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Barbican Cinema May 2024

Barbican Cinema celebrates artists and their activism in May with two programmes inspired by creatives who have pushed for social change and challenged the status quo. James Baldwin, one of the most influential writers of the 20th century and a powerful voice in the modern Civil Rights Movement, is remembered on the centenary of his birth through The Devil Finds Work: James Baldwin Through Film. Curated by Dr Clive Chijioke Nwonka, this film season explores Black representation in contemporary cinema through the ideas in Baldwin’s 1976 seminal book The Devil Finds Work

Rebellion against state control is at the heart of Celluloid Underground, a film that showcases cinema as a tool of resistance against religious fundamentalism. Part autobiography, part film collage, Ehsan Khoshbakht’s film offers a fascinating insight into the lives of two cinephiles; the director himself and his late friend Ahmad Jurghanian, who go to great lengths to preserve and showcase banned 35mm film prints in post-revolution Iran. The screening will be followed by a ScreenTalk with Ehsan Khoshbakht.

Further May highlights include a New East screening and ScreenTalk of Citizen Saint, in which a real-life saint causes chaos for a superstitious mountain community in Georgia; and Experiments in Film presents John Deakin: Pariah Genius and The Falconer, two short films with a ScreenTalk in celebration of Iain Sinclair's new book, which chronicles the life of the renowned English photographer John Deakin.

Relaxed Screenings this month include the jazz-fuelled animé Blue Giant and the Oscar-nominated American Fiction; and Senior Community Screenings include NT Live: Vanya and American Fiction.

Festivals, Seasons and Special Events:

Regular Programme strands

Event Cinema 

  • Royal Opera House Live: – Sun 5 May
  • Met Opera Live: Madama ButterflySat 11 May
  • Royal Opera House Live: The Winter's Tale – Sun 26 May

Festivals, Seasons and Special Events

The Devil Finds Work: James Baldwin Through Film
Thu 2 May - Wed 22 May 
Cinema 1 + 2 

Baldwin’s book The Devil Finds Work is a personal exploration of American filmmaking and racial politics. Despite being published nearly 50 years ago the book and Baldwin’s ideas and reflections remain a valuable account of the exploration of Black cinematic representation and viewing practices.

The season looks at James Baldwin’s approaches to cinema and film criticism placing the films in dialogue with literature, popular culture, politics and society. There will be a ScreenTalk after each film to discuss its relevant themes and Baldwin’s influence.


If Beale Street Could Talk (15*) + ScreenTalk
US 2018, Dir Barry Jenkins, 117min 
Thu 2 May, 6pm, Cinema 2

This screening will be shown with captions.

Hunger (15*) + ScreenTalk
UK/ Ireland 2008, Dir Steve McQueen, 96min 
Wed 8 May, 6.20pm, Cinema 2 

The Devil Finds Work shorts programme (15*) + ScreenTalk
Sun 12 May, 3.20pm, Cinema 2 

35 Shots of Rum (12A) + ScreenTalk

France/ Germany 2009, Dir Claire Denis, 100min
Wed 22 May, 6.15pm, Cinema 1 

This project is part of the ‘James Baldwin and Britain’ project (2024-2027), led by Douglas Field, Kennetta Hammond Perry and Rob Waters, with thanks for the generous support by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. 

The film programme is curated by Dr Clive Chijioke Nwonka.

To view the full programme and press release:


Celluloid Underground (12A) + ScreenTalk with Ehsan Khoshbakht 
UK/ Iran 2023, Dir Ehsan Khoshbakht, 80min 

Sat 4 May, 3.45pm 
Cinema 1 

Celluloid Underground is a captivating exploration of film culture's resilience in the face of oppression, masterfully crafted by Ehsan Khoshbakht. Through the lens of two passionate cinephiles, Khoshbakht and his late friend Ahmad Jurghanian, the film honours cinema as a potent form of resistance.

Set against a backdrop of state violence, the documentary intertwines the journeys of Khoshbakht and Ahmad, united in their mission to preserve 35mm film prints in Iran. 

Their dedication is palpable as they navigate the risks of imprisonment and torture to safeguard banned films hidden beneath Tehran's streets.

As the narrative unfolds, Khoshbakht's lyrical storytelling and evocative imagery immerse viewers in the sensory richness of cinema. Yet, amidst the romance lies a sobering acknowledgment of cinema's complex history, touching upon themes of exploitation and colonialism.

