December 2021 at the BFI, including Jack Clayton and Dirk Bogarde at 100

Dirk Bogarde

Yay! Details of the BFI’s showings in December! Here’s the press release.

December at BFI Southbank – featuring BFI JAPAN, the work of JACK CLAYTON, screenings of classic Christmas films, BUSTING THE BIAS, Dirk Bogarde at 100 and much more

With special guests including director Mark Gatiss (THE MEZZOTINT), the cast and crew of GHOSTS (guests TBC), actors Jamie Dornan, Danielle Macdonald and Shalom Brune-Franklin (THE TOURIST), director Sharon Maguire (BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY), singer and performer Patti Boulaye, broadcaster and critic Mark Kermode, directors Markus Hansen and Jean-Marie Boulet (BILLY BANG LUCKY MAN)

The BFI today announces the programme for December at BFI Southbank including the culmination of BFI JAPAN 2021: 100 YEARS OF JAPANESE CINEMA, the BFI’s major UK-wide celebration of Japanese film. This month’s programme features work by radical independent directors like Seijun Suzuki and Nagisa Ōshima, as well as more recent popular and art house Japanese cinema by filmmakers such as Shunji Iwai, Hirokazu Kore-eda and Naomi Kawase. Also in December, BFI Southbank mark the centenary year of one of the most intriguing voices in post-war British cinema, JACK CLAYTON, with a full retrospective including THE INNOCENTS (1961), ROOM AT THE TOP (1959) and THE PUMPKIN EATER (1964). The season will be accompanied by a free display in BFI Southbank’s Mezzanine Gallery of material draw from the extensive collection held by the BFI National Archive of Clayton’s scripts, stills, posters and letters. Also drawing on material from the BFI National Archive, our TV season for December, THE PRECIOUS THINGS, will be a feast of weird and wonderful curios from the archives that feature a host of famous faces, from Vincent Price and Basil Brush to Terry Jones and Tina Turner – brilliant, baffling, idiosyncratic footage often unseen since its original transmission.  

It wouldn’t be December at BFI Southbank without a feast of Christmas entertainment, led this year by a BFI re-release of one of the most charming romantic comedies of all time, Ernst Lubitsch’s THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940), in selected cinemas UK-wide on 3 December. In the hectic run-up to Christmas, two ambitious rivals on the gossip-ridden sales floor of a Budapest emporium – played by James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan – are conducting an anonymous romance with each other by letter. This classic comedy has been often remade, including into the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan comedy YOU’VE GOT MAIL, but the original film remains unsurpassed, and perfect seasonal fare. BFI Southbank’s ongoing BIG SCREEN CLASSICS series – where we screen great films daily for the special price of £8 – will this month focus on CHRISTMAS ON SCREEN. Titles include MEET ME IN ST LOUIS (Vincente Minnelli, 1944), IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (Frank Capra, 1946), MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (George Seaton, 1947), GREMLINS (Joe Dante, 1984), THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL (Brian Henson, 1992), TOKYO GODFATHERS (Satoshi Kon, 2003), A CHRISTMAS TALE (Arnaud Desplechin, 2008), CAROL (Todd Haynes, 2015) and more. In addition to our £8 ticket offer for BIG SCREEN CLASSICS, audience members aged 25 & under are able to buy tickets for BFI Southbank screenings in advance, and special events on the day, for just £3, through our ongoing ticket scheme for young audiences. 

