May at BFI Southbank begins with a celebration of the work of British director Mike Hodges. With a career that spans film and TV – including highlights such as Flash Gordon (1980), Croupier (1998), Tempo (ITV, 1966/67) and World in Action (ITV, 1963-98) – Hodges is an auteur filmmaker who has proved himself adept at making quality films across many genres.

The month-long season, Mike Hodges: Return of the Outsider, will feature numerous Q&As and introductions from Hodges, a special In Conversation event with the director on 3 May and a BFI re-release of his seminal film Get Carter (1971), starring the inimitable Michael Caine, restored in 4K and in cinemas UK-wide on 27 May.

Also in May will be a season of brutally compelling films that explore intimacy in a violent world; Cruel Flesh: Films of the New French Extremity explores the unique moment in cinema history that sent shockwaves through arthouse sensibilities. This season, curated by writer and programmer Anna Bogutskaya, will feature the work of filmmakers such as Claire Denis (Trouble Every Day), François Ozon (Criminal Lovers), Leos Carax (Pola X), Marina de Van (In My Skin), Lucile Hadžihalilovic ((La Bouche de Jean-Pierre), with Hadžihalilovic attending in person), and Gaspar Noé, the latter of whom will also be the focus in May. Focus On: Gaspar Noé coincides with the release of the filmmaker’s new work Vortex (2021) and will include in person appearances from the director. The centrepiece event will be Gaspar Noé in Conversation on 10 May. Vortex will be on an extended run at BFI Southbank when it is released in cinemas UK-wide on 13 May.

The BFI’s major season spotlighting the incredible world of Anime continues in May at BFI Southbank and BFI IMAX. Highlights will include a preview of Summer Ghost (2021) on 13 May, followed by a Q&A with director loundraw, tipped as ‘the one to watch’ in a new generation of anime filmmakers. The season will also feature a focus on a trio of contemporary auteurs – Satoshi Kon, Makoto Shinkai and Mamoru Hosoda – and classics like Princess Mononoke (Hayao Miyazaki, 1997), Tekkonkinkreet (Michael Arias, 2006) and Akira (Katsuhiro Ôtomo, 1988). 

This month our new year-round BFI Expanded strand will coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week, which takes place from 9 to 15 May and will focus on the topic of ‘Loneliness’.

The UK Premiere of Goliath – Playing with Reality: A Virtual Reality Installation (Lead Artists: Anagram, Barry Gene Murphy, May Abdalla, 2021) will be at BFI Southbank from 9 to 15 May and will, through mind-bending animation, heartfelt dialogue and mesmerising visuals, explore the limits of reality via a true story about mental health and the power of gaming.

Echo (narrated by Tilda Swinton) guides you through the many realities of Goliath, a man who spent years in mental-health institutions but finds connection in online multiplayer games. Goliath, which will be free to view (although booking is recommended), was the winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best VR Work at the 78th Venice International Film Festival. Also as part of this focus on mental health, there will be an event – Playing With Reality– on 11 May that showcases a number of short films using creative techniques to explore the many sides of the mental health crisis.

The special events programme in May will include a BFI Screen Epiphany on 1 May with one of the breakout stars of The Greatest Showman (Michael Gracey, 2017), actor and singer Keala Settle. Settle’s choice of a film that inspired her is Powell and Pressburger’s classic The Red Shoes (1948), starring Moira Shearer as a ballet dancer who must decide between her career and her relationship with a young composer.

Also screening on 29 May will be the UK Premiere of The Coup D’état Factory (Victor Fraga, Valnei Nunes, 2021), an insightful documentary that investigates how Brazilian mainstream media and fake news create leaders and destroy democracy.

BFI Southbank’s regular event Mark Kermode Live in 3D at the BFI will take place on 9 May, with Kermode being joined by surprise guests from across the film industry to explore, critique and dissect current and upcoming releases, cinematic treasures and industry news.

Focus Hong Kong will programme two screenings at BFI Southbank as part of their regular showcase of work from Hong Kong, the first of which is the UK Premiere of Bamboo Theatre (2019) on 13 May. This documentary from award-winning filmmaker Cheuk Cheung explores the Bamboo Theatre, a unique cultural space for spirits, ghosts, gods, and people; while permanent theatres are built in most modern cities, Hong Kong preserves this architectural tradition that is hundreds of years old.

Also screening will be The Bride with White Hair (Ronny Yu, 1993), featuring Brigitte Lin and Leslie Cheung on iconic form, as doomed lovers caught in the crossfire of warring clans. Also in May will be the return of the BFI & Radio Times Television Festival and a debut at BFI Southbank for Queer East – line-ups for both will be announced soon.