August at BFI Southbank – celebrating Bette Davis, Earl Cameron and Ennio Morricone

This summer BFI Southbank will celebrate the fearless Hollywood icon BETTE DAVIS, a performer who fought the Hollywood system and consistently succeeded by breaking the rules, with a major season taking place throughout August.

The season will include 19 of Davis’ best-loved films, from early successes such as JEZEBEL (William Wyler, 1938) to the iconic ALL ABOUT EVE (Joseph L Mankiewicz, 1950) and latter career hit WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (Robert Aldrich, 1962).

The season will also include a BFI re-release of one of the undisputed classics of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Irving Rapper’s romantic drama NOW, VOYAGER (1942), in selected cinemas UK-wide from 6 August. Also in August, we pay tribute to actor EARL CAMERON, who passed away in July 2020 at the age of 102.

One of the first black actors to break through in the British film and TV industry with the critically acclaimed POOL OF LONDON (Basil Dearden, 1950), the season, programmed by actor, broadcaster and director Burt Caesar, will reflect on Cameron’s incredible seven decades of TV and film performances with screenings and contextual events.

BFI Southbank’s ENNIO MORRICONE season (previously curtailed by the pandemic) is also back by popular demand throughout August, celebrating the iconic composer with screening of films such as Sergio Leone’s DOLLARS TRILOGY (1964, 1965, 1966), THEOREM (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1968), THE THING (John Carpenter, 1982), CINEMA PARADISO (Giuseppe Tornatore, 1988), TIE ME UP! TIE ME DOWN! (Pedro Almodóvar, 1990) and many more.

Ahead of its BFI UK-wide release on 27 August (when it will also play on extended run at BFI Southbank), there will be a Woman with a Movie Camera powered by Jaguar preview of SOUAD (Ayten Amin, 2021). A pre-recorded Q&A with director Ayten Amin will follow the preview of this engrossing portrait of Middle Eastern ‘Generation Z’ and conflicting identities.

SOUAD will also be the centrepiece in, THE TIME IS NEW: SELECTIONS FROM CONTEMPORARY ARAB CINEMA, a new season taking place at BFI Southbank in September. Curated by Cairo-based Zawya, Egypt’s leading arthouse cinema and distributor, the season will introduce new works and important Arab filmmaker voices to the UK, including a large number of female directors. Zawya’s Youssef Shazli and Alia Ayman are programming films that show the lyricism, humanity and poetry of everyday Arab life; more details of this season will be announced soon.

Other special events during August include a preview of Edgar Wright’s THE SPARKS BROTHERS (2021), on 3 August, followed by a Q&A with the director; Wright refrains from the usual tropes of the biopic and instead takes us through a fascinating journey chronicling the irreverent world of Sparks, a duo whose influence has been felt across several generations of artists. Also previewing on 9 August is I’M YOUR MAN (2021), followed by a pre-recorded Q&A with director Maria Schrader; this playful and refreshing take on the AI love story is joyfully funny, with marvellous chemistry between its lead actors. August will also see the return of S.O.U.L FEST, with a special hybrid experience once again celebrating Black film talent on both sides of the camera.

The BFI & RADIO TIMES TELEVISION FESTIVAL present two special previews in August – THE NORTH WATER (BBC/SeeSaw Films, 2021) and VIGIL (BBC/World Productions, 2021). Based on the critically acclaimed novel by Ian McGuire, and starring Colin Farrell and Jack O’Connor, THE NORTH WATER is set in Hull and amid the ice floes of the Arctic in the late 1850s. It tells the story of a disgraced ex-army surgeon who signs up as ship’s doctor on a whaling expedition, but soon finds himself on a struggle for survival in the Arctic wasteland.

The preview on 4 August will be followed by a Q&A with director Andrew Haigh (WEEKEND) and members of the cast. From the producers of Line of Duty VIGIL is a high-octane thriller starring Suranne Jones as a detective leading an investigation on land and at sea, which delves into a conspiracy that goes to the very heart of Britain’s national security. The preview on 23 August will be followed by a Q&A with members of the cast and crew to be announced soon.


Health and safety measures including social distancing and the wearing of face coverings will continue until government guidance advises otherwise. Full details of all measures in place to protect visitors and staff are available on the BFI website.


Throughout August BFI Southbank will celebrate the legendary BETTE DAVIS, one of the most fearless and powerful women to come through the Hollywood studio system. As a contract player for Warner Brothers, Davis long-battled for the respect she was due from the studio, eventually suing them, claiming “I knew that, if I continued to appear in any more mediocre pictures, I would have no career left worth fighting for”.

Following the court case (which Davis lost) Warners finally began to offer her roles more suited to her talent, and she was soon starring in films like JEZEBEL (William Wyler, 1938), for which she won an Oscar (she would go on to become the first person to secure 10 Academy Award nominations for acting) and THE LITTLE FOXES (William Wyler, 1941), as the malevolent Southern aristocrat Regina Giddens.

After a career lull in her fifties Davis later fearlessly re-invented herself with garish and unsympathetic roles in films like HUSH… HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE (Robert Aldrich, 1964) and WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (Robert Aldrich, 1962), the latter of which inspired the recent TV drama FEUD (2017) about the much talked about rivalry between Davis and her co-star Joan Crawford. The season will include a BFI re-release of NOW, VOYAGER (Irving Rapper, 1942), back in selected cinemas UK-wide from 6 August and will kick off with ALL ABOUT BETTE DAVIS on 5 August, a richly illustrated and insightful discussion that explores Bette Davis’ extraordinary career, including her acting style, the key aspects of her star persona, and the films and performances that established her as a leading Hollywood actor.

