ and it made me smile because I think my friends would say that I can seethe with quiet fury at the state of things. So this is our contribution towards that fight and, hopefully, people will watch it and take the baton and go and fight that fight, too.”
(Pictured, L-R: Rosy McEwen, Georgia Oakley)
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