For those wanting to get a preview of some hotly anticipated Christmas specials for 2021, BFI Southbank will have TV Previews of THE MEZZOTINT (BBC, 2021), the GHOSTS CHRISTMAS SPECIAL (BBC, 2021) and TERRY PRATCHETT’S THE ABOMINABLE SNOW BABY (Channel 4, 2021). Laced with MR James’ trademark terror, THE MEZZOTINT, starring Rory Kinnear, is the latest ghost story for Christmas directed by Mark Gatiss, who will take part in a post-screening Q&A on 7 December. On 9 December, BFI Southbank will welcome members of the cast and crew of GHOSTS for a Q&A following a screening of this year’s Christmas Special. This hugely popular comedy from the makers of HORRIBLE HISTORIES has become a firm favourite since it premiered in 2019 and this event will also feature a screening of an episode voted for by fans of the show. There will be a FUNDAY PREVIEW of the wonderfully festive animation, TERRY PRATCHETT’S THE ABOMINABLE SNOW BABY on 4 December; prior to the screening, ticket holders will also be able to join a family workshop in the main foyer to design their own member of the Abominable Snow Baby family. 

To mark the 20th anniversary of BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY (Sharon Maguire, 2001) Woman with a Movie Camera powered by Jaguar will present a special screening of the film on 16 December, followed by a Q&A with director Sharon Maguire. After a painful festive party 30-something Bridget Jones, played to perfection by Renée Zellweger, decides to set some New Year’s resolutions: she’s going to lose weight, cut out the cigarettes and keep well clear from all the wrong men. Co-starring Colin Firth, Hugh Grant and a who’s who of British acting talent, BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY is one of the best-loved romantic comedies of the last 20 years, and this anniversary screening offers audiences a chance to hear from director Sharon Maguire about bring this iconic character to the big screen. 

Also in December will be BUSTING THE BIAS, a series of screenings, talks and presentations taking place from 3-5 December, showcasing disabled practitioners’ work while creating ongoing discourse for improved access for disabled talent to work in the screen industries, and advocating for authentic on-screen representation and leadership off-screen (the full programme will be announced soon). There will also be a TV preview of THE TOURIST (BBC, 2021) starring Jamie Dornan as a British man who finds himself in the Australian outback being pursued by a vast tank-truck trying to drive him off the road. The screening of the first episode of the series, written by Harry and Jack Williams (THE MISSING, LIAR) on 7 Decemberwill be followed by a Q&A with actors Jamie DornanDanielle Macdonald and Shalom Brune-Franklinalongside other members of the creative team. 

Other highlights this month will include a special screening on 5 December of the Tom Baker-era story DOCTOR WHO: CITY OF DEATH, which was co-written by the great Douglas Adams; monthly star-studded event MARK KERMODE LIVE IN 3D AT THE BFI on 6 December; and Patti Boulaye in Conversation on 12 December, during which the singer and performer will talk about her life and television career on the occasion of the publication of her memoirs. Completing the events programme will be new regular programme strand, THIS KIND OF THING, in which we explore video games and beyond at BFI Southbank – from consoles and VR to AI and wearables. The first event on 10 December will be a unique live event where audiences talk, listen, eat, drink and play their way through the evening, exploring just what a video game is in 2021, and beyond. This month’s event complements BFI JAPAN, exploring the country as one of the engine rooms of the past, present and future of video game culture, creativity and play.

Finally, to mark the centenary year of DIRK BOGARDE, we screen a selection of work featuring the British star who shook off the mantle of the matinee idol to gain respect, not just as an accomplished actor but also as a writer of considerable talent. Screenings will include HUNTED (Charles Crichton, 1952), in which a boy finds a corpse in a bombed-out building and is taken hostage by the killer; I COULD GO ON SINGING(Ronald Neame, 1963) about a stage star (Judy Garland, in her final film) who is reunited with her estranged son; the darkly comic tale of a nightmarish butler who exploits the weakness of his lazy, entitled employer THE SERVANT (Joseph Losey, 1963), screening in a recent 4K remaster; and SO LONG AT THE FAIR (Terence Fisher, Anthony Darnborough, 1950), a perfectly formed period mystery. 


Health and safety measures continue at BFI Southbank, with up-to-date guidance available on the BFI website.


