Film4 Summer Screen

An introduction to this year's Film4 Summer Screen

David Cox

Programmer, Film4 Summer Screen

16 May 2017

Sitting down and coming up with a list of fourteen or so films that I’d like to watch during the Summer should really be a relatively straightforward and enjoyable thing to do. Of course, the fact that I’m going to be sharing each of them with 2000 people adds a bit of pressure, but still…it’s just a short list and they’re only movies after all.

Turns out it’s a bit more complicated than that. This is the thirteenth year that I’ve programmed Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House and every year, without fail, I’m still agonising over final decisions and becoming obsessed with new favourites only weeks before we’re due to announce the programme. The general goal of the line-up is to bring together a line-up that reflects a variety of cinematic styles and eras, offers something for everyone and, where possible, feels connected to contemporary interests and concerns. Some of these objectives are, of course, a little broad and rather nebulous and not every film is going to fit that brief. However, that bigger picture is something that’s always in the back of our minds as we make endless lists, re-watch DVDs, swap ideas, agree to disagree about the merits of one another’s favourites and do whatever it takes to reduce a few pages of titles to the fortnight of films we now have before us.

From a practical programming perspective, this year’s line-up is a fairly typical mixture of films that we’ve been keen to show for awhile, films that suggested themselves only recently and three UK premieres – Opening Night, Centrepiece, Closing Night. We’re thrilled with our premieres this year, especially the exciting Summer Screen ‘first’ which finds us doing something we’ve not done before - kicking the season off with a documentary.

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power, image courtesy of Paramount
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power, image courtesy of Paramount

It’s not just any documentary though. An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is the follow-up to the Oscar-winning climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth; while it may not be everyone’s idea of a glitzy gala event, this is an urgent, inspiring and rousing look at one of the key issues of our time and very much worthy of such a prominent position. Add the fact that former US Vice President Al Gore, the tireless campaigner who made these films possible, will be joining us at Somerset House to introduce this UK premiere and we’re guaranteed a very memorable opening night. 

"an urgent, inspiring and rousing look at one of the key issues of our time..."

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power - Paramount Pictures

Following that, our next two premieres are no less essential. The Square sees the return of Swedish director Ruben Östlund after his international success with ski-trip satire Force Majeure - his new film’s UK premiere in our ‘Centrepiece’ slot on Wednesday 16 August comes hot on the heels of its grand unveiling at the Cannes Film Festival. Dark satire and wild surprises are assured, so don’t miss out on the chance to be amongst the first to see it. 

The Square, image courtsey of Curzon
The Square, image courtsey of Curzon

And our UK premiere on Closing Night introduces you to a character and a star who looks set to make quite an impact at Somerset House and beyond – the film is Sundance smash Patti Cake$ and the eponymous scene-stealer is played by Australian actor Danielle Macdonald. Danielle will be at Somerset House on Wednesday 23 August - giving you a chance to meet ‘Patti’ in person – and she’ll be joined by the fabulous cabaret star and comic actor Bridget Everett. The film is great – moving, funny and LOUD! –  and we’re expecting an entertainingly raucous Summer Screen wrap party.

Patti Cake$, image courtsey of Fox
Patti Cake$, image courtsey of Fox

Each year, one of the hardest parts of the task is having to ‘kill your darlings’ – getting rid of those titles that I start out desperate to show but, when all is said and done, either aren’t available or just don’t fit the bill for various reasons. Our programme for this summer includes a couple of films that have fallen by the wayside in the past but which have finally made it into the line-up – the 1976 horror hit The Omen, which we’ve tried and failed to get before due to poor quality materials, and John Boorman’s intense 1972 action-thriller Deliverance , which until now has always been squeezed out at the last minute. Both of those films are part of our two hugely popular double-bill evenings, with The Omen following on from Donnie Darko for a diabolical late-night treat on Saturday 12 August and Deliverance not giving your nerves a chance to settle after Jaws on Saturday 19 August. 