Celluloid Underground strikes a delicate balance between personal reflection and political commentary, offering profound insights into the human experience beyond the confines of the archive. Ultimately, it serves as a powerful reminder of cinema's enduring ability to illuminate and connect people together. 

Regular Programme Strands

Family Film Club  
Every Sat, 11am
Cinema 2 

In May Family Film Club (FFC) features new titles, toddler friendly tales and classics that are best enjoyed on the big screen. The programme includes the new animation, Migration (US 2023)a special Julia Donaldson double of Snail and the Whale (UK/ South Africa 2019) and Room on the Broom (UK/ Germany 2012) and – to mark the release of his latest directorial offering this month (Furiosa) – FFC will revisit George Miller’s 2006 hit, Happy Feet (US/ Australia). 

Please check for full programme details. 

New East Cinema: Citizen Saint (15*) + ScreenTalk
Georgia 2023, Dir Tinatin Kajrishvili, 100mins

Tue 7 May, 6.15pm
Cinema 2 

In a Georgian mining town, the statue of a crucified saint hovers over the mines, blessing the locals. One day, the saint disappears, and when a mysterious young man comes to town, a series of small miracles create more chaos than good.

Filmed on location and with a mixed cast of miners and actors, Tinatin Kajrishvili's third feature film blends realism and religious allegory to pose questions about ethics' place in faith. Following the locals' destinies, many of which were marked by a pit accident a decade ago, Citizen Saint explores how much of the world humans are willing to sacrifice in the name of personal salvation.

Citizen Saint premiered in Karlovy Vary in 2023 and subsequently became Georgia's submission for the Academy Awards. The film's captivating black and white cinematography, created by Bulgarian Director of Photography Krum Rodrigue, received a Spotlight Award nomination from the American Society of Cinematographers.

Senior Community Screenings 

Welcoming 60+ cinema goers to watch the latest new releases every other Monday morning: 

NT Live: Vanya 

Mon 13 May, 11am

Cinema 2 

Andrew Scott (Fleabag) brings multiple characters to life in Simon Stephens’ radical new version of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya.

Filmed live during its sold-out run in London’s West End, Vanya will be playing exclusively in cinemas in 2024. Directed by Simon Stephens (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time).

This screening will be shown with HoH Captions.


American Fiction (15) (AD)

USA 2023, Dir Cord Jefferson, 117min
Mon 27 May, 11am 
Cinema 2 

A novelist who is fed up with the establishment profiting from Black entertainment uses a pen name to write a book that propels him into the heart of the hypocrisy and madness he claims to disdain.

With Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Score, and both Jeffrey Wright and Sterling K Brown nominated for Best Actor, Cord Jefferson has cemented a name for himself with this directorial debut.


Relaxed Screenings

Relaxed screenings take place in an environment that is specially tailored for a neurodiverse audience, as well as those who find a more informal setting beneficial:

Blue Giant (12A)

Japan 2023, Dir Yuzuru Tachikawa, 119min
Mon 13 May, 6.10pm
Cinema 3 

Highschool basketballer Dai Miyamoto’s life is turned upside down the day he discovers jazz, in this charming anime feature from director Yuzuru Tachikawa.

American Fiction (15) (AD)

USA 2023, Dir Cord Jefferson, 117min
Fri 31 May, 12pm 
Cinema 3 


Experiments in Film: John Deakin: Pariah Genius + The Falconer, two short films + ScreenTalk 

Pariah Genius 
UK 2024, Dirs Emma Matthews, Chris Petit, Susan Stenger + Iain Sinclair, 25min
The Falconer
UK, 1998, Dirs Chris Petit + Iain Sinclair, 56min
Thu 30 May, 6pm

Cinema 1 

Marking the publication of celebrated London chronicler Iain Sinclair's new book Pariah Genius, John Deakin & The Soho Court around Francis Bacon, The Biography of an Afterlife (Cheerio Publishing), this special event presents the world premiere of a new film – made in response to Deakin's life – made by Emma Matthews, Chris Petit, Susan Stenger and Sinclair himself – who will all be in conversation with Gareth Evans after the double-bill screening.

Pay What You Can Screenings
Every Friday one of the new release film screenings is priced Pay What You Can
This is for customers where ticket price may be a barrier, or for those who want to help others enjoy a visit to the cinema; audