What TV’s on at the BFI in October/November 2016? Including NW and A Black History of Britain

Stonkingly late as usual, it’s TMINE’s usual coverage of all the BFI events coming your way in the unusual BFI-created month of October/November (not to be confused with September/October). This month, most of the TV output comes as part of the BFI’s BlackStar season, looking at the contributions by black talent to movies and television around the world as well as in the UK. It includes a preview of the forthcoming NW, Black is the New Black and A Black History of Britain, a tribute afternoon to Cy Grant, a 10th anniversary screening of Shoot The Messenger, as well as numerous plays.

But also lined up is a preview of Television’s Opening Night: How the Box was Born, a recreation of the first ever night of BBC TV, as well as another recreation – an animated version of missing Doctor Who story The Power of the Daleks.

Tuesday 18 October
18:10 NFT3
TV Preview: Television’s Opening Night: How the Box was Born + discussion with presenter Dallas Campbell, Dr Hugh Hunt and Prof Danielle George
BBC-Windfall Films 2016. Dir Peter Gauvain. 90min
The first official broadcast on British television came from Alexandra Palace on 2 November 1936, but there are no surviving recordings. In this feature-length documentary, a 21st-century team recreate every aspect of that inaugural BBC transmission from scratch – from the variety acts to the cameras and techniques using original broadcast technology, exactly 80 years after the historic transmission. Tickets £11.75, concs £9.20 (Members pay £1.65 less)

Tuesday 25 October
18:30 NFT1
TV Preview: NW + discussion with actors Nikki Amuka-Bird, Phoebe Fox, and OT Fagbenle, director Saul Dibb and screenwriter Rachel Bennette
BBC Two-Mammoth Screen 2016. Dir Saul Dibb. With Nikki Amuka-Bird, Phoebe Fox, OT Fagbenle. 89min

Rachel Bennette (Bel Ami) adapts Zadie Smith’s universally-acclaimed novel for the BBC. NW tells the story of Natalie and Leah, two friends  who grew up together in North West London whose lives have taken  them in different directions.  Natalie’s wealth and ambition have set her apart from the friends and family she grew up with, and she finds herself asking not only who she really is, but where she belongs. In an area where wealth and poverty are only streets apart, life is fragile – as Natalie and Leah are about to find out.
Tickets £11.75, concs £9.20 (Members pay £1.65 less)

Thursday 27 October
18:15 NFT2
Drama ‘64 – A Fear of Strangers
ATV 1964. Dir Herbert Wise. With Earl Cameron, Stanley Baxter, Garfield Morgan. 52min
This wonderfully taut play by Leon Griffiths allows Baxter to shine as an inspector whose career has hit rock bottom pending a disciplinary hearing into his brutal methods. When a black musician (Cameron) is accused of murder, the inspector sees his chance to nail a conviction, but he seriously underestimates the musician’s resilience and desire for justice. Cameron manages to combine a righteous indignation with a towering screen presence.
+ Play of the Week: The Death of Bessie Smith 
Granada TV 1965. Director Julian Amyes. With Earl Cameron, Patricia English, Donald Sutherland. 65min. Contains language that some viewers may find offensive
A rare chance to see Edward Albee’s play, which seems to distil the entire neurosis of America’s Deep South into the character of a nurse (a brilliant Patricia English). Earl Cameron gives a performance of great dignity as a man who’s denied treatment for bringing the dying blues singer Bessie S

Thursday 3 November
18:15 NFT3
TV Preview: Black is the New Black + discussion with director Simon Frederick
BBC 2016. Dir Simon Frederick. Eps 1 & 2. TRT 60min
In this landmark, four-part documentary series for the BBC, some of the most influential and exceptional figures in British culture face the camera to tell us what it’s like to be black and British today. Beautifully shot by artist and director Simon Frederick, these familiar faces share their intimate, heartfelt and inspirational stories, and consequently begin to paint a portrait of the nation – its past, its present and where it may be heading.

Friday 4 November
18:10 NFT3
TV Preview: A Black History of Britain + discussion with writer and presenter David Olusoga (work permitting) and director James Van der pool
BBC 2016. Dir James Van der pool. Ep 1, 60min
Written and presented by acclaimed historian David Olusoga, A Black History of Britain is a rich and revealing exploration of the relationship between Britain and the people of Africa and the Caribbean, reaching as far back as Roman Britain. It’s a history full of surprises, scandal and contradictions, and across four episodes Olusoga reveals, in dynamic and surprising ways, that black British history is an epic, sweeping story – a story which touches us all.

Saturday 5 November
13:00 NFT1
Preview: Doctor Who – The Power of the Daleks (animated) + Q&A with actors Anneke Wills and Frazer Hines
UK 1966/2016. Dir Christopher Barry. With the voices of Patrick Troughton, Anneke Wills, Michael Craze. Eps 1-3. 3x25min. Courtesy of BBC Worldwide
The TARDIS lands on the planet Vulcan  where the crew discover a crashed space capsule containing some very dangerous visitors. This classic story containing the historic TV moment when the First Doctor regenerated into the Second is completely missing from the archives, but the audio recording still exists. We are delighted to preview the first three episodes of this specially commissioned, animated version of the story, painstakingly recreated for BBC Worldwide for release on DVD. The first episode was originally broadcast 50 years ago, on 5 November 1966. 
All tickets are priced at £22.70 (Members pay £1.70 less, no concs), restricted to two per booker. This price includes a copy of the DVD which will be posted out two weeks after the event, so please ensure that you provide your address

Saturday 12th November
13:00-17:00 NFT3
The Life and Times of Cy Grant
We pay tribute to Guyanese-born Cy Grant (1919-2010), whose rich and varied career included World War Two RAF service, film, music, drama, broadcasting (Cy was the first black celebrity to be featured regularly on British TV – notably the BBC’s Tonight programme), and work as a community activist. This special event will feature poetry, presentations and film clips from and about his life and work, plus live music courtesy of flautist Keith Waithe. The event also commemorates the 50th anniversary of Guyana’s independence. Guests include the High Commissioner of Guyana, Professor Kurt Barling, producer Terry Jervis and theatre director Yvonne Brewster OBE.
Tickets £6.50

Tuesday 15th November
10th Anniversary Screening: Shoot the Messenger

+ discussion with actors Nikki Amuka Bird (work permitting) and Charles Mnene, producer Anne Pivcevic and vice chair of the Mental Health Taskforce, Jacqui Dyer. Chaired by Patrick Vernon OBE
BBC 2006. Dir Ngozi Onwurah. With David Oyelowo, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Brian Bovell. 89min
Rarely does a UK TV film focus exclusively on a black cast and subject matter like this provocative, disturbing and bleakly funny drama. Oyelowo brings electric intensity to the role of Joe, a teacher on a mission to save his black students from a life  of gangs, crime and underachievement. When a seemingly minor incident spirals out of control, Joe turns against his own community, and his mind begins to unravel. Join us as our panel discuss the important issues this very brave and unique film raises. 

Thursday 17th November 
18:00 NFT3
Sunday Night Theatre – Mrs Patterson  
BBC 1956. Dir Anthony Pelissier. With Neville Crabbe, Evelyn Dove, Eartha Kitt, Elisabeth Welch. 75min. 35mm
In this BBC production of her 1954 Broadway success, Eartha Kitt is captivating as Teddy, a poor, black teenager who aspires to live the life of her mother’s white employer. In an era when plays on British TV were almost exclusively by white authors, this play – by African-American Charles Sebree and Greer Johnson – was a rarity.
+ Variety in Sepia
BBC 1947. With Adelaide Hall, Cyril Blake, Evelyn Dove. 6min
A precious, experimental telerecording of a few minutes from a landmark BBC variety show celebrating black talent.

Prices (excluding gift aid)
£9.15 (members)
£6.85 (member concs)
£10.65 (non-members)
£8.35 (non-members concs)
Under 16s £6.00

Prices (including gift aid and voluntary contribution)
£10.10 (members)
£7.55 (member concs)
£11.75 (non-members)
£9.20 (non-members concs)

Reduced prices for weekday matinees. Conc prices are available to senior citizens, students, unwaged and disability visitors. Proof of eligibility may be required.
As always, visit the BFI web site for more details.