“Nineties: Young Cinema Rebels”: A Season Devoted To 1990s Film & TV At BFI Southbank

BFI Southbank’s season celebrates explosive and iconic film and TV of the 1990s from 1 July – 31 August 2019. The season includes Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, groundbreaking found footage horror The Blair Witch Project, and the game-changing spectacle that was The Matrix.

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Throughout July and August BFI Southbank will host a two month exploration of explosive, transformative and challenging cinema and TV made from 1989-1999 – the 1990s broke all the rules and kick-started the careers of some of the most celebrated filmmakers working today, from Quentin Tarantino and Richard Linklater to Gurinder Chadha and Takeshi Kitano. Nineties: Young Soul Rebels will explore work that dared to be different, bold and exciting that had a profound effect on pop culture and everyday life. The influence of these titles can still be felt today – from the explosive energy of Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989) through to the transformative style of The Blair Witch Project (1999) and The Matrix (The Wachowskis, 1999). Special events during the season will include a 90s film quiz, an event celebrating classic 90s children’s TV, black cinema throughout the decade and the world cinema that made waves. Special guests attending for Q&As and introductions will include Isaac Julien (Young Soul Rebels), Russell T Davies (Queer as Folk) and Amy Jenkins (This Life).


  • The season will kick off with a special screening Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989) on Friday 5 July, presented in partnership with We Are Parable; Spike Lee’s astute, funny and moving film stars out with a spat in an Italian restaurant in Brooklyn, before things escalate to a tragic event taking place in the neighbourhood.
  • The launch event comes ahead of an extended run of the film from Friday 2 August, when it is re-released in selected cinemas across the UK by Park Circus.
  • The BFI Southbank Atrium will be host to a Video Store installation from Friday 26 JulySaturday 17 August; designed by students from Wimbledon College of Arts, the store will play host to pop-up events and be the perfect trip down memory lane for those pining for the bygone VHS era.
  • The 90s were truly a golden decade for the American teen film – and to celebrate, the Forever Young Film Club will present a fun-packed 90s Teen Film Quiz on Thursday 1 August, testing audiences to see if they know their 10 Things I Hate About You from their She’s All That.
  • In the 1990s, British films such as Trainspotting and Human Traffic swapped gritty realism for a giddy sense of freedom. On Monday 12 August author and film critic Matt Glasby will take part in an illustrated talk about his new book Britpop Cinema: From Trainspotting to This Is England, exploring how 90s cinema said goodbye to the kitchen sink and embraced escapism instead.
  • There will also be special events celebrating TV shows including Queer as Folk, This Life and The Word, with special guests, as well as a look at 90s TV (see TV section for more details).
  • A special event, Girls to the Front: An Evening of Riot Grrrl Films, will celebrate the riot grrrl movement of the 90s that incorporated the raw energy of punk with a feminist consciousness, led by bands like Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney and Bratmobile. The event on Saturday 27 July will present a time-capsule of short docs and music videos that capture the energy and style of this pivotal, punk-feminist movement.


Black Cinema of the 1990s

  • The 1990s was a dynamic decade for black cinema worldwide, with these developments being captured in the seminal BFI publication The Black Film Bulletin. In a discussion event – Black Cinema of the 1990s – on Saturday 6 July, founding editors June Givanni and Gaylene Gould invite past colleagues and collaborators to explore this important decade.
  • In Tongues Untied (1989) multi-hyphenate creative and activist Marlon Riggs explores notions of black, queer and American identity in this experimental documentary.
  • Tongues Untied will screen alongside Non, je ne regrette rien (Marlon Riggs, 1992) in which five gay black men discuss their experiences and HIV-positive status.
  • Cheryl Dunye, the director and star of The Watermelon Woman (1996) was passionate about bringing the stories of queer black women to filmgoers. This first feature directed by a black lesbian is a rom-com about a video store clerk trying to make a film about an uncredited black actress from the 1930s.
  • Artist Isaac Julien’s first narrative feature Young Soul Rebels (1991) revolves around four characters in 1977 London, where class and racial tensions simmer. A screening on Wednesday 14 August will be followed by a Q&A with Isaac Julien.