The second part of BFI JAPAN at BFI Southbank will focus on films made after the mid-1960s, when the old Japanese studio system was close to collapse, with this time of crisis also providing opportunity. Directors like Seijun Suzuki (TOKYO DRIFTER) drew inspiration from international pop culture to re-energise genre cinema in exciting, radical ways, while a new wave of independent filmmakers such as Nagisa Ōshima (IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES) and Kijū Yoshida (WOMAN OF THE LAKE) crafted films of uncompromising individuality and political engagement that commented on issues such as racism, crime and gender norms. Also screening will be some of the best films of the 80s – those that engaged critically with the country’s ongoing modernisation, such as TAMPOPO (Jūzō Itami, 1985) or glanced back at the experiences and traumas of its recent past, like Kōhei Oguri’s BLACK RAIN (1981), as well as work from a new generation of auteurs that emerged in the 90s including Shunji Iwai (LOVE LETTER), Naomi Kawase (SUZAKU) and Hirokazu Kore-eda (AFTER LIFE). A number of screenings will be introduced in person or remotely by experts including BFI JAPAN co-programmer Alexander Jacoby, Professor Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano (Kyoto University) and Catherine Wheatley (King’s College London), and there will be discussions that contextualise the films such as THE SHIFTING SPACES OF MODERN JAPANESE CINEMA on 2 Decemberand PHILOSOPHICAL SCREENS: TAMPOPO on 13 December. There will also be a preview of Ryūsuke Hamaguchi’s WHEEL OF FORTUNE AND FANTASY (2021) on 29 DecemberBFI IMAX screenings of SEVEN SAMURAI (Akira Kurosawa, 1954), AKIRA (Katsuhiro Ōtomo, 1988) and BATTLE ROYALE (Kinji Fukasaku, 2000), and a series of films programmed by feminist film journal Another Gaze, who select some of the most original films from the expansive landscape of film and video made by Japanese women.


A celebration of one of the most intriguing voices in post-war British cinema in his centenary year. For a director of his calibre, JACK CLAYTON left behind a tantalisingly short filmography. The films he did make, however, rank as some of the most distinctive produced for the cinema, assembled with meticulous care in collaboration with luminaries such as Harold Pinter, Truman Capote and Francis Ford Coppola. While THE INNOCENTS (1961) and ROOM AT THE TOP (1959) are rightly celebrated as landmarks in British filmmaking, later features such as THE PUMPKIN EATER (1964), OUR MOTHER’S HOUSE (1967), THE GREAT GATSBY (1974) and THE LONELY PASSION OF JUDITH HEARNE (1987) deserve equal consideration for their craft and creativity, showcasing Clayton’s unique ability for directing children and eliciting career-defining performances from his leading women. We will show all eight of Clayton’s features, including his playfully mordant TV film MEMENTO MORI (1992), with the season kicking off on 8 December with a THE PASSIONS OF JACK CLAYTON, in which an expert panel will consider Clayton’s craftsmanship, recurring thematic preoccupations, interest in literary adaptations, and unforgettable female characters. Accompanying the season there will also be a free exhibition, JACK CLAYTON: IN THE DETAILS, in the Mezzanine Gallery opening on 3 December. Clayton was renowned for the extraordinarily detailed preparation he undertook while making each of his films. This exhibition draws from the extensive collection held by the BFI National Archive of Clayton’s scripts, stills, posters and letters to key collaborators to offer a fascinating window into a creative process that produced some of the most distinctive films in all British cinema history.


Only at BFI Southbank can audiences enjoy a season of archive television that boasts such rarely seen and bafflingly brilliant and idiosyncratic footage as the work screening in THE PRECIOUS THINGS. While certain sections of the TV archives are healthily exploited (repeated on terrestrial TV, available on streaming channels and released on DVD and Blu-ray), there is a huge amount of footage that rarely sees the light of day – this small but perfectly-formed season allows us to unearth some of those precious things. Screening on 11 DecemberAN EVENING WITH VINCENT PRICE: VINCENT PRICE IS IN THE COUNTRY (ITV, 1971) sees Vincent Price reminiscing about his career in films and on Broadway, while on a weekend in the country with celebrity friends. A strange, shambolic and delightful oddity held together by Price’s effortless charm and game-for-anything attitude, this is an unmissable treat for Price fans. It will screen alongside ASPEL AND COMPANY (ITV, 1984) in which Michael Aspel interviews Vincent Price, Lulu and Dudley Moore. The BFI National Archive is peppered with music performances and interviews from a range of shows; a bespoke compilation 1970s ODD POP AND RARE ROCK, screening on 11 December, gathers together a potpourri of pop and rock performances including appearances from David Cassidy, ELO, Slade, Bee Gees, Lulu, The Kinks, Ian Drury and many more. 

