BFI: Two New Press Releases

BFIWednesday 22 February 2023, London.

The BFI today announces the full programme for the 2023 edition of BUSTING THE BIAS, a celebration of Disabled talent, disability storytelling and a call for better inclusive practices within the film industry. Taking place at BFI Southbank from 3 – 5 March, the weekend’s events will include a series of screenings, talks, and presentations prompting conversations around the current state of access and inclusion in the film industry, as well as issues such as authentic representation on both sides of the camera, access and inclusion for Disabled professionals working in film, and access within film exhibition. Tickets are on sale now for just £5 per event, while numerous short films will also be available to watch free on BFI Player. All screenings will be presented with descriptive subtitles for the D/deaf and people experiencing hearing loss, with audio description also available, as well as live- captioning and BSL-English interpretation for introductions and talks.

BFI: Two New Press Releases

BUSTING THE BIAS will open on Friday 3 March with an evening celebrating Disability visibility and filmmaking. In an opening keynote speech, Kyla Harris, who takes over as chair of the BFI’s Disability Screen Advisory Group (DSAG) later this year, will talk about the future aims and ambitions of the group and her vision for creating intersectional approaches to Disability alliance. This will be followed by an illustrated talk with filmmaker Ella Glendining, whose debut feature IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE? (2023) has just premiered at Sundance Film Festival and will be released at a later date. Born with a disability so rare that no reliable statistics for it exist, in her film, Glendining wonders if there is anyone who can share the experience of living in a body like hers. This simple question, one which non- disabled people so often take for granted, leads to a journey to not only others who live like her, but to the realisation that meeting them changes how she sees herself in the world, as well as many surprises

on this journey. This exciting talk will shine a light on the themes explored within this documentary and Ella’s experience as a disabled filmmaker.

Closing the session will be ECLECTIC, a specially shorts programme curated by deafblind access consultant Charlie Little, exploring a range of genres and Disability storytelling. Titles screening will be IMAGINATION (Jemima Hughes, 2016), MY EYES ARE UP HERE (Nathan Morris, 2022), CALL US CRIPTIC
(Kyla Harris, Ella Glendining, Jessi Gutch, 2020), LOUDER IS NOT ALWAYS CLEARER (Jonny Cotsen, 2021) and VERISIMILITUDE (David Proud, 2020). All the films in the shorts programme will also be available to view free on BFI Player for UK-wide audiences from 3 March, with a pre-recorded Q&A with the filmmakers available to watch on BFI YouTube.

Events taking place at BFI Southbank on 4 March will include REIMAGINED CINEMA, an immersive workshop in the BFI Reuben Library with guest speakers presenting and demonstrating innovative uses of technology which can help audiences with access needs to experience film in cinemas. Also taking place in the BFI Reuben Library will be a Relaxed Screening of SHY RADICALS (Tom Dream, 2020), the story behind award-winning artist, activist and author Hamja Ahsan’s book and satirical manifesto which calls for shy, quiet, and introverted people to unify and overthrow Extrovert-Supremacy. Hamja Ahsan will be in conversation about his book and the documentary after the screening.

The final day of BUSTING THE BIAS will kick off with NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US, a celebration of the BFI’s Disability Screen Advisory Group’s first cohort of leaders: Andrew Miller, David Proud and Kim Tserkezie who will shortly step down after 5 years in post. Hosted by ITV Creative Diversity Partner Samantha Tatlow, these disabled screen pioneers will reflect on the highlights of their own careers in film and TV, as well as the advisory group’s innovative and influential work at the BFI; from the Press Reset campaign to the creation of the world’s first Disability and Visible Difference Panel.

The weekend will end with a screening of the ground-breaking documentary I DIDN’T SEE YOU THERE (Reid Davenport, 2023), followed by a pre-recorded Q&A with the director of the film, Reid Davenport, hosted by BFI Disability Equality Lead Clare Baines. Shot entirely from the Davenport’s perspective, from his wheelchair and his two feet, this film explores the legacy of the Freak Show when a circus comes to town and confronts societal perspectives around Disability in an intimate and thought- provoking way.

Andrew Miller MBE, outgoing Chair of the BFI Disability Screen Advisory Group, said, “I’m immensely proud of all the progress on access and inclusion that our Group has achieved since 2018 that will help ensure the next generation of disabled talent do not face the same barriers so many of us have experienced in our screen careers. I’d like to thank all the brilliant disabled creatives who have contributed to this work over the last five years and everyone at the BFI for facilitating our journey. But there is much more to do and I wish my successor Kyla Harris strength to achieve even greater equity for disabled people in the UK film industry.”