American Disruptors

  • Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 1992) is a heist film that needs very little introduction: eight men carry out a diamond robbery for a crime lord, but one of them is not what he seems…
  • Todd Haynes is now a staple of arthouse cinema, but before this he was crafting one of the most talked-about films of the decade. A blend of horror and existential Americana, [Safe] (1995) is a character study of a housewife possibly suffering from a mysterious environmentally-caused illness.
  • The Blair Witch Project (Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez, 1999) sees three student filmmakers attempt to make a documentary about a local urban legend, the ‘Blair Witch’ – but all that’s left of them is the footage that comprises this film. Horror was never the same after this film, a pioneering example of the ‘found footage’ genre, with a scarily real marketing campaign.
  • Before he became a critically acclaimed powerhouse director, Richard Linklater made Slacker (1991), a low-budget feature following a day in the life of young bohemians in Austin, Texas, the director’s hometown.
  • Gregg Araki’s unique blend of genres, teen angst and deadpan comedy The Doom Generation (1995) was the second part of his of his loose ‘Teen Apocalypse trilogy’; after accidentally killing a store clerk, a trio set off on a road trip full of sex, violence and endlessly quotable one-liners.
  • A unique meld of influences from cyberpunk to anime, The Matrix (The Wachowskis, 1999) is the perfect capsule-film for a decade that broke formal and thematic ground. The season will screen the new 4K restoration of this classic in its 20th anniversary year.

World Cinema Gone Wild

  • A discussion event on Monday 8 JulyGlobal Cinema in the 1990s – will welcome invited speakers to take a closer look at some of the world cinema movements from the decade that pushed the boundaries of aesthetic and narrative conventions and introduced new stylistic forms and means of artistic expression.
  • World cinema titles screening will include La Haine (1995), Mathieu Kassovit’s debut feature chronicling 20 hours in the aftermath of a riot in suburban Paris.
  • In Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Shin’ya Tsukamoto, 1989) a metal fetishist is run over by an office worker who tries to cover up his crime – until his body starts slowly turning into a walking pile of metal.
  • Contemplative gangster film Sonatine (Takeshi Kitano, 1993) follows a Yakuza enforcer who has grown tired of criminal life and resentfully heads to Okinawa to settle a dispute between his boss’s allies.
  • Festen (Thomas Vinterberg, 1998) was the first film of the Dogme 95 movement initiated by Thomas Vinterberg and Lars von Trier, a filmmaking manifesto that emphasised story, theme, acting and simple production values over special effects, elaborate lighting and technical tricks.
  • Filmed on a low budget and with a thumping rock soundtrack, Brat (Aleksey Balabanov, 1997) became a cult film in Russia, as both a portrait of a lost generation and a symbol of the early post-Soviet era
  • Les Amants du Pont-Neuf (Leos Carax, 1991) is a portrait of an explosive, all-consuming love between two vagrants. Set on the oldest public bridge in Paris, Les Amants du Pont-Neuf is full of energy and emotion and offered a fresh direction for 1990s French cinema.

British Change-Makers

  • One of the most popular British films to come of out of the 90s, Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 1996) is the energetic, stylish portrait of a group of drug-addled Edinburgh friends, one of whom tries to get clean and abandon his hedonistic lifestyle.
  • In Bhaji on the Beach (Gurinder Chadha, 1993) a group of British women, mostly Punjabi, take a group trip to Blackpool, where tensions rise between the younger girls and the older women. Gurinder Chadha’s debut feature film (co-written with Meera Syal) uses the day trip to look at issues in the British Asian community, where old traditions and new ways make for uncomfortable situations.

