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BFI Film on Film Festival – Top Highlights Not To Be Missed

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Courtesy of BFI

BFI is bringing real film back to the big screen this summer, this time in the form of a festival celebrating film solely on celluloid. Just like listening to music on vinyl, watching film projected offers an entirely different look, sound and emotional impact. The festival was designed to create a unique cinema experience enabling the audience to enjoy film in all its glory.

The festival will screen under appreciated titles and popular classics from all formats including 16mm, 35mm, 70mm, Super 8 and rare nitrate prints. All films will have been preserved and selected from the .

Courtesy of BFI

This festival is for the cinephiles and the young filmgoers alike, all you who wish to revisit classics and discover something entirely new.

The festival will open on 8th June with an original nitrate print of Michael Curtiz's 1945 film noir classic, . Accompanying the feature will be the world premiere of the newly commissioned short, from BAFTA award winning filmmaker (Bait, Enys Man). And to close the festival on 11th June will be the pristine original release Technicolor dye-transfer print of the original summer blockbuster from 1975, Steven Spielberg's Jaws.

As there will be plenty of events and films to choose from, Filmhounds was able to get the top recommendations directly from Senior Curator for Fiction for the BFI National Archive, James Bell. Here he generously laid out his highlights for the festival, all events are not to be missed!

  1. Nitrate –

A completely unique part of the festival will be the chance to see nitrate film prints projected. Before the 1950s, every single 35mm film print was made from a cellulose nitrate base, which gave the image an outstanding luminosity and richness, with deep inky blacks and colour that looks like it's been projected onto velvet. But nitrate is also highly flammable – if you've seen the finale of Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds (2009), you'll know just how combustible it can be. Nitrate was phased out in favour of new ‘safety' film stocks in the early 1950s, so the chance to see an original nitrate print is now an extremely rare experience. In fact, the BFI Southbank is the only cinema in Britain licensed to show them, and even there, it hasn't been done for well over a decade. Among the four nitrate prints we're screening, is one we believe to be the oldest piece of film even projected to a UK audience – an original print of the witty 1931 feature Service for Ladies, by the great Hungarian emigré filmmaker Alexander Korda. Absolutely not to be missed – and don't worry about any fire risks! All precautions have been taken by the expert BFI Southbank team to make sure the screening is safe.

  1. 70mm – Far and Away

Everything in the festival is projected on film, but not all film is equal, and we're showcasing the full range of gauges ­– from 8mm and 9.5mm, all the way up to 70mm. 70mm film stock has a negative area nearly three and a half times that of standard 35mm film, meaning it gives far higher resolution. It was historically associated with the grandest of big screen epics – think David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia. We're screening a pristine 70mm print of Ron Howard's 1992 Irish immigration epic Far and Away, which was the last 70mm Hollywood production until Paul Thomas Anderson revived the format with his film The Master in 2012. Starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, it has one foot in the epics of old, and another in the popular Hollywood cinema of the early 1990s, and is ripe-for-reassessment.

Service for Ladies
Courtesy of BFI
  1. 16mm – Happening

This year marks the centenary of the invention of the 16mm film stock, which democratised who could project, exhibit and make films. The festival is marking the occasion with three different day-long programmes, one of which explores how 16mm has been vital for the work of artist filmmakers. Closing out the day is the ‘Experimenta Mixtape 16mm Happening', which includes a very special screening – for the first time ever to a public audience – of the exact same psychedelic projections made for the ‘Witches Sabbath' loft party scene in John Schlesinger's 1969 New York-set countercultural classic Midnight Cowboy. Expect a head-trip sound and vision experience, all soundtracked live by the ambient noise quartet The Begotten.

  1. Documentary – Sound and Vision

The festival showcases films from across the BFI National Archive's collections, not least from its vast holdings of documentaries. This fascinating programme brings together nine classic examples of what we're calling ‘the visual documentary' – these are all short films free of any dialogue and narration, comprising just compelling, enveloping images, set to music and ambient sound, and challenging all the usual assumptions of what the documentary film is and can be.

Courtesy of BFI
  1. New 35mm print – In the Mood for Love

At the BFI, we want to make the option of seeing films on film an ongoing one, so as well as screening vintage prints from our archive, we've also invested in making a number of brand new 35mm prints of classic films from the full breadth of film history, with support from the National Lottery and others. We're premiering eight of these new prints at the Film on Film Festival, and among them is a magnificent new 35mm print of Wong Kar Wai's modern masterpiece about a frustrated love affair in 1950s Hong Kong. Even if you know the film, it simply has to be seen on the big screen on film, and should be a truly swoon-inducing experience.


Festival is at BFI Southbank from 8-11 June – tickets are available now