The programme for July at BFI Southbank begins with a complete retrospective of Satyajit Ray, one of the true masters of world cinema, with a remarkable body of work as a director (but also true polymath who wrote, designed and composed as well). Arranged thematically by season programmer Sangeeta Datta, the retrospective will be presented in association with the Academy Film Archive and include numerous restorations on 35mm from their archives, as well as three 4K restorations made by the Criterion Collection and the UK premiere of four brand new 4K restorations presented by NFDC – National Film Archive of India. 

Highlights of the season in July will include a BFI re-release of The Big City (1963), in selected cinemas UK-wide from 22 July and screening on extended run at BFI Southbank; and a screening on 7 July of Ray’s adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore’s short stories The Postmaster and Samapti (1961), the latter of which marked the screen debut of Aparna Sen, who will introduce the screening. Sen, who went on to become India’s greatest and longest-standing woman writer-director, will also make an appearance at BFI Southbank as part of this year’s London Indian Film Festival on 2 July, with an in conversation event followed by a screening of her powerful new film The Rapist (2021). 

Also this month, our Film Wallahs screening, which showcases new South Asian and world cinema, is programmed in homage to Satyajit Ray; Raahgir (Goutam Ghose, 2019) is an epic and elemental journey through a relentless monsoon that follows a man and woman driven by hunger to search for work in the nearest town. Also screening alongside Raahgir will be a selection of digital short films commissioned as part of the UK Asian Film Festival’s 2021 Ray of Hope competition. These nine digital commission winners will showcase their three-minute shorts inspired by the work of Satyajit Ray. 

Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)

Also in July, BFI Southbank celebrates the immense talent of Glenda Jackson, with a month-long season of film and television works that span her incredible career. From the Oscar-winning successes of Women In Love (Ken Russell, 1969) and A Touch of Class (Melvin Frank, 1973) to the Emmy-winning TV role Elizabeth R (BBC, 1971), Glenda Jackson’s talent and intensity have burned through big and small screen alike. Following her time serving as a Labour MP from 1992 to 2015, Jackson made a triumphant return to the stage with the title role in King Lear at The Old Vic, followed soon after by a return to television in an adaptation of Emma Healey’s debut novel Elizabeth Is Missing (STV/BBC/PBS, 2019), for which she won a BAFTA. A highlight of the season will be Glenda Jackson in Conversation on 5 July, providing audiences with a unique opportunity to hear from one of the greatest actors of our time. The season also coincides with a new release of Mary, Queen of Scots (Charles Jarrott, 1971) on BFI Blu-ray on 11 July. 

Touki-Bouki (1973)

Completing the line-up of seasons in July will be In the Black Fantastic, which will bring together features and shorts by visionary filmmakers from the African diaspora who draw on elements of fantasy to address racial injustice and explore alternative realities. This season, programmed by writer and curator Ekow Eshun, showcases films that inventively recycle and reconfigure aspects of myth, science fiction, spiritual traditions and Afrofuturism, from Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash, 1991) and Yeelen (Souleymane Cissé, 1987) to Sankofa (Haile Gerima, 1993) and Touki Bouki (Djibril Diop Mambéty, 1973). In the Black Fantastic coincides with an exhibition of the same name, also curated by Ekow Eshun, of contemporary artists from the African diaspora who draw on science fiction, myth and Afrofuturism, running from 29 June to 18 September at the Hayward Gallery. Black and post-colonial narratives of the speculative and the spiritual are revealed as invaluable sources of cultural knowledge and artistic inspiration. The embrace of the fantastical has nothing to do with escapism; instead it suggests alternative ways of being, and confronts socially constructed ideas about race.

Special events in July will include a preview on 4 July of Explorer (2022) with an extended intro from Sir Ranulph Fiennes and director Matt Dyas. Heralded as the world’s greatest living explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes has traversed the planet‘s extremes and lived to tell the tale. For the first time this captivating documentary takes viewers beyond the record-breaking exploits to meet a complex character grappling with triumph, tragedy and mortality. Working in collaboration with the BFI National Archive, the filmmakers were granted unprecedented access to Fiennes’ personal film collection in illuminating this parable of endurance.

As part of the BFI’s ongoing Sonic Cinema series, there will be a screening of Laurent Garnier: Off The Record (Gabin Rivoire, 2021) on 9 July; this inspiring documentary explores the birth and rise of techno music through the eyes of one of its pioneers, the acclaimed French DJ Laurent Garnier, who will take part in a Q&A following the screening. 

The 16th I Will Tell International Film Festival, which celebrates untold stories that challenge perspectives and catalyse change, will open at BFI Southbank on 7 July with the UK premiere of Clock (Lola Atkins, 2022), a coming-of-age romantic drama, set against the underground drum ‘n’ bass, acid and house music scene of 90s London. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with key members of the cast and crew including the exciting up-and-coming Black British director Lola Atkins. BFI Southbank’s regular event Mark Kermode Live in 3D at the BFI will take place on 11 July, 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. 

This month’s family programme at BFI Southbank will feature a Funday Preview of The Railway Children Return (Morgan Matthews, 2022) on 10 July. A group of children are evacuated to a village in Yorkshire during WWII, where a retired head teacher has set up a school for them. Soon, some of the youngsters find a soldier who is hiding away far from home. In this much-anticipated follow up to the beloved original, Jenny Agutter revisits the iconic role of Bobbie over 50 years on. There will be a free Funday Workshop for ticket holders before the film and a Q&A with Jenny Agutter, director Morgan Matthews and producer Jemma Rodgers afterwards. On 3 July audiences will also be able to revisit Lionel Jeffries’ classic original The Railway Children (1970), with a screening of one of the best-loved British family films of all time.