BFI Southbank announces reopening programme and new health and safety measures

Highlights include a season exploring the influence of La Haine, screenings of films that were released during lockdown and a programme of classic films voted for by BFI Southbank audiences.

Updated: 18 August 2020

La Haine (1995)

The BFI is pleased to announce the September programme for BFI Southbank, which reopens on 1 September with new health and safety measures in place to protect staff and audiences as they begin to return to cinemas for that much-missed big-screen experience.

The programme for September will resonate with the now, drawing on the themes that have dominated our lives during lockdown. These include Redefining Rebellion, a season programmed by film journalist and critic Kaleem Aftab, which draws its inspiration from Mathieu Kassovitz’s trailblazing La Haine (1995). Re-released in a 4K restoration in selected cinemas by the BFI on 11 September, La Haine, may be 25 years old, but its themes of social and economic divide and discontent, make it just as distinctive now as it was then.

During September the BFI will continue to host BFI at Home events for free on BFI YouTube, with guests for the Redefining Rebellion season including La Haine director Matthieu Kassovitz and Riz Ahmed, who cites the film as a favourite, and one that continues to influence him.

Ema (2019)

Also in September will be Unlocked: Recent Releases Now on the Big Screen, a season of films which have flourished on streaming services while cinemas were closed, were delayed due to the pandemic, or were released in cinemas just as they began to close, curtailing their cinematic run. Titles will include Clemency (Chinonye Chukwu, 2019), Parasite: Black-and-white edition (Bong Joon-ho, 2019), Lynn + Lucy (Fyzal Boulifa, 2019) and Ema (Pablo Larrain, 2019).

Film festivals around the world adapted to the pandemic during the months of lockdown, including the Bagri Foundation London and Birmingham Indian Film Festival (LIFF/BIFF), which usually runs at BFI Southbank annually. Following LIFF’s move to a very successful online model during lockdown, the Festival will be back at BFI Southbank and other participating venues in September, with a small number of screenings that celebrate diverse independent storytelling and women filmmakers, and peek into the billion lives that encompass the Indian subcontinent and global South Asian diaspora. The programme for LIFF will be announced soon.

There will also be a Focus on Fellini, reprising some of the most popular titles from BFI Southbank’s centenary celebration of Federico Fellini, which took place at BFI Southbank and venues UK-wide in early 2020. Titles screening will be I vitelloni (1953), Nights of Cabiria (1957), La dolce vita (1960), 8 ½ (1963) and Juliet of the Spirits (1965).

Nights of Cabiria (1957)

As well as drawing on BFI curatorial expertise and vital external programming voices, this month’s line-up also features the voices of BFI Southbank’s audience at large, with Your Big Screen Classics. The BFI’s social media followers and our BFI Members were asked to vote on which classic movies they most wanted to see on the big screen following lockdown; the resulting season will be part of BFI Southbank’s ongoing Big Screen Classics series, where we screen essential titles on a daily basis for just £8. For those audience members aged 25 and Under, we also continue our £3 ticket offer scheme, with those eligible being able to buy £3 tickets to any screening in advance, from 24 August when public booking opens.

Also announced today are full details of health and safety measures being introduced at BFI Southbank including social distancing throughout the venue, face coverings as standard for all visitors and staff, increased frequency of deep cleans, e-ticketing, scheduling of staggered screenings and more. These measures are announced following exhaustive consultation with the industry, our staff, and our customers, with health and safety being the highest priority in our lengthy and detailed plan for returning to BFI Southbank.

Amélie (2001)

“We are happy to be re-opening the doors to BFI Southbank,” says Heather Stewart, BFI Creative Director, “to be able to come back together again in the cinema, even if in a socially distanced way. Opening with ‘Redefining Rebellion’, an exploration of the cinematic influence of La Haine, we think our programme fits with the mood of the time, with Covid-19 having exposed, in the raw, the social inequalities in our society, and yet again people having had to take to the streets to expose everyday racism. I hope with our film programme people can take time out to enjoy films back on the big screen, but also that we can foster debate about the kind of society we want to live in. Film and television have the power to let us see and reflect on ourselves and the world around us, to learn about each other, and to breathe and think like someone else. We will be celebrating this when we open our doors to the public.”

September programme information

Tickets for screenings in September will go on sale to BFI Patrons on 19 August, BFI Members on 20 August and to the general public on 24 August. Full details of seasons, including listings and free online events on BFI YouTube, will be released on, or before, 14 August.

Redefining Rebellion

Coinciding with the BFI’s 25th anniversary release of the new 4K restoration of Mathieu Kassovitz’s incendiary La Haine (1995), Redefining Rebellion will be a month-long season that reflects on filmic rebellion and celebrates onscreen agitators, with this pivotal film as the lynchpin. Cross-cultural friendships, social domination, and protest against the authoritarian state are writ large in La Haine, a dazzling, controversial classic that redefined French cinema and changed the look of rebels onscreen. Special events on BFI YouTube to complement the release and this accompanying season, will include an in conversation event with director Matthieu Kassovitz and a BFI Screen Epiphany with Riz Ahmed, who cites La Haine as one of his favourite films, and one that continues to influence him.

Programmed by film journalist and critic Kaleem Aftab, Redefining Rebellion will feature work that inspired Matthieu Kassovitz, such as the original cinematic portrayal of rebellion in Europe, Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925), the work of Paul Schrader, including Blue Collar (Paul Schrader, 1978) and Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976) – the latter of which he scripted, and American Graffiti (George Lucas, 1973), a film which Kassovitz urged his sound designer to watch before making La Haine.

