Edinburgh filmmakers land two BAFTA nominations for refugee drama-comedy made in the Outer Hebrides

A new Scottish film focusing on the experiences of a group of refugees sent to a remote island to await the results of their asylum claims is in the running for two of the biggest awards at this year’s movie BAFTAs.

By Brian Ferguson
Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 6:04 pm
Updated Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 10:30 am
Amir El-Masry, Ola Orebiyi, Kwabena Ansahis and Vikash Bhai star in new film Limbo.
Amir El-Masry, Ola Orebiyi, Kwabena Ansahis and Vikash Bhai star in new film Limbo.

Limbo, which was made on location in the Outer Hebrides by Edinburgh-based director Ben Sharrock and producer Irene Gurtubai, is in the running for best British film and best debut by British filmmakers.

The drama-comedy sees Syrian musician Omar forge tentative friendships with other new arrivals in the island community, including Freddie Mercury fanatic Farhad, while their lives are put on hold as a harsh winter arrives.

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    Sharrock and Gurtubai will be competing with Glasgow-born director Kevin Macdonald for the outstanding British film honour.

    His new legal thriller The Mauritanian, which is based on the real-life case of a suspected terrorist imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba, for years is also up for best overall film, best cinematography and best adapted screenplay, with star Tahar Rahim nominated for best actor.

    Filmed in the Uists over six weeks more than a year before the pandemic, Limbo has won huge acclaim from film festivals and critics since it was snapped up for the official selection at Cannes last year.

    However despite being screened by festivals in Toronto, San Sebastian, Glasgow and Cairo, the birthplace of British-Eyptian star Amir El-Masry, who plays lead lead character Omar, its release has by delayed by the shutdown of cinemas until this summer.

    Sharrock said: “I’m absolutely thrilled. This is recognition of all the incredible work our amazing team put into this film and recognition of the importance of using cinema to interrogate and question the problems we have in the world right now.”

    Gurtubai added: “It’s so incredible to be nominated for these two categories at the BAFTAs. We are so proud of the whole team for making this brilliant film happen.”

    Sambrooke Scott, head of audience development at government agency Screen Scotland, which funded the film, said: “Limbo is a brilliantly unique film; one that skilfully balances pathos with offbeat humour, all framed by striking cinematography shot on location in Uist.

    "After a successful festival run worldwide, culminating in a sell-out at the recent digital edition of the Glasgow Film Festival, it's fantastic that it's profile and reputation will be enhanced further by these nominations.”

    The characters played by Vikash Bhai and Amir El-Masry forge a friendship on a remote Scottish island in Limbo.

    Road movie Nomadland and coming-of-age drama Rocks lead a diverse line-up of contenders, unveiled 12 months after widespread criticism over a lack of nominees of colour.Chadwick Boseman, who died aged 43 last August after battling colon cancer, received a posthumous nomination for his performance as an ambitious trumpeter in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.Also nominated in the best actor category is Riz Ahmed for his role as a drummer who loses his hearing in Sound Of Metal, as well as Adarsh Gourav for The White Tiger, Tahar Rahim for The Mauritanian, Sir Anthony Hopkins for his turn in drama The Father, about a man slipping into dementia, and Mads Mikkelsen for Another Round.The nominees in the leading actress category are Bukky Bakray for Rocks, Radha Blank for The Forty-Year-Old Version, Vanessa Kirby for Pieces Of A Woman, Frances McDormand for Nomadland, Wunmi Mosaku for His House and Alfre Woodard for Clemency.

    Female directors were entirely absent from the shortlist in 2020 but this year four of the six are women, with nods going to Shannon Murphy for Babyteeth, Jasmila Zbanic for Quo Vadis, Aida?, Sarah Gavron for Rocks and Chloe Zhao for Nomadland, as well as Thomas Vinterberg for Another Round and Lee Isaac Chung for Minari.

    The Mauritanian is up against The Father, Nomadland, Promising Young Woman and The Trial of the Chicago 7 in the best film category.

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