New Female Voices

  • Girls to the Front: An Evening of Riot Grrrl Films will celebrate the riot grrrl movement of the 90s that incorporated the raw energy of punk with a feminist consciousness, led by bands like Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney and Bratmobile. This event on Saturday 27 July will present a time-capsule of short documentaries and music videos that capture the energy and style of this pivotal, punk-feminist movement.
  • Also screening will be Gas Food Lodging (Allison Anders, 1992), a delicate portrait of teenage sisters: rebel Trudi skips school to hang out with boys, while daydreamer Shade wants to find a good boyfriend for their mother. Anders’ moving portrait of three women, each on a journey of self-discovery, stands out as one of the most underappreciated gems of the Sundance class of 92.

New Queer Cinema

  • 1992 saw the publication of B Ruby Rich’s landmark article in Sight & Sound in which she coined the term ‘New Queer Cinema’. On Monday 5 August there will be a discuss event to look at what impact the article had on writing about queer cinema in the 1990s and its role in defining cinema experiences.
  • Also screening will be My Own Private Idaho (1991), Gus Van Sant’s landmark in New Queer Cinema starring River Phoenix as a narcoleptic hustler and Keenu Reeves as his friend who is secretly from a wealthy family.
  • In Show Me Love (Lukas Moodysson, 1998) Agnes and Elin are two very different girls, both attending school in a small-town. Isolated and friendless, Agnes is pining from a distance for pretty and popular Elin, and tentatively the two begin to form a romantic bond and a shared dislike of their hometown.
  • Rose Troche’s Go Fish (1994) is about a young college student who becomes creatively and romantically involved with a woman who also has long-term, long-distance partner. The talk of Sundance at the time, Go Fish celebrated and showcased lesbian culture on all levels, and its box-office success paved the way for the lesbian films that followed.

Boundary Pushing TV

  • This Life (BBC, 1996-97) was one of the great British shows of the 1990s. Focusing on the dysfunctional house-share between a group of twenty-something law graduates, its depiction of casual sex and drug-taking smashed taboos, but it was the smart, witty, insightful dialogue, the multi-layered characters and the ensemble of young, talented actors that really made it must-see TV. On Thursday 1 August there will be a special event to celebrate the show with a screening of an episode followed by a Q&A with creator and writer Amy Jenkins and executive producer Tony Garnett.
  • As we mark the 20th anniversary of Queer as Folk (Red Production Company-Ch4 1999) it now seems impossible to imagine the sense of shock and awe that accompanied its first transmission in 1999. On Thursday 8 August writer Russell T Davies and cast members Craig Kelly and Denise Black will take part in a Q&A event to celebrate this true TV game-changer.
  • Going on air in 1990, The Word both revolutionised youth TV and pre-dated reality TV by many years. It combined cutting-edge bands, irreverent and anarchic interviews with A-listers, stories from the margins of society, and downright bizarre and outrageous studio stunts, and soon became loved by its audience and loathed by the press in equal measure. In a special discussion on Tuesday 13 August, hear from two of the show’s presenters Terry Christian and Katie Puckrik and celebrate this quintessentially 90s TV show.
  • Meera Syal was commissioned to write her first TV script by the BBC in the early 90s and the result My Sister-Wife (Screen Two, BBC, 1992) is a tale about the competing affections of a Pakistani man’s two wives, which lead to a series of attempts by each to annihilate the other.
  • Meat (Screen One, BBC, 1994) is a gritty look at love among the underclass; Myra is a teen prostitute, Charlie is a recently released young offender and together they begin an affair.
  • Meat will screen alongside Zinky Boys Go Underground (Screen Two, BBC, 1994) a thriller that provides a chilling insight into the damaged psyche of Russian soldiers returning home from Afghanistan.
  • There will also be a lively illustrated panel discussion with creators and casts of some of the best-remembered and most beloved children’s TV shows of the 1990s. In 90s Kid’s Shows on Sunday 18 July audiences will be able to take a nostalgic trip to revisit programmes like Five Children and It, Live & Kicking, The Queen’s Nose, Maid Marian and her Merry Men, Bodger & Badger and Press Gang.

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