The Omen, Image courtesy of Park Circus
The Omen, Image courtesy of Park Circus
Donnie Darko 15th Anniversary Trailer
Jaws, image courtesy of Ronald Grant Archive
Jaws, image courtesy of Ronald Grant Archive
Deliverance Trailer

Films such as Cruel Intentions, The Philadelphia Story and In Bruges will be a joy to watch with a huge audience. Meanwhile the likes of Victoria (a one-of-a-kind, single-take thriller from Germany) and Moonlight (this year’s Best Picture Oscar winner) are relatively recent entries into the pantheon of classics (‘instant’ classics, in these instances). Moonlight, I predict, will prove one of the secret truths about our screenings, which is that the large space and audience actually works just as well (if not better) for smaller, more intimate films than large-scale spectaculars. Not to say that spectacle doesn’t have its place, but in the past such delicate dramas as Brokeback Mountain, Paris, Texas, and The Second Mother have done a great job of bringing the audience together and creating a hushed atmosphere which is quite magical.

Cruel Intentions Trailer

"Moonlight will prove one of the secret truths about our screenings... large space and audience actually works just as well (if not better) for smaller, more intimate films than large-scale spectaculars."

Moonlight, Image by David Bornfriend, courtesy of A24

This year also provides the opportunity to celebrate a significant cinematic anniversary, as Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni’s haunting London-set enigma Blow-Up celebrates its 50th birthday (the film actually premiered at the end of 1966 but wasn’t properly released until the year after). Despite being a film that’s very much of its era (it’s the quintessential ‘swinging ‘60s’ time capsule), Blow-Up has never lost its iconic status. The famous red poster has graced many a student’s wall and the ultimate meaning of its many mysteries has always proved elusive, with each new wave of fans finding fresh ways to view this endlessly fascinating work of art. 

"Blow-Up has never lost its iconic status." 

Blow-Up Trailer

Another film that feels perfectly suited to 2017 is All the President's Men from 1976, which deals with the Watergate investigation that led to the resignation of President Nixon. Dirty tricks and scandalous secrets in the White House are certainly on everyone’s mind this year, although the danger of screening a film that’s so timely is that news from Washington constantly threatens to make this compelling dramatic-thriller look almost naive by comparison. Whatever happens between now and August, the audience on Tuesday 15 August will be quick to pick up on the echoes of Trump-era America. 

All The President's Men Trailer

On a more personal note, this year has also given me the chance to rectify a terrible mistake that has long haunted me. In 2015 I introduced the Studio Ghibli animated adventure Princess Mononoke onstage and ‘promised’ (I don’t remember using that word!) that we’d show another Ghibli film My Neigbour Totoro ‘next year’. People in the crowd that night seemed to appreciate the news but I really didn’t think anything of it, promptly forgetting about it when the time came to programme the 2016 season. Inevitably, thousands of outraged fans (well, at least 3) demanded to know where the film was and so now, one year late but as adorable as ever, My Neigbour Totoro will grace the big-screen at Somerset House. I just have to remember not to make any further rash promises during this year’s introductions.

My Neighbour Totoro, image courtsey of Studio Canal
My Neighbour Totoro, image courtsey of Studio Canal

Finally, if I was going to pick the one evening that I’m most looking forward to at this year’s Summer Screen it would be our screening of the popular 1993 comedy-drama Bhaji on the Beach on Thursday 17 August. A film full of good humour that deals with a range of social issues in an empathetic and engaging way, this is a British film that deserves to be re-discovered on the big-screen. We’re also very proud of the fact that that it comes from the Film4 library; this is a film that’s part of the company’s DNA and one of the titles that comes to mind when people think of the role that Film4 plays in British film and culture. We’re very much hoping that director Gurinder Chadha will be joining us for this screening, along with members of the cast and crew – we’ll let you know when we do!

Bhaji On The Beach Trailer

I hope that when you take a look at the 2017 programme there’ll be something that you’ll want to join us for. This year we’ll reach and surpass the milestone of 175 different films shown in 13 years (we’ve repeated 3 films, all winners of audience votes) and it’s amazing how each time we discover new films that fit the bill – old favourites that feel fresh again, modern classics that come out of seemingly nowhere, films we’d not thought about for years until someone requested or recommended them. Putting this programme together annually is a huge amount of fun and very inspiring – despite the heartache! – and we look forward to sharing it all with you and hopefully hearing your thoughts in August.