Mel Hoyes, Head of Inclusion at the BFI, said: “At the BFI, in partnership with our Disability Screen Advisory Group, we work to address barriers for disabled talent and audiences alike. As part of that, Busting the Bias has become a valued annual fixture in our calendar and we’re excited to again showcase Disabled talent at the BFI Southbank. We’re hoping to continue important discourse around access to the industry as well as cultivating an engaged audience looking for authentically representative stories.”

Clare Baines, the BFI’s Disability Equality Lead, added: “Busting the Bias is an access-first intersectional celebration bursting with authentic representation. It has been incredibly fulfilling to curate this thought provoking programme alongside access consultant Charlie Little.”

Busting the Bias launched in 2017 to call on industry to improve access for Disabled talent and for content creators to stop comprising on authentic on-screen representation of Disabled people. Becoming a public event for the first time in 2021, Busting the Bias continues with this core mission, while celebrating and showcasing work created by Disabled talent to audiences.

23 February 2023, London.

The BFI today announces the complete programme for All That Sass, a new season celebrating the career of Ginger Rogers with screenings and special events taking place from 27 March – 30 April. Highlights will include the BFI Distribution re-release of TOP HAT (Mark Sandrich, 1935), along with screenings of other classic musicals including THE BARKLEYS OF BROADWAY (Charles Walters, 1949) and GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 (Mervyn LeRoy, 1933). The season will also shine a light on Rogers’ plethora of comedic roles such as MONKEY BUSINESS (Howard Hawks, 1952), ROXIE HART (William
A. Wellman, 1942) and Billy Wilder’s debut picture THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR (Billy Wilder, 1942), as well as her dramatic turns which include STORM WARNING (Stuart Heisler, 1951), BLACK WIDOW (Nunnally Johnson, 1954) and her Academy-Award winning role in KITTY FOYLE: THE NATURAL HISTORY OF A WOMAN (Sam Wood, 1940).

BFI: Two New Press Releases

The season will include a number of special events and talks to introduce audiences to Rogers’ long and storied career. On 30 March a season introduction, Backwards and in High Heels, will explore the widely ranging roles that Ginger Rogers played with speakers Lucy Bolton, Pamela Hutchinson and David Benedict, covering comedies, musicals and dramas while delving into her legacy and unique star persona. On 8 April we celebrate Fred & Ginger Day, with an illustrated talk on the magic of Fred and Ginger by Miles Eady, film writer and curator, alongside screenings of SHALL WE DANCE (Mark Sandrich, 1937), TOP HAT (Mark Sandrich, 1935) and THE BARKLEYS OF BROADWAY (Charles Walters, 1949) – a joint ticket for all three films will be available. Writer and film critic Pamela Hutchinson will present a free Introduction to Ginger Rogers for members of our 25 & Under scheme on 12 April, examining the star’s impact beyond her success, and City Lit at the BFI:
Ginger Rogers and All That Sass, a four-week course accompanying the season, will also explore the life and films of this great actor – who sometimes played a great dancer.

Although she became a star through her celebrated dance partnership with Fred Astaire, no other woman in Hollywood moved between musical, comedic and dramatic roles with so much ease, or while playing each so convincingly. Learning her craft in a string of early shorts and B-movies, Rogers wasn’t afraid of hard work and excelled in portraying strong, unbreakable women. These were characteristics ingrained within herself and most certainly inherited from her fiercely independent mother – a significant presence in her career. Programmed by the BFI’s Heather Osborn, Ginger Rogers: All That Sass aims to celebrate Rogers’ stage presence, sass, and the mischievous, deft comic-timing which was present in every one of her movies.

Discovered on Broadway by George Gershwin, Ginger Rogers became an overnight star at 19 but 1933 was the year her life and career changed forever. The critically acclaimed GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 (Mervyn LeRoy, 1933), a Depression-era tale of four enterprising showgirls, brims with sparkling droll humour and pre-Code titillation. Busby Berkeley surpasses himself with surreal, elaborately staged musical numbers, and Rogers opens the movie singing We’re in the Money.

