The December programme at BFI Southbank will include the culmination of BFI Japan 2021: 100 Years of Japanese Cinema, the BFI’s major UK-wide celebration of Japanese film. This month’s programme features work by radical independent directors like Seijun Suzuki and Nagisa Oshima, as well as more recent popular and art house Japanese cinema by filmmakers such as Shunji Iwai, Hirokazu Koreeda and Naomi Kawase. 

Also in December, BFI Southbank marks the centenary year of one of the most intriguing voices in postwar British cinema, Jack Clayton, with a full retrospective including The Innocents (1961), Room at the Top (1959) and The Pumpkin Eater (1964). The season will be accompanied by a free display in BFI Southbank’s Mezzanine gallery of material drawn from BFI National Archive’s extensive collection of Clayton’s scripts, stills, posters and letters. 

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Also drawing on material from the BFI National Archive, our TV season for December, The Precious Things, will be a feast of weird and wonderful curios from the archives that feature a host of famous faces, from Vincent Price and Basil Brush to Terry Jones and Tina Turner – brilliant, baffling, idiosyncratic footage often unseen since its original transmission.  

It wouldn’t be December at BFI Southbank without a feast of Christmas entertainment, led this year by a BFI re-release of one of the most charming romantic comedies of all time, Ernst Lubitsch’s The Shop Around the Corner (1940), in selected cinemas UK-wide on 3 December. In the hectic run-up to Christmas, two ambitious rivals on the gossip-ridden sales floor of a Budapest emporium – played by James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan – are conducting an anonymous romance with each other by letter. This classic comedy has been often remade, including into the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan comedy You’ve Got Mail, but the original film remains unsurpassed, and perfect seasonal fare. 

The Innocents (1961)
© BFI National Archive

BFI Southbank’s ongoing Big Screen Classics series – where we screen great films daily for the special price of £8 – will this month focus on Christmas on Screen. Titles include Meet Me in St Louis (Vincente Minnelli, 1944), It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946), Miracle on 34th Street (George Seaton, 1947), Gremlins (Joe Dante, 1984), The Muppet Christmas Carol (Brian Henson, 1992), Tokyo Godfathers (Satoshi Kon, 2003), A Christmas Tale (Arnaud Desplechin, 2008), Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015) and more. In addition to our £8 ticket offer for Big Screen Classics, audience members aged 25 & under are able to buy tickets for BFI Southbank screenings in advance, and special events on the day, for just £3, through our ongoing ticket scheme for young audiences. 

For those wanting to get a preview of some hotly anticipated Christmas specials for 2021, BFI Southbank will have TV previews of The Mezzotint (BBC, 2021), the Ghosts Christmas special (BBC, 2021) and Terry Pratchett’s The Abominable Snow Baby (Channel 4, 2021). Laced with M.R. James’ trademark terror, The Mezzotint, starring Rory Kinnear, is the latest ghost story for Christmas directed by Mark Gatiss, who will take part in a post-screening Q&A on 7 December. On 9 December, BFI Southbank will welcome members of the cast and crew of Ghosts for a Q&A following a screening of this year’s Christmas special. This hugely popular comedy from the makers of Horrible Histories has become a firm favourite since it premiered in 2019 and this event will also feature a screening of an episode voted for by fans of the show. There will be a Funday preview of the wonderfully festive animation, Terry Pratchett’s The Abominable Snow Baby on 4 December; prior to the screening, ticket holders will also be able to join a family workshop in the main foyer to design their own member of the Abominable Snow Baby family. 

To mark the 20th anniversary of Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001), Woman with a Movie Camera powered by Jaguar will present a special screening of the film on 16 December, followed by a Q&A with director Sharon Maguire. After a painful festive party 30-something Bridget Jones, played to perfection by Renée Zellweger, decides to set some New Year’s resolutions: she’s going to lose weight, cut out the cigarettes and keep well clear from all the wrong men. Co-starring Colin Firth, Hugh Grant and a who’s who of British acting talent, Bridget Jones’s Diary is one of the best-loved romantic comedies of the last 20 years, and this anniversary screening offers audiences a chance to hear from director Sharon Maguire about bringing this iconic character to the big screen. 

Also in December will be Busting the Bias, a series of screenings, talks and presentations taking place from 3 to 5 December, showcasing disabled practitioners’ work while creating ongoing discourse for improved access for disabled talent to work in the screen industries, and advocating for authentic on-screen representation and leadership off-screen (the full programme will be announced soon). 

The Tourist (2021)

There will also be a TV preview of The Tourist (BBC, 2021) starring Jamie Dornan as a British man who finds himself in the Australian outback being pursued by a vast tank-truck trying to drive him off the road. The screening of the first episode of the series, written by Harry and Jack Williams (The Missing, Liar) on 7 December will be followed by a Q&A with actors Jamie Dornan, Danielle Macdonald and Shalom Brune-Franklin alongside other members of the creative team. 

Other highlights this month will include a special screening on 5 December of the Tom Baker-era story Doctor Who: City of Death, which was co-written by the great Douglas Adams; monthly star-studded event Mark Kermode Live in 3D at the BFI on 6 December; and Patti Boulaye in Conversation on 12 December, during which the singer and performer will talk about her life and television career on the occasion of the publication of her memoirs. 

Completing the events programme will be new regular programme strand, This Kind of Thing, in which we explore video games and beyond at BFI Southbank – from consoles and VR to AI and wearables. The first event on 10 December will be a unique live event where audiences talk, listen, eat, drink and play their way through the evening, exploring just what a video game is in 2021, and beyond. This month’s event complements BFI Japan, exploring the country as one of the engine rooms of the past, present and future of video game culture, creativity and play.

Finally, to mark the centenary year of Dirk Bogarde, we screen a selection of work featuring the British star who shook off the mantle of the matinee idol to gain respect, not just as an accomplished actor but also as a writer of considerable talent. Screenings will include Hunted (Charles Crichton, 1952), in which a boy finds a corpse in a bombed-out building and is taken hostage by the killer; I Could Go On Singing (Ronald Neame, 1963) about a stage star (Judy Garland, in her final film) who is reunited with her estranged son; the darkly comic tale of a nightmarish butler who exploits the weakness of his lazy, entitled employer The Servant (Joseph Losey, 1963), screening in a recent 4K remaster; and So Long at the Fair (Terence Fisher, Anthony Darnborough, 1950), a perfectly formed period mystery.