John Boorman receives BFI Fellowship

The director behind Point Blank and Deliverance is made a fellow of the BFI ahead of a full retrospective of his work.

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Credit: Linda Nylind

Last night, 25 March, director John Boorman was presented with a BFI Fellowship – the highest accolade that the nation’s leading organisation for film can award. The Fellowship was presented to John on stage at BFI Southbank in front of a public audience and invited guests by Amanda Nevill, BFI CEO and actress Sinéad Cusack. John was interviewed on stage by Michel Ciment. This event launches a major retrospective of his work which will continue at BFI Southbank until 30 April.

Speaking at the presentation last night at BFI Southbank John Boorman said:

I’m very grateful for this, the BFI has meant a great deal in my life. More than 60 years ago I haunted the place. It’s where I saw all the great silent movies and it’s always been an immense part of my life. Sight & Sound has always been my bible and I read it every month, and  I’ve written for it too. I’m very, very grateful…I thank the BFI for this Fellowship and for everything that it does and I wish it well.

Amanda Nevill said:

John Boorman is one of the most influential film directors to come out of the UK and we are thrilled to be honouring such a film legend. The presentation of the BFI Fellowship is testament to John’s inspired body of work in television and film and  across many genres; it is truly visionary. His legacy to date has rightly brought him international recognition as an independent filmmaker with a rare voice that continues to enthral and delight audiences.

Presenting John Boorman with his Fellowship, Sinéad Cusack said:

When John came to Ireland it meant a huge amount to us because he embraced us and he stayed. He did something extraordinary, he nurtured young talent, he promoted directors, he wrote, he directed in our country. That is a huge part of why I think he is a genius and a hero; it was his passion and his poliitcs and his poetic vision  and his unpredictability – he’s a wonder!

The BFI Fellowship is awarded by the BFI Board of Governors and it is presented for outstanding achievement in film and television. Previous recipients include Ralph Fiennes, David Cronenberg, Dame Judi Dench, Isabelle Huppert, Tim Burton and Martin Scorsese. The full list is a roll-call of the leading lights of the world of film and television.

According to film critic Philip French, John Boorman is “one of the greatest filmmakers this country has produced”. He began his career as a documentary director for the BBC with programmes such as Citizen 63 (BBC, 1963) and The Newcomers (BBC, 1964). He went on to direct Catch Us If You Can (1965), a showcase of the Dave Clark Five, which caught the attention and support of Pauline Kael.

His major breakthrough in the US was the seminal Point Blank (1967) – rereleased on 29 March and screening in an extended run at BFI Southbank – which gained him great critical acclaim and has become a classic title in crime cinema. Subsequent films include the Oscar-nominated Deliverance (1972), the mythical Excalibur (1981), the autobiographical Hope and Glory (1987), which won Boorman three BAFTA and three Oscar nominations, and The General (1998).

An exhibition of artefacts from Boorman’s personal archive is now on display in the Mezzanine gallery at BFI Southbank, and to complement this season there will be an exclusive run of Me and Me Dad (2011), an intimate insight into life in the Boorman family, directed by John’s daughter Katrine Boorman (who herself will appear in conversation at BFI Southbank on 27 March, following a preview of her film). This programme of John Boorman’s talents as a filmmaker provides the perfect opportunity to remind or familiarise audiences with his work. And with a new project in development now is the perfect time to reflect on the amazing and diverse career of one of the UK’s most daring directors.

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