A BFI re-release, TOP HAT (Mark Sandrich, 1935) will play at BFI Southbank in April, as well as screening at selected cinemas UK-wide. This fun mistaken-identity tale is enhanced by lavish Art Deco sets, a wonderfully eccentric supporting cast and a score written especially for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers by Irving Berlin. Their dancing is sheer perfection and numbers include Top Hat, White Tie and Tails and the sublime Cheek to Cheek – arguably the most romantic dance sequence ever filmed. Two other Fred and Ginger classics are also included in the season. In SHALL WE DANCE (Mark Sandrich, 1937), Astaire plays a phoney Russian ballet dancer who falls for Rogers’ flashy revue entertainer. This joyful film is brimming with new songs from George and Ira Gershwin, all of which went on to become Great American Songbook standards. Astaire and Rogers were reunited at MGM some ten years after their run at RKO with THE BARKLEYS OF BROADWAY (Charles Walters, 1949), and their chemistry is as magical as ever. Rogers plays an entertainer yearning to become a dramatic actress, giving the star a perfect platform to send herself up – aided by a sizzling script from another exemplary Hollywood duo, Comden and Green. On 8 April we celebrate Fred & Ginger Day, with an illustrated talk on the magic of Fred and Ginger by Miles Eady, film writer and curator, alongside screenings of all three films – with a joint ticket available.

While best remembered as a dancer, Ginger Rogers only made a handful of musicals compared to the dozens of comedies and dramas in which she starred. STAGE DOOR (Gregory La Cava, 1936) is a classic, female-led tragicomedy, chock full of sizzling wise cracks and zippy dialogue. Katharine Hepburn instantly revived her flagging career playing a rich girl in love with the theatre opposite a pseudo-tough Rogers. In the delicious romantic comedy VIVACIOUS LADY (George Stevens, 1938), James Stewart plays a winsome professor who impulsively marries Rogers’ nightclub singer, but
chaos ensues when he takes her home to his parents – leading to a hilarious no-holds-barred brawl between Rogers and Frances Mercer. Once again proving herself one of the screen’s most knowing comediennes, in BACHELOR MOTHER (Garson Kanin, 1939) Rogers plays a seasonal department store worker who is presumed to be the mother of an abandoned baby that she finds. Store owner David Niven falls for her, much to the delight of his father who has always wanted a grandchild.

Based on Maurine Dallas Watkins’ 1926 play Chicago, ROXIE HART (William A. Wellman, 1942) is the tale of a show girl who confesses to murder purely for the publicity. Later a smash-hit Kander and Ebb musical, this staccato-paced comedy version stars a streetwise Rogers, who even throws in a couple of dance routines from behind bars. Billy Wilder’s exuberant directorial debut THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR (Billy Wilder, 1942) was one of Rogers’ favourites, and features a lovely cameo from her real mother, Lela. Rogers masquerades as a child to ride the train home half-fare and a kindly Major, who is more than a little slow on the uptake, takes her under his wing. In MONKEY BUSINESS (Howard Hawks, 1952), Cary Grant and Rogers play a chemist and wife who accidentally drink a youth elixir concocted by the laboratory chimpanzee. What initially appears to be a mid-life crisis vehicle for Grant soon transforms into a riotous slapstick, skilfully played out by the two leads, and a breathy Marilyn Monroe, which demands to be seen with an audience.

Censored in some US states when it was released, PRIMROSE PATH (Gregory La Cava, 1940) was Rogers’ first serious role. She plays Ellie, a sweet-natured woman so deeply ashamed of her sex worker mother and alcoholic father that she keeps them from her boyfriend, with disastrous consequences. Rogers triumphantly proved her acting chops with slow-burn feminist drama KITTY FOYLE: THE NATURAL HISTORY OF A WOMAN (Sam Wood, 1940), for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress, beating Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn and Joan Fontaine with her flawless performance as an office worker who for falls for a high society man. LADY IN THE DARK (Mitchell Leisen, 1944) is an enjoyable drama, based on the Moss Hart play, which stars Rogers in her first Technicolor production as a troubled magazine editor on the edge of a breakdown – one of Hollywood’s few early attempts at giving credibility to psychoanalysis.

One of Rogers’ strongest roles is in STORM WARNING (Stuart Heisler, 1951), a frighteningly tense and atmospheric anti-Klan thriller made on the cusp of an increasing conservatism in 1950s America. Starring opposite Doris Day, this powerful drama strongly emphasises their terrifying grip on small- town communities. Melodramatic film noir BLACK WIDOW (Nunnally Johnson, 1954), shot with impressive early CinemaScope photography, stars Van Heflin as a theatrical producer and Rogers as a flamboyant Broadway star who both become murder suspects following the death of a young writer. Rogers could always express so much with the raise of an eyebrow or two, and those eyebrows work overtime in this classy murder mystery.

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