December programme announced for BFI Southbank: Powell and Pressburger, Harry Belafonte, Christmas films and more

On-stage guests this month including Yorgos Lanthimos, the creatives behind the final season of The Crown, Spandau Ballet stars Gary and Martin Kemp, and more.

25 October 2023

Kansas City (1996)

The BFI Southbank programme for December 2023 includes the conclusion of Cinema Unbound: The Creative Worlds of Powell + Pressburger, a major BFI UK-wide film celebration of one of the greatest and most enduring filmmaking partnerships in the history of cinema: Michael Powell (1905 to 1990) and Emeric Pressburger (1902 to 1988) who together made masterpieces such as A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Black Narcissus (1947) and The Red Shoes (1948). 

The second and final part of this major BFI season, which continues until 31 December, explores Powell and Pressburger’s celebrated dance and opera productions, through which they realised their ideal of the ‘composed film’, alongside rarities, newly remastered early work, and a selection of films focused on individuals with very different – and often troubling – obsessions. Highlights of the programme include the UK-wide BFI Distribution 75th anniversary re-release of The Red Shoes (1948) from 8 December, and BFI National Archive and The Film Foundation restorations of Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom (1960), in association with StudioCanal, and BLUEBEARD’S CASTLE (1964). Meanwhile, continuing the celebration of the 75th anniversary of Powell and Pressburger’s ravishing masterpiece, The Red Shoes in the Spotlight on 8 December is an illustrated talk by Pamela Hutchinson, author of the recently published BFI Film Classics book on the film, plus The Red Shoes: Beyond the Mirror, a free exhibition at BFI Southbank until 7 January featuring over 100 previously unseen items, including costume and production designs preserved by the BFI National Archive and key loans, such as an original pair of Moira Shearer’s iconic red ballet shoes featured in the film, loaned to the BFI by the Martin Scorsese Collection, personal items from Moira Shearer’s family and  costumes and props from Matthew Bourne’s ballet adaptation. In addition, a panel discussion Queering Powell and Pressburger on 12 December explores the special resonances Powell and Pressburger’s films have for queer cultures today, while BFI IMAX screens Powell and Pressburger’s visually stunning A Matter of Life and Death (1946) and Black Narcissus (1947) on the UK’s largest screen.

Also in December will be Harry Belafonte: Race, Movies, Defiance, a celebration of the 70-year career in film of the New York-born, Jamaica-raised singer, actor, activist and producer Harry Belafonte, whose balancing of the roles of artist and activist, across show business and campaigning, is unmatched in Hollywood. An inspirational documentary and record of Belafonte’s achievements, Sing Your Song (Susanne Rostock, 2011) will kick off the season on 2 December with an extended illustrated introduction from curator Burt Caesar, followed by a Q&A with director Susanne Rostock, Legacy Media Institute founding director Tim Reid, writer and activist Candace Allen and actor Clarke Peters. Other films playing in the season will include Carmen Jones (Otto Preminger, 1954), The World, the Flesh and the Devil (Ranald MacDougall, 1959), Odds Against Tomorrow (Robert Wise, 1959), Buck and the Preacher (Sidney Poitier, 1972), Kansas City (Robert Altman, 1996) and BlacKKKlansman (Spike Lee, 2018).

Meanwhile, it wouldn’t be December at BFI Southbank without a feast of Christmas films and this year’s festive line-up includes The Bishop’s Wife (Henry Koster, 1947), Miracle On 34th Street (George Seaton, 1947), Scrooge (Brian Desmond Hurst, 1951), The Muppet Christmas Carol (Brian Henson, 1992), Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (Henry Selick, 1993), Tokyo Godfathers (Satoshi Kon, 2003), Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015) and Tangerine (Sean Baker, 2015). Seasonal favourites playing under the Big Screen Classics banner, with tickets for just £9, will include The Shop Around The Corner (Ernst Lubitsch, 1940), Remember The Night (Mitchell Leisen, 1940), Meet Me In St Louis (Vincente Minnelli, 1944), It’s A Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946) and Fanny And Alexander (Ingmar Bergman, 1989). Meanwhile, BFI IMAX will also be screening Die Hard (John McTiernan, 1988), Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (Henry Selick, 1993), The Polar Express (Robert Zemeckis, 2003), Tokyo Godfathers (Satoshi Kon, 2003) and Elf (Jon Favreau, 2003) on the UK’s largest screen.

Special events at BFI Southbank this month will include Yorgos Lanthimos in Conversation on 13 December. Through his exquisitely crafted absurdist tales and darkly comic explorations of the human condition, Yorgos Lanthimos has become one of the most distinctive and exciting directors working today. The remarkable director behind films including The Lobster and The Favourite, will be welcomed to BFI Southbank to discuss his career and latest release, Poor Things (2023), before a preview of the film also on 13 December is introduced by the director. We are also delighted to be screening the final ever episode of The Crown (Stephen Daldry, 2023) on 17 December, followed by a Q&A discussion with some of the key individuals who made it all possible. Season six features news from Paris of the devastating accident that sent shockwaves across the world and sees the Monarchy in a state of crisis, both as a family and an institution.

Previews this month will include The Kemps: All Gold (Rhys Thomas, 2023) on 5 December, followed by a Q&A with Gary Kemp and Martin Kemp. Spandau Ballet’s Kemp brothers are back with more television Gold in this follow up to their hit 2020 mockumentary The Kemps: All True. This time, award-winning filmmaker Rhys Thomas OBE follows the brothers for a whole year and naturally, not everything goes to plan. A preview of Truelove on 6 December will be followed by a Q&A with actors Lindsay Duncan, Clarke Peters, Sue Johnston and writers Iain Weatherby and Charlie Covell. Flipping ageist tropes with thrilling twists, irreverent humour and passionate romance, a gang of old friends make a drunken pact; rather than let each other suffer a slow decline, they will engineer a dignified death. But what starts out as a fanciful idea soon morphs into a shocking reality. Meanwhile, a screening of urban fairy tale Lost Christmas (John Hay, 2011) on 10 December will also be followed by a Q&A with actor Eddie Izzard and director John Hay. This is a rare opportunity to watch this tale of the strange and enigmatic Anthony, who wakes up on the street on Christmas Eve apparently with the power to find the lost. But is it real, or just an illusion?

Missing Believed Wiped returns with its annual look at recent television rediscoveries, featuring a fascinating lost comedy. Following his successful appearances on That Was the Week That Was, Lance Percival was given his own show, Lance at Large, the first sitcom written by comedy royalty David Nobbs and Peter Tinniswood. The whole series was missing from the archives. However, one episode has resurfaced and will be screened on 3 December, alongside some treats for fans of Dad’s Army and other titles to be announced soon. Meanwhile The Stylist World of ITC, with an introduction by Lord Michael Grade, will see Jaz Wiseman share his considerable ITC (Incorporated Television Company) archive, featuring the art and design of this famous British company. Expect rare marketing art and sales designs, as well as some well-known, and alternative version, credit sequences, also on 3 December.

A monthly conversation between you (the audience) and one of the nation’s most respected film critics, Mark Kermode Live in 3D at the BFI will take place on 18 December. Joined by surprise guests from across the film industry, Kermode explores, critiques and dissects current and upcoming releases, cinematic treasures, industry news and even some guilty pleasures. 

On-sale dates

Tickets for screenings in December are on sale to BFI Patrons and Champions on 6 November, BFI Members on 7 November and to the general public on 9 November. 

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