On 17 December, the season will pay tribute to the late Neil Innes and Terry Jones with screenings of EAST OF THE MOON (1988), which they made for Channel 4. They combined their talents to create a strange and atmospheric entertainment for young minds, based on Jones’ fairy tales as interpreted by Innes. Also screening will be an edition of Neil Innes’ musical miscellany THE INNES BOOK OF RECORDS (BBC, 1979). Completing the line-up will be some CHRISTMAS SPECIALS OF YESTERYEAR on 18 December; a Christmas episode of MAGPIE (ITV, 1977) sees Santa Claus go missing and Sherlock Holmes is called in to find him, while MAX HEADROOM’S GIANT CHRISTMAS TURKEY (Channel 4, 1986) is a brilliantly bizarre Christmas special featuring Tina Turner and Robin Williams. 


BFI Southbank’s regular programme strands have something for everyone – whether audiences are into silent treasures, horror cinema, experimental works or want to bring the kids to family-friendly fun. This month’s RELAXED SCREENING on 14 December is THE BLACK BALLOON (Elissa Down, 2008) about the Mollison family, whose oldest son Luke is an autistic teenager; the film, which stars Toni Collette, Luke Ford, Rhys Wakefield and Gemma Ward is presented for those in the neuro-diverse community and their carers and assistants. BFI AFRICAN ODYSSEYS will present a screening of documentary BILLY BANG LUCKY MAN (Markus Hansen, Jean-Marie Boulet, 2008) on 11 December.  The film follows acclaimed musician Billy Bang, who was conscripted to fight in the Vietnam War in 1967 and experienced a psychological breakdown on his return to the US. Now, forty years on, he decides that the only way to repair the past and resolve his trauma is to return to Vietnam – this time accompanied by his violin. The screening will be introduced by author Kevin Le Genre, and followed by a Q&A with directors Markus Hansen and Jean-Marie Boulet. This month’s TERROR VISION screening is Jerzy Skolimowski’s surrealist sonic horror opus THE SHOUT (1978), our SILENT CINEMA selection is early Western THE VIRGINIAN (Tom Forman, 1923) and BFI FAMILIES screenings include FROZEN (Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, 2013) and THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL (Brian Henson, 1992). 


New releases on extended run will include a brilliant and refreshing story of UK post-punk dyke culture, told by those who lived it, REBEL DYKES (Harri Shanahan, Siân A Williams, 2021), which will be released in cinemas UK-wide by the BFI from 26 November. A heady mash-up of animation, archive footage and interviews, it tells the story of a radical scene including squatters; BDSM nightclubs; anti-Thatcher rallies; protests demanding action around AIDS, and the fierce ties of chosen family. Céline Sciamma returns to her roots with another beautifully crafted coming-of-age story PETITE MAMAN (2021), on extended run from 26 November. The film follows eight-year-old Nelly, who is taken by her parents to help pack up her recently deceased grandmother’s house; Sciamma evokes great tenderness and draws out astonishing performances from her young actors to create a magical, delicate fairy-tale of a film.


  • Natalia Romanova

    TMINE's publisher and Official Movie Reviewer in Residence. I've written for numerous magazines, including Death Ray and Filmstar, and I've been a contributor to TMINE since I was at university and first discovered I really wanted to write about movies, oh so many years ago. Sob.