BFI Announces Two-Month Derek Jarman Retrospective

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The BFI is pleased to announce Queer Pagan Punk: Derek Jarman a major two month film retrospective at BFI Southbank (February/March 2014). This will be the largest retrospective of Jarman’s films ever mounted in the UK, celebrating the prolific, iconoclastic and hugely influential film-maker and marking the 20th anniversary of his death.

The season is programmed by William Fowler, curator, Artists’ Moving Image, BFI National Archive and will feature many rare films and special guests and introductions alongside new digital restorations of two key films: Sebastiane (1976) and Caravaggio (1986). Toyah Willcox, John Maybury, Jenny Runacre, Dexter Fletcher, Isaac Julien, Tariq Ali, James McKay, Keith Collins and Don Boyd and are among the invited guest speakers.

The climax of the season will be a one-off screening of Jarman’s Blue in the breath-taking vastness of the BFI IMAX cinema and a special presentation of key short works and videos in the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. The season is supported by media partner 

Among the season’s highlights are archival re-discoveries such as Jarman’s earliest known film, long thought lost, Electric Fairy (1971); a rarely seen documentary The Royal Ballet in Rehearsal: Jazz Calendar (1968) featuring a production designed by a young Jarman; and films by friends, collaborators and key influencers of his career such as Kenneth Anger – Invocation of My Demon Brother (1968) and Anthony Balch – The Cut-Ups (1967) giving a rich context to themes and subjects which would reappear in Jarman’s own films.

The season is part of a wider celebration entitled Jarman 2014 which includes an exhibition at BFI Southbank showcasing part of the BFI’s extensive Jarman collection and screenings and events with a wide range of partners including a major focus at King’s College, Derek Jarman: Pandemonium.

Jarman was a talented artist, designer, writer, activist, showman, autobiographer and gardener whose career began as a student at King’s and the Slade. He initially worked as a designer for opera and ballet and went on to design sets for Ken Russell’s Savage Messiah and The Devils. He had a real gift for friendship and artistic collaborations and had a profound influence on the UK art scene and a generation of film-makers. He went on to become a polemical activist and a rare thing in public life at the time, someone whose homosexuality informed his art. His film-making initially developed out of a love of super8 film and the flexibility it afforded him in bringing his personal artistic vision to life. He was a passionate believer in the power of art to change lives and used his energies to create a unique and rich body of work.

The range of his collaborators is testament to the breadth of his interests. He was pioneering in many ways. He made the world’s first (and hitherto, only) feature film in Latin: the scandalously homoerotic Sebastiane (1976), the story of the 1st century AD saint, re-cast as a lushly colourful hymn to the male physique.

He synthesised the punk moment in Jubilee (1978) as a collision between the two Elizabethan eras, that of the 16th century, and the 20th century with iconic punk figures such as Jordan, Adam Ant, Lindsay Kemp and a bare-breasted Elizabeth I played by Jenny Runacre.