BFI Southbank will chart the trajectory of EARL CAMERON’S unique film and TV career throughout August. Programmed by actor, broadcaster and director Burt Caesar, the season is a tribute to the actor, who passed away in July 2020 at the age of 102, after seven decades of memorable on screen performances. One of the first black actors to break through in the British film and TV industry with the critically acclaimed POOL OF LONDON (Basil Dearden, 1950), Cameron was a luminous, naturalistic presence.

The season will begin on 1 August with CELEBRATING BRITAIN’S FIRST BLACK SCREEN STAR, in which Burt Caesar will present an illustrated overview of the career of this modest pioneer. This will be followed by a panel discussion featuring guests such as Esther Anderson, Carmen Monroe and Baroness Lola Young, who will consider Earl Cameron’s skill, achievement and legacy. In addition to screenings of POOL OF LONDON, other titles in the season will include FLAME IN THE STREETS (Roy Ward Baker, 1961), A WARM DECEMBER (Sidney Poitier, 1973), TWO GENTLEMEN SHARING (Ted Kotcheff, 1969), THE CHOCOLATE TREE (Armchair Theatre, ITV 1963) and THUNDER ON SYCAMORE STREET (Television Playhouse, ITV 1957). A screening of SAPPHIRE (Basil Dearden, 1959) will be contextualised by a talk from writers and historians who will attempt to unpick both the context of the story, issues such as ‘passing’ and the film’s problematic portrayal of race.

Originally scheduled for October/November 2020, but curtailed due to the second lockdown, BFI Southbank will bring back the extremely popular ENNIO MORRICONE season in August. While it would impossible to reflect the astonishing range of Morricone’s work (some 450-500 scores) in a month-long season, this programme of 17 films, which will run throughout August, will seek to show audiences that Morricone’s career was far from confined to the Western, the genre he is most frequently associated with.

The season will begin with a special panel discussion THE SOUNDS OF ENNIO MORRICONE on 2 August – through clips and lively conversation we’ll explore how Morricone approached film scoring, brought experimentation to his most memorable compositions, worked with directors across various genres, and influenced the next generation of film composers. Films screening in the season will include THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (Sergio Leone, 1966), THE THING (John Carpenter, 1982), DAYS OF HEAVEN (Terrence Malick, 1978), THE UNTOUCHABLES (Brian De Palma, 1988), CINEMA PARADISO (Giuseppe Tornatore, 1988) and many more.


In addition to the previously mentioned BFI releases of SOUAD (Ayten Amin, 2021) and NOW, VOYAGER (Irving Rapper, 1942), both of which will play on extended run, there will be runs of Prano Bailey-Bond’s CENSOR (2020), which was developed and produced with the support of the BFI, using funds from the National Lottery. This sensational debut feature is set in the mid-1980s, at the height of the ‘video nasty’ hysteria and focuses on a young woman working for the censorship board who assesses a film that shares disturbingly similar details with her sister’s real-life disappearance.

Also screening is Ben Sharrock’s assured second feature LIMBO (2020), also developed and produced with the support of the BFI, about a Syrian musician waiting out his asylum request on a remote Scottish island. This poignant deadpan comedy stars rising star Amir El-Masry as Omar, one of four men in this ‘limbo’ together, who bond over the shared strangeness of their situation and the distance from their homes and families.

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BOY IN THE WORLD (Kristina Lindström, 2021) is a sensitive documentary exploring how the highs and lows of fame at a young age have resonated throughout the life of Björn Andrésen, who was thrust into the limelight at the age of 16 with the release of Luchino Visconti’s Death in Venice, and who recently returned to acting in Midsommar.

There will also be screenings of THE STORY OF A THREE DAY PASS (1968), Melvin Van Peebles’ first feature, based on his own novel, which follows Turner, a Black American soldier stationed in France who is granted a three-day pass of leave and travels to Paris, where he meets and falls for a white woman. Their romance throws up some of the casual and contradictory views on race found in the French capital at the time and Van Peebles deals with them head on and playfully, but with an element of subversion.

With a look inspired by the French New Wave, this rarely seen film is just waiting to be celebrated by a new generation in its new 4K restoration; presented as part of Cinema Rediscovered on Tour, a Watershed project with support from the BFI awarding funds from The National Lottery.


Partner festivals in August includes the third annual S.O.U.L FEST, which returns to BFI Southbank for a special hybrid experience, once again celebrating Black film talent on both sides of the camera. Expect exclusive film previews, a selection of shorts that will be hosted on BFI Player, and a programme of masterclasses, panel discussions and practical sessions to support emerging talent – with partners including BBC Films and Sony Pictures. This year’s S.O.U.L Fest will also feature an awards ceremony to recognise some of the most exciting Black creative talent working in the UK today. More details will be announced soon.


BFI Southbank’s ongoing BIG SCREEN CLASSICS series, where we screen essential titles on a daily basis for just £8, will spotlight different kinds of TOGETHERNESS throughout August. Supportive alliances with others – be they lovers, friends, family members, teammates, colleagues or complete strangers – can bring happiness, consolation, empowerment or protection. Screenings will include A FAREWELL TO ARMS (Frank Borzage, 1932), BRIGHT STAR (Jane Campion, 2009), ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS (Howard Hawks, 1939), LES DEMOISELLES DE ROCHEFORT (Jacques Demy, 1967), THE NEW WORLD (Terrence Malick, 2005), BOYZ N THE HOOD (John Singleton, 1991) and more. In addition to our £8 ticket offer for BIG SCREEN CLASSICS, audience members aged 25 and under are able to buy tickets for BFI Southbank screenings, in advance or on the day, for just £3, through our ongoing ticket scheme for young audiences.

Email AlertPlease enter your email address if you would like to receive alerts from Screen Innovation on new stories