BFI Southbank today unveils a packed programme for September and early October, beginning with a retrospective of one of the world’s finest directors, Denis Villeneuve. 

Ahead of the 21 October UK release of the director’s hotly anticipated adaptation of Frank Herbert’s epic adventure Dune (2021), this season offers audiences a chance to familiarise themselves with Villeneuve’s bold filmography, from early arthouse favourites to award-winning blockbusters. Titles will include his debut feature August 32nd on Earth (1998), dark comedy MAELSTRÖM (2000), psychological thriller Prisoners (2013), mesmerising sci-fi Arrival (2016), sci-fi thriller Blade Runner (2017) and many more. 

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Also at BFI Southbank in September and early October will be A Pryor Engagement – a retrospective documenting the career of arguably the most famous stand-up comedian of all time, Richard Pryor. Programmed by Nellie Killian, the retrospective, which was first presented at BAMcinématek in 2013, will reveal why Pryor remains an idol to generations of comedians from both sides of the Atlantic. The season will include comedy specials such as Richard Pryor: Live in Concert (Jeff Margolis, 1979) alongside films such as Wattstax (Mel Stuart, 1973), Blue Collar (Paul Schrader, 1978) and Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling (Richard Pryor, 1986). 

The Time Is New: Selections from Contemporary Arab Cinema is a new season curated by Cairo-based Zawya, Egypt’s leading arthouse cinema and distributor. The season will introduce new works and important Arab filmmaker voices to the UK, including a large number of female directors. Zawya’s Youssef Shazli and Alia Ayman have programmed films that show the lyricism, humanity and poetry of everyday Arab life. The centrepiece of the season will be the BFI distribution release of Souad (Ayten Amin, 2021), an engrossing portrait of Middle Eastern ‘Generation Z’ and conflicting identities, which will be in cinemas UK-wide from 27 August. 

Souad (2021)

For half a century the National Film and Television School (NFTS) has trained some of the world’s best filmmakers. To celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary, BFI Southbank will be showcasing work from some of their best-known alumni with a celebratory NFTS at 50 season, featuring seminal films by alumni followed by Q&As with the filmmakers. The centrepiece of the season on 12 September will be An Evening with Roger and James Deakins, featuring the award-winning husband and wife team, while other special guests will include directors Nick Broomfield, Joanna Hogg, Shola Amoo, Clio Barnard, Julien Temple, Sarah Gavron, Terence Davies, Kim Longinotto and many more. 

The BFI will mark the 80th anniversary of The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941) with a UK-wide release of John Huston’s directorial debut, which made a major star of Humphrey Bogart. In selected cinemas UK-wide from 17 September, the film will play as part of BFI Southbank’s ongoing Big Screen Classics series, which from September to November (with a break for the BFI London Film Festival) celebrate the curiosity, courage and cunning of big screen detectives. Watching the Detectives will feature professional private eyes, police officers, journalists and all manner of amateur sleuths in their pursuit of the truth. September’s line-up will include films such as The Hound of the Baskervilles (Sidney Lanfield, 1939), Cry of the City (Robert Siodmak, 1948), The Big Heat (Fritz Lang, 1953) and Laura (Otto Preminger, 1944).

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Events at BFI Southbank this month will include, on 19 September, a celebration of the 30th anniversary of Prime Suspect, with special guest Lynda La Plante. Created by La Plante and starring Helen Mirren as the tenacious DCI Jane Tennison, the Emmy and BAFTA winning Prime Suspect became an iconic hit – famous for its groundbreaking portrayal of a female detective overcoming sexism and adversity in the workplace. There will be a rare opportunity to relive the entire first series on the big screen, followed by Lynda La Plante in Conversation, in which the author will discuss the phenomenon of the show with broadcaster Matthew Sweet. 

Another anniversary being celebrated this month is the 60th anniversary of Bryan Forbes’ Whistle down the Wind (1961), about a group of children who find a bearded man in their barn and believe that he is Jesus Christ. Following the screening on 3 October, the BAFTA-nominated star of the film Hayley Mills will take part in a Q&A, as well as signing copies of her new book Forever Young: An Autobiography. 

Marley Morrison’s debut feature Sweetheart (2021) is a refreshing and contemporary take on the coming-of-age summer romance, about a lesbian teenager who falls in love for the first time while holidaying at a British holiday park. A preview on 13 September will be followed by a Q&A with director Marley Morrison. 

On 6 September the monthly event Mark Kermode Live in 3D at the BFI will see critic and broadcaster Mark Kermode joined by surprise guests from across the film industry to explore, critique and dissect current and upcoming releases, cinematic treasures and industry news. 

There will also be a weekend of light relief and dark humour with a series of shorts curated by LOCO London Comedy Film Festival; a Woman with a Movie Camera powered by Jaguar UK premiere of Copilot (2021), followed by a Q&A with director Anne Zohra Berrached; and a BFI African Odysseys screening of Perry Henzell’s little-known follow-up to the classic The Harder They Come, No Place like Home (redux) (2006/2019), followed by a Q&A with Justine Henzell, daughter of director Perry Henzell and the film’s executive producer. 

BFI Southbank will mark the 25th anniversary of Andrew Kötting’s Gallivant (1996) on 18 September with relaxed screenings and Q&As. In Gallivant (1996) Kötting navigates the UK’s coastline with his outspoken granny and young daughter Eden, who communicates through sign-language. The multi-generational trio encounter myriad eccentric seaside characters and places, captured on Super8 and other formats. This will be a rare screening of an original 35mm print from the BFI National Archive and will be introduced by Andrew and Eden Kötting. 

Gallivant (1996)

On the same day, BFI Southbank will also present a selection of films made by Andrew Kötting in collaboration with Eden, including the rarely seen 35mm print of Mapping Perception (2002), which explores how we see the world and perceive difference. Andrew Kötting then joins Gareth Evans for a conversation about landscape, biography, collaboration and surreal melancholia.  Also in our relaxed screenings programme this month will be Seeing the Unseen (Kristján Kristjánsson, 2019), a documentary that celebrates the joys of autism and womanhood. This screening on 28 September continues BFI Southbank’s exploration of ideas emerging from Jerry Rothwell’s multi-award-winning documentary The Reason I Jump (2020), which is supported by the BFI using funds from the National Lottery. Relaxed screenings are presented each month for those in the neuro-diverse community and their assistants and carers.

To amplify the conversations around representation and diversity in the industry, Channel 4 will disrupt its regular schedule this September to broadcast one complete day of television showcasing Black talent both on and off screen. From entertainment, comedy and drama to the news, Black to Front will feature new commissions and re-imagine some of Channel 4’s biggest mainstream shows to focus on Black talent and representation. A special event on 7 September will feature a panel of guests (names to be announced soon) to discuss opportunities for Black talent, and what this major TV takeover aims to achieve. 

Completing the line-up of events this month will be a screening of the new colour animation of Doctor Who: the Evil of the Daleks (BBC, 1967/2021) on 12 September. The majority of this story is believed to have been lost, but using a complete audio recording and new animation, audiences will be able to see this Doctor Who story for the first time in almost 55 years. 

In addition to previously mentioned BFI distribution releases of Souad (Ayten Amin, 2021) and The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941), there will also be an extended run of Cathy Brady’s Wildfire (2020), a masterclass in unease and a superbly performed study of sibling relations. Wildfire, which was made with support from the BFI using funds from the National Lottery, was a hit at the BFI London Film Festival in 2020, winning Brady the prestigious IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award, in association with the BFI.