Narratives detailing heroic women seeking their own agency and independence, such as Norma Rae (Martin Ritt, 1979), Girlhood (Celine Sciamma, 2014) and Persepolis (Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi, 2007) will also be included in the season, as will 90s films that share the outsider spirit of La Haine in their stories of race and sexuality such as Young Soul Rebels (Isaac Julien, 1991) and Claire Denis’ Beau Travail (1999), which will screen in a new 4K print. The season will also look at the influence of graffiti and hip-hop culture on La Haine with screenings of Boom for Real: The Early Years of Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (Sara Driver, 2017).

Completing the season will be contemporary films that draw parallels with La Haine, such as Jacques Audiard’s Palme d’Or winning Dheepan (2015) and Swedish family film Amateurs (Gabriela Pichler, 2018). Also released in cinemas in September is 2019 is Cannes Jury Prize-winner, Les Misérables, directed by Ladj Ly, and made with the same panache, verve and transfixing perspective as La Haine; a similarly exciting film, about police trying to maintain order among local gangs in the impoverished suburbs of Paris, it will also screen at BFI Southbank in September.

Unlocked: Recent Releases Now on the Big Screen

While VOD services such as BFI Player have seen hugely positive increases in audiences during lockdown, especially for British and independent film, the reopening of BFI Southbank offers a brilliant opportunity for audiences to see new work on the big screen, in all their cinematic glory. Unlocked: Recent Releases Now on the Big Screen will feature the best new releases of the last four months, including some which were an early calamity of the pandemic right at the beginning of their cinematic releases in March.

The Assistant (2019)

Titles will include:

Lynn + Lucy (Fyzal Boulifa, 2019)
Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles (Salvador Simó, 2018)
Calm with Horses (Nick Rowland, 2019)
Vitalina Varela (Pedro Costa, 2019)
Ema (Pablo Larrain, 2019)
Moffie (Oliver Hermanus, 2019)
The Assistant (Kitty Green, 2019)
The Traitor (Marco Bellocchio, 2019)
Make Up (Claire Oakley, 2019)
Perfect 10 (Eva Riley, 2019)
Clemency (Chinonye Chukwu, 2019)
Parasite: Black-and-white edition (Bong Joon-ho, 2019)

Your Big Screen Classics

Finding out what our audiences wanted to see on their return to BFI Southbank – both in terms of health and safety measures, and films – was absolutely vital, so for our final season in September, we’ve handed the reins to the BFI Southbank audiences at large. We pitted classic films against one another via social media polls and conversations with BFI Members, to see what our audiences would most like to see on the big screen in September; Notorious or Casablanca? Moonlight or La La Land? Pulp Fiction or The Big Lebowski? Pather Panchali or Spirited Away?

More than 90 thousand individual votes were cast across 16 tense head to heads (a couple of which were too tantalisingly close to pick just one winner), and the resulting season is Your Big Screen Classics – iconic films, showing on the big screen every day, for the special price of £8.

Boyz n the Hood (1991)

Films screening in Your Big Screen Classics will include:

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (William Cottrell, David Hand, 1937)
Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1974)
Monty Python’s Life of Brian (Terry Jones, 1979)
Boyz N the Hood (John Singleton, 1991)
Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
Singin’ in the Rain (Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen, 1952)
Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939)
Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016)
Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)
Big (Penny Marshall, 1988)
Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)
My Own Private Idaho (Gus van Sant, 1991)
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Blake Edwards, 1961)
A Matter of Life and Death (Powell & Pressburger, 1946)
After Life (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 1998)
Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica, 1948)
Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash, 1993)
Clueless (Amy Heckerling, 1995)

Health and safety measures

We have undertaken a highly detailed project that has focused on ensuring the health and safety of our staff and visitors in order to open in the most responsible way possible. This project, which will continue to respond to ongoing government guidance, has been informed by industry intelligence and audience feedback, extensive risk assessments and staff training and liaising with our unions.

BFI Southbank’s new and enhanced health and safety measures (exhaustive details of which can be found online) include:

  • Social distancing measures and reduced capacity across the entire building.
  • Access to the building through advance booking only.
  • All screens to have dedicated entry and exit points from outside the building.
  • Face coverings to be worn at all times unless customers have an accessibility need or medical reason that prohibits this.
  • Customer-facing staff to be provided with PPE including masks, gloves, hand gel and sanitising wipes, with some staff being provided with visors to enable lip reading. Staff temperatures checked on arrival to the venue.
  • Screenings to have onscreen information and/or be introduced by staff, in order to reinforce safety measures.
  • Ushers to monitor social distancing and the use of face coverings throughout screenings.
  • No latecomers admitted so ushers are able to properly monitor screenings.
  • All auditoriums equipped with a full fresh air system, where the air is not recirculated.
  • Additional daytime screenings scheduled to mitigate against the reduced capacity in cinemas and stagger arrival and departure times of customers.
  • An enhanced cleaning regime, including in-between screenings and multiple daily touch point cleaning.
  • Multiple hand sanitiser stations made available throughout the building.
  • Customers and staff to be alerted if we are told by an individual or the NHS track and trace team that someone has tested positive for Covid-19.
  • Access needs of any customer to be handled via the box office’s dedicated access line ahead of their visit, allowing us to ensure additional safety measures are put in place.
  • Alongside a series of new measures (including digital services, pre-booking, social distancing and enhanced deep cleaning), research material used in the BFI Reuben Library will be placed in quarantine for 72 hours.

Originally published: 5 August 2020