Article: FAN to support exhibitors across the UK to take part in a major new BFI programme celebrating the cinema of Powell and Pressburger 

Woman in a shadowy hallway holds a dancelike pose. She wears a white dress and red ballet pumps.

FAN to support exhibitors across the UK to take part in a major new BFI programme celebrating the cinema of Powell and Pressburger.

FAN is proud to partner with BFI on a new UK-wide programme titled CINEMA UNBOUND: THE CREATIVE WORLDS OF POWELL AND PRESSBURGER, celebrating one of the greatest and most enduring filmmaking partnerships: Michael Powell (1905-1990) and Emeric Pressburger (1902-1988). 

Bold, subversive and iconoclastic, challenging and changing the visual language of film, their passionate collaborative artistic vision, spanning 24 films together between 1939 and 1972, is a vital part of the fabric of British cinema history, and a continued inspiration to filmmakers and creatives worldwide.  

Together they created some of the richest and most memorable films in the story of cinema, including The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), I Know Where I’m Going! (1945), A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Black Narcissus (1947) and The Red Shoes (1948).  

Startlingly innovative, Powell and Pressburger’s work continues to inspire creatives from Martin Scorsese (who will narrate and executive produce a forthcoming feature documentary about the pair’s work), Guillermo del Toro and Joanna Hogg to Bong Joon-Ho, Tilda Swinton and Derek Jarman. Key films in the season offer accessible entry points for fans of fantasy (A Matter of Life and Death) and horror (Peeping Tom), while their wider filmography has influenced broader cross-arts and popular culture including design, dance, opera and fashion; from Kate Bush and Matthew Bourne to The Simpsons to Manolo Blahnik allowing for many more entry points into their work.

Startling, subversive, headily romantic worlds…  

Taking place this Autumn (16 Oct – 31 Dec 2023) at BFI Southbank and across the UK, CINEMA UNBOUND is led by BFI National Archive Head Curator Robin Baker (who was the architect behind BFI Musicals) and expert teams from across the BFI. This will be backed by an extensive UK wide PR and marketing campaign.  

“Powell and Pressburger created films that changed the possibilities of what cinema could be. Way ahead of their time, it’s no surprise that their startling, subversive, headily romantic worlds resonate so deeply with contemporary audiences and creatives. Back on the big screen – exactly where they belong – these are films that take your breath away.” Robin Baker, BFI National Archive Head Curator  

There will be a major BFI National Archive restoration and conservation focus, BFI Distribution re-releases, opportunities for place-specific activity as part of a UK-wide cinema programme presented in collaboration with the BFI Film Audience Network, a major retrospective of their work and exhibition marking the 75th anniversary of The Red Shoes at BFI Southbank, BFI Player VOD collection, two new books in partnership with Bloomsbury, The Cinema of Powell and Pressburger and a BFI Film Classic examining The Red Shoes and more.    

Exhibitor opportunity 

Powell and Pressburger demonstrate the power of cinema both as an artform and as a form of activism; what Britain stands for and topics such as female representation, sexuality, war and the refugee experience. Their films are infused with subversive ideas, iconic imagery and notions of queerness, shaping a British radical cinema style distinct from the dominant trend of social realism and melodrama. CINEMA UNBOUND is an opportunity for exhibitors across the UK to reconnect audiences and talent to the radical nature and visual ambition of that style.

2023 sees major anniversaries of the cinematic classics The Red Shoes (as well as the 30th anniversary of Kate Bush’s album of the same name) and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (as well as the 35th anniversary of the passing of Hungarian born Pressburger) and is the perfect opportunity for UK audiences to re-discover why Powell and Pressburger’s films were and continue to be so influential.   

BFI FAN members looking to screen from a menu of key titles and/or interested in developing bespoke activity can expect more information about funding opportunities through their regional Film Hubs within the next couple of months. This could be anything from region specific activity to expanded thematic programming diving deeper into their filmography or exploring their influence on more contemporary titles such as Orlando, The Souvenir, Soul and La La Land

Find out more about the BFI’s Powell and Pressburger season.

Impact Areas

Focus Areas