The programme for February 2024 at BFI Southbank includes public events to mark filmmaker Christopher Nolan receiving the BFI’s highest honour, the BFI Fellowship. The Fellowship recognises Nolan’s extraordinary achievements and enormous contribution to cinema as one of the world’s most successful and influential film directors, constantly pushing the limits of what large-scale filmmaking can be while retaining a reverence for the history of the medium and the primacy of cinemagoing. The awarding of the BFI Fellowship will be followed on 15 February by an In Conversation event at BFI Southbank and a special introduction to Tenet (2021) at BFI IMAX, where audiences will be able to hear first-hand from the director about his extraordinary career so far.
The Taviani brothers
The line-up of seasons in February begins with Magical Realism: The Film Fables of the Taviani Brothers, running from 1 February to 12 March and spotlighting the more than 60-year career of filmmaking siblings Paolo and Vittorio Taviani. Curated by Adrian Wootton, who will host a season introduction on 1 February, and presented in partnership with Cinecittà, the season’s centrepiece event will be Paolo Taviani in Conversation on 11 February, where Paolo will look back over his life and work alongside his late brother Vittorio, who died in 2018.
From ultra-contemporary satire and powerful allegorical period drama to haunting war stories and playful, wickedly humorous literary adaptations, the brothers’ work will be screened in four thematic sections and include films such as the Palme d’Or winning Padre Padrone (1977), the hugely entertaining Kaos (1984), evocative drama Elective Affinities (1996) starring Isabelle Huppert, modern twist on Shakespeare Caesar Must Die (2012) and more.
Also in February, BFI Southbank will host A League of Her Own: The Cinema of Dorothy Arzner, showcasing the work of Dorothy Arzner, who worked her way up the ranks of Hollywood to become the only woman directing within the studio system. Curated by Caroline Cassin, the season will screen films such as Working Girls (1931), Christopher Strong (1933), Craig’s Wife (1936), The Bride Wore Red (1937) and Dance, Girl, Dance (1940); these multifaceted revisions of Hollywood norms paid sharp attention to the intersection of women’s working and romantic lives and featured protagonists that were snappy and headstrong and subverted traditional gender roles.
Arzner’s legacy is explored in a new documentary Dorothy Arzner: Pioneer, Queer, Feminist (Clara Kuperberg, Julia Kuperberg, 2023), which will receive its UK premiere as part of the season on 7 February. Other special events in the season will include a look at Dance, Girl, Dance through a philosophical lens, a Galentine’s Day screening of The Wild Party (1929) followed by a prohibition party on 13 February, and a screening of Get Your Man (1927) followed by a panel discussion on Arzner’s silent cinema.
BFI Southbank will also dedicate a season to arguably the UK’s greatest ever film composer, John Barry, which will run from 1 February to 12 March. Curated by Bob Stanley from Saint Etienne, John Barry: Soundtracking Bond and Beyond will, for the most part, focus on the London years of Barry’s career – spy films, swinging comedies and social realism – that created the distinctive, darkly beautiful John Barry sound. Highlights include timeless movie classics such as Goldfinger (Guy Hamilton, 1964), You Only Live Twice (Lewis Gilbert, 1967), The Ipcress File (Sidney J Furie, 1965) and Midnight Cowboy (John Schlesinger, 1969) alongside lesser seen titles whose soundtracks Barry composed, including Four in the Morning (Anthony Simmons, 1965), Petulia (Richard Lester, 1968), Boom! (Joseph Losey, 1968) and Deadfall (Bryan Forbes, 1968). The season will feature a richly illustrated discussion – Spies, Swingers and Shadows: The Films and Scores of John Barry – on 6 February, during which season curator Bob Stanley and other special guests will reflect on Barry’s work, in particular the significance of his scores for the James Bond franchise and other key titles.
The Anthropocene Trilogy
Also taking place this month will be a special focus (16 to 17 February) on the work of the award-winning Canadian filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier and photographer Edward Burtynsky, who have together made The Anthropocene Trilogy, a set of powerful films that call on us to recognise how we have transformed our world and the importance of developing more sustainable practices. Presented in cultural partnership with The High Commission of Canada in the UK and coinciding with BURTYNSKY: Extraction/Abstraction at Saatchi Gallery, this focus will screen each of the three films of The Anthropocene Trilogy – Manufactured Landscapes (2006), Watermark (2013) and Anthropocene: The Human Epoch (2018) – and welcome the filmmakers for panel discussions, introductions and Q&As to talk about each one.
The events programme for February is packed with film and TV previews, one-off celebrations with special guests and discursive contextual events, starting with a 20th anniversary celebration of the groundbreaking comedy Peep Show, which charted the lonely and dysfunctional lives of two male flatmates. Stars David Mitchell and Robert Webb, as well as writers Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong will be onstage at BFI Southbank on 1 February to relive the show’s sharp writing, innovative point-of-view style and the beloved cast of characters that made the show such a phenomenal success.
