Stephen Frears' Mrs Henderson Presents and Laurence Dunmore's The Libertine lead the 2005 British Film Award (BIFA) nominations,announced today in London. Each ofthose films scored eight nods, followed by seven for Fernando Mereilles' TheConstant Gardener.

Other films leading the pack are Michael Winterbottom'sA Cock and Bull Story, with fivenominations, including his fourth BIFA nomination as best director. NeilMarshall's horror film The Descentscored three nominations including best film, with Kinky Boots also getting nominations in three categories.

Qwerty Films head Michael Kuhn is heading this year's BIFA jury, whichalso includes actress Bryce Dallas Howard, editor Mick Audsley,director Mikael Hafstrom,actress Anne Reid, actress Amanda Donohoe, agent SueLatimer, producer Uberto Pasolini,director Hugh Hudson, and actor Ashley Walters.

"Another year almost at an end, another set of obituaries aboutBritish independent cinema on TV or in the newspapers," said BIFA and Raindance founder Elliot Grove. "Where does the truth lie'We like to think the answer can be found in the nominations for this year'sBritish Independent Film Awards. Take a look at the list, which ranges fromclassic genre pieces through comedy drama to a romantic and political thriller.It is, by anyone's standards, a very powerful year for British cinema.

With such seeming large productions (such as the $25m Constant Gardener) leading the pack forindependent awards, it should be noted that BIFA'scriteria in that arena is that a film isn't produced by a single studio.

Other criteria are that films are intended for theatrical release andhave had a UK publicor festival screening between October 1, 2004 and November 30, 2005.

Eligible films must be produced or majority-co-produced (or financed) bya British company or qualify as a British film under Department of Culture,Media and Sport guidelines. Films must also "include sufficient creativeelements from the UK." (Ofcourse, those guidelines don't apply to the best foreign film category.)

Getting a jump on the rest of awards season, the eighth-annual BIFAs will be presented on November 30 at London'sHammersmith Palais. The Variety UK personality of theyear award will go to Keira Knightley,while the Richard Harris achievement award will be presented to Tilda Swinton. The best shortfilm prize and a special jury prize will be unveiled at the awards ceremony.

The nominees are:

BestBritish Independent Film
A Cock & Bull Story
The Constant Gardener
The Descent
The Libertine
Mrs Henderson Presents

Best Actor
Ralph Fiennes, The Constant Gardener
Matthew MacFadyen,In My Father's Den
Chiwetel Ejiofor, KinkyBoots
Johnny Depp, The Libertine
Bob Hoskins, Mrs Henderson Presents

Best Actress
Natasha Richardson, Asylum
Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener
Judi Dench, Mrs Henderson Presents
Emily Watson, Wah-Wah
Joan Allen, Yes

Best Supporting Actor/Actress
Rob Brydon, A Cock and Bull Story
Bill Nighy, The Constant Gardener
Rosamund Pike, The Libertine
Tom Hollander, The Libertine
Kelly Reilly, Mrs Henderson Presents

Most Promising Newcomer
Thelma Barlow, Mrs Henderson Presents
Alex Nathan Etel, Millions
Emily Barclay, In My Father's Den
Samina Awan, Love + Hate
Rupert Friend, The Libertine

Best Director (sponsored by The CreativePartnership)
Michael Winterbottom, A Cock and Bull Story
Fernando Meirelles, The Constant Gardener
Neil Marshall, The Descent
Laurence Dunmore, The Libertine
Stephen Frears, Mrs Henderson Presents

Best Screenplay (sponsored by BBC Films)
Martin Hardy (screenplay based on Laurence Sterne'snovel), A Cock and Bull Story
Jeffrey Caine (screenplay based on John Le Carre's novel), The Constant Gardener
Geoff Dean & Tim Firth, Kinky Boots
Frank Cottrell Boyce, Millions
Martin Sherman, Mrs Henderson Presents

Douglas HickoxAward for Debut Director (sponsored by Cineworld)
Annie Griffin, Festival
Julian Jarrold, Kinky Boots
Laurence Dunmore, The Libertine
Gaby Dellal, On A Clear Day
Richard E Grant, Wah-Wah

Best Technical Achievement
Peter Christelis, Editing, A Cock and Bull Story
Cesar Charlone, Cinematography, The Constant Gardener
John Harris, Editing, The Descent
Sandy Powell, Wardrobe, Mrs Henderson Presents
Ben Van Os, Production Design, The Libertine

Best Achievement in Production(sponsored by Recorded Picture Company) The Business
Guy X
It's All Gone Pete Tong
Song of Songs

Best Foreign Film
Broken Flowers
Sequestro Express
The Woodsman

Best Documentary (sponsored byBloomberg)
Andrew & Jeremy Get Married
Black Sun
Liberace of Baghdad
Sisters In Law

The RaindanceAward
Billy Childish is Dead
Sam Jackson's Secret Video Diary
Evil Aliens