What TV’s on at the BFI in February 2018? Including Waris Hussein and Ingmar Bergman seasons

Waris Hussein with Peter Capaldi
Waris Hussein with Peter Capaldi

Every month, TMINE lets you know what TV the BFI will be presenting at the South Bank in London

February’s a pretty full month by the looks of it at the BFI, with a couple of impressive seasons, as well as two TV previews. The main attraction is a season of programmes directed by Waris Hussein – best known as the first ever director of Doctor Who, but who’s built up an impressive portfolio of shows from both sides of the Atlantic over the years, including a rare acting foray by Barry Manilow in Copacabana. There are also showings of Ingmar Bergman’s original versions of Face to Face and Scenes from a Marriage from Swedish TV.

The two previews? The sequel to Kenneth Clark’s original CivilisationCivilisations, and the return to British TV of John Cleese and Alison Steadman in Hold the Sunset. All that after the jump, where we can merengue and do the cha-cha.

Thursday 1 February

18:15 NFT1
TV Preview: Hold the Sunset + Q&A with actors Alison Steadman, Anne Reid, Jason Watkins (all work permitting), director Sandy Johnson, producer Moira Williams and writer Charles McKeown
BBC 2018. Dir Sandy Johnson. With John Cleese, Alison Steadman, Anne Reid, Jason Watkins. Ep1, Ep3 (2x 30min)

Written by Oscar-nominated Charles McKeown (Brazil), Hold the Sunset is a new six-part romantic comedy series that sees the welcome return of John Cleese and Alison Steadman to our TV screens. It tells the story of Edith and her old flame Phil, who have just agreed to retire to the sun together when her 50-year-old son returns home. With such an amazing cast and creative team, this is definitely not to be missed.

Saturday 3 February

13:00 NFT1
Scener ur ett äktenskap (Scenes from a Marriage) + intro by Andrey Zvyagintsev
Sweden 1973. Dir Ingmar Bergman. With Liv Ullmann, Erland Josephson, Bibi Andersson, Gunnel Lindblom. 293min + intervals. Digital. EST. 15

Made for Swedish TV, this is the complete, six-episode version of Bergman’s extraordinary chronicle of a seemingly happy, comfortable marriage rocked by infidelity. Ullmann and Josephson give performances of astonishing veracity, subtlety and power, while the painstakingly detailed script and uncluttered close-up camerawork make this one of the most uncompromisingly truthful portraits ever made of the messy complexity of love.
Tickets £15, concs £12 (Members pay £2 less)

Tuesday 6 February

18:00 NFT1
Play of the Month: A Passage to India + intro by Waris Hussein and actor Virginia McKenna
BBC 1965. Dir Waris Hussein. With Sybil Thorndike, Virginia McKenna, Saeed Jaffrey, Zia Mohyeddin, Cyril Cusack. 110min

As the lone director of Asian decent working in BBC drama at the time, Hussein was the obvious choice to bring a level of detail and truth to this historically important production that came well before David Lean’s famous film version. He rejected the custom of the time – in which well-known white actors played Indian characters – to assemble a fine and diverse cast. The result is a sensitive and intelligent realisation of EM Forster’s novel, achieved with the limited resources of TV production at the time and displaying the obvious directorial skill of a very young Hussein.
Joint ticket available with Waris Hussein in Conversation £15, concs £12  (Members pay £2 less)

20:30 NFT1
Waris Hussein in Conversation with Samira Ahmed
TRT 90min

Waris Hussein joins us to discuss his remarkable career, from working with actors such as Anthony Hopkins, Ian McKellen and Shirley MacLaine to experiencing TV production on both sides of the Atlantic. Accompanied by clips of his finest work, Hussein will discuss key productions such as the suffragette-inspired Shoulder to Shoulder, the Emmy-winning Copacabana, the Frederic Raphael-penned The Glittering Prizes and the BAFTA-winning Edward & Mrs Simpson.
For joint ticket offer see above

Monday 12 February

18:10 NFT3
Play of the Month: Chips with Everything
BBC 1975. Dir Waris Hussein. With Tim Woodward, David Daker, David Troughton, Thorley Walters. 120min

Arnold Wesker’s play, which opened at the Royal Court in 1962 and transferred to Broadway in 1963, offers a brilliant critique of the class system as a poison at the heart of British society. The verisimilitude of Hussein’s production creates an intense claustrophobic macho world effectively articulated by a fine cast, making this period piece seem strangely contemporary.

Thursday 15 February

18:15 NFT3
TV Preview: Civilisations + Q&A with presenters Simon Schama, Mary Beard and David Olusoga
BBC 2018. Series Producer Melanie Fall, Exec Producer Mark Bell. Presented by Simon Schama, Mary Beard and
David Olusoga. Ep1 60 min

It’s nearly 50 years since Kenneth Clark’s groundbreaking Civilisation thrilled TV audiences with his personal interpretation of the glories of Western art. BBC Two’s nine-part Civilisations will introduce new generations to masterworks from cultures around the world, led by three great thinkers and experts in their fields. From the first marks on cave walls to contemporary art, Civilisations will both celebrate and question the nature of humanity’s abiding quest to create.

Monday 19 February

18:15 NFT2
Play of the Month: Hedda Gabler + intro by Waris Hussein and actor Dame Janet Suzman
BBC 1972. Dir Waris Hussein. With Janet Suzman, Ian McKellen, Tom Bell, Jane Asher, Brendan Barry. 112min

Waris Hussein marshals an incredible cast in this intelligent and perceptive production of Ibsen’s classic play, translated by Michael Mayer. Suzman captures the full visceral power of Hedda, a woman trapped by the petit bourgeois society in which she lives. Her frightening manipulation of all those around herto satisfy her own cravings to ‘feelalive’ is beautifully articulated through Lovborg’s (Tom Bell) descent into tragedy, while McKellen’s George Tesman is perfectly pitched.

Friday 23 February

18:15 NFT2
ITV Playhouse: Blind Love
Granada 1977. Dir Waris Hussein. With Sam Wanamaker, Mary Peach, Richard Pearson, Georgine Anderson. 66min

When Helen (Peach) takes up her position as PA to the blind Armitage (Wanamaker) he soon finds himself attracted to her. A fascinating period piece in terms of the sexual attitudes of the day, this compelling story unfolds with great sincerity, and under Hussein’s direction Wanamaker and Peach capture every nuance. James Saunders’ adaptation of VS Pritchett’s novel cleverly elucidates the complex themes of self-worth that living with a disability can engender.

+ Romance: Three Weeks
Thames TV 1977. Dir Waris Hussein. With Simon MacCorkindale, Elizabeth Shepherd, Patricia Lawrence, Geoffrey
Chater. 52min

Hussein creates a visual style in homage to Alphonse Mucha in this rich and exotic romantic fable dramatised by Gerald Savory from a notorious story by Elinor Glyn. In 1905 young Englishman Paul Verdayne (MacCorkindale) is sent to Switzerland, where he encounters the fabulously beautiful and mysterious elder woman of his dreams (a mesmerising Shepherd). But just who is she really, and what’s the secret of her magnetic charms?

Saturday 24 February

16:50 NFT1
Ansikte mot ansikte Sweden (Face to Face)
1976. Dir Ingmar Bergman. With Liv Ullmann, Erland Josephson, Gunnar Björnstrand, Kari Sylwan. 177min + interval. Digital. EST. 18

We screen the complete (and superior) original TV version of Bergman’s extraordinarily intense account of a successful psychiatrist’s gradual but shattering breakdown. The meticulous attention to psychological and social detail makes for engrossing viewing: the performances – especially that of Ullmann – are uncompromisingly honest, while the scenes vividly depicting her anxious fantasies have a profoundly unsettling nightmarish reality. Bergman likened the piece to a surgeon’s scalpel.

Sunday 25 February

17:30 NFT2
Intimate Contact + intro to Ep 3 by Waris Hussein and actor Claire Bloom
Central TV 1987. Director Waris Hussein. With Claire Bloom, Daniel Massey, Sylvia Syms, Mark Kingston, Maggie Steed. Eps 1-4 (TRT 208min + interval)

Known for his sensitivity and love of working with actors, Hussein was a natural choice to direct the UK’s first TV drama series to tackle the Aids crisis. When the series was made the disease was in full force but little understood. In choosing to focus the drama on the impact of Aids on one particular middle-class family, screenwriter Alma Cullen helped to humanise the condition and address the ignorance surrounding it.

Tuesday 27 February

18:20 NFT2
Dick Clark Productions-CBS 1985. Dir Waris Hussein. With Barry Manilow, Annette O’Toole, Joseph Bologna. 120min. 35mm

For his imaginative direction of this musical based on the famous song, Hussein was awarded an Emmy. In a rare acting role, Manilow plays Tony, working as a pianist in Manhattan’s Copacabana Lounge when he meets Lola. Tony is immediately smitten but fate steps in and she’s swept off to Havana, seeking stardom. Instead she finds Rico, a suave gangster who manages the club, but ‘exactly who shot who?’
As this was made for US TV, the BFI requests a voluntary donation of £11 (Members pay £2 less) to assist with covering costs

Booking times

Patrons and champions’ priority booking: January 8 from 11.30am
Members’ priority booking opens: January 9 from 11.30am
Public booking opens: January 16 from 11.30am


Members: £9
Member concs: £7.20
Non-members: £11
Non-member concs: £8.80
Under 16s: £6

Reduced prices for weekday matinees. Concessionary 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.