Further TV events in February will include previews of The Way (Michael Sheen, 2024, BBC/Red Seam in association with Little Door Productions) on 5 February and This Town (Paul Whittington, 2024, BBC/Kudos/Nebulastar/Stigma Films/Mercury Studios) on 26 February. Created by Michael Sheen, James Graham and Adam Curtis, The Way taps into the social and political chaos of today’s world by imagining a civil uprising that begins in a small industrial town. The preview will be followed by a Q&A with creators Michael Sheen and James Graham, cast members Steffan Rhodri, Mali Harries and Callum Scott Howells and executive producer Bethan Jones.
This Town is a major new drama series from the creator of Peaky Blinders, Steven Knight, charting the creation of an iconic music scene that exploded from the grass roots of Coventry and Birmingham in the late 1970s and early 1980s. With songs by Mercury nominated musician Kae Tempest and acclaimed producer Dan Carey, This Town brilliantly conveys how creative genius can emerge from a time of madness. The preview will be followed by a Q&A with creator Steven Knight, cast members Michelle Dockery, Jordan Bolger, Ben Rose and Levi Brown, director Paul Whittington and executive producer Karen Wilson.
On 17 February there will be a preview of the winner of the Best Film award at the 67th BFI London Film Festival, Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Evil Does Not Exist. In this fascinating and unpredictable eco-drama-cum-mystery, Hamaguchi blends dark comedy with the most beautiful, eerie and hypnotic camera work to create a sublime and haunting film about a Japanese village community whose peaceful existence and deep connection to their land is threatened when a Tokyo talent company buys up some property nearby, intending to turn it into a tourist spot.
On 13 February there will be a preview of the BFI Distribution release of Getting It Back: The Story of Cymande (Tim MacKenzie-Smith, 2022) ahead of the film being released in UK cinemas on 16 February, including BFI Southbank, where it will play on extended run. The British Black supergroup that never quite made it, Cymande were self-taught musicians from south London, the sons of Windrush parents whose music combined influences from funk, calypso, soul and jazz, all brought together to intoxicating effect. Following three great albums and some success in the US, they split in 1975, after being largely ignored in the UK and having experienced abhorrent racism from the music industry. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Tim Mackenzie-Smith and Cymande, plus a free afterparty in the BFI Bar.
There will be a Valentine’s Day preview of Trần Anh Hùng’s The Taste of Things (2023) on 14 February, the gorgeous culinary romantic drama starring Juliette Binoche, which premiered at the 67th BFI London Film Festival. In a warm and busy kitchen of a 19th-century French manor house, gourmet Dodin and his cook Eugénie prepare a lavish four-course meal. Together they have perfected their craft, working in a magical, almost wordless harmony. More than Dodin’s cook, Eugénie is his love, but she won’t marry him. This beautifully shot and mesmerising film, with its intensely rich sound design places the audience in the heart of the kitchen and the couple’s passion for cooking, itself an act of love.
To celebrate the release of The Taste of Things, which will also screen on extended run following it’s Valentine’s Day preview, BFI Southbank will host screenings (on 8 and 28 February) of Hùng’s stunning feature debut The Scent of Green Papaya (1993), which tells the story of Mùi, a young servant girl in 1950s Saigon, who goes to work for an aristocratic family that has fallen on tough times. This is a rare opportunity to see the film in 35mm.
Further romantic offerings for Valentine’s Day include the exquisite and deftly observed romance Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma, 2019), the complex and tender exploration of Black masculinity Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016) and the swooning Bergman and Bogart romance Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942).
Marking the Chinese New Year, on 10 February BFI Southbank will host the UK premiere of Father (2021), Deng Wei’s sensitive and personal documentary portrait of the troubled relationship between a father and son, who are Wei’s own father and grandfather. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with director Deng Wei and producer Wenlan Peng. The annual event Focus Hong Kong also returns to BFI Southbank with two UK premieres – Elegies (2023) on 5 February, a deeply personal documentary from award-winning director Ann Hui that explores the world of poetry; and the digital restoration of Stanley Kwan’s lovingly crafted, multi-layered masterpiece Love unto Waste (Stanley Kwan, 1986) on 6 February.
BFI Southbank’s monthly event, Mark Kermode Live in 3D at the BFI, will take place on 12 February. A conversation between the audience and one of the nation’s favourite and most respected film critics, Mark Kermode will be joined by surprise guests from across the film industry to explore, critique and dissect current and upcoming releases, cinematic treasures, industry news and more. Also returning in February, is the annual BFI Future Film Festival; the 17th edition of the hugely popular festival for young creatives aged 16 to 25 looking to break into the screen industries will take place from 15 to 18 February, with full details being announced soon.
New and re-releases
New and re-releases screening at BFI Southbank including The Zone of Interest (Jonathan Glazer, 2023), American Fiction (Cord Jefferson, 2023), The Taste of Things (Tran Anh Hùng, 2023), Getting It Back: The Story of Cymande (Tim Mackenzie-Smith, 2022), City of God (Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund, 2002) and Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978)
Films screening at BFI IMAX include Argylle (Matthew Vaughn, 2024) and The Zone of Interest (Jonathan Glazer, 2023).
Tickets for screenings in February are on sale to BFI Patrons and Champions on 2 January, BFI Members on 3 January and to the general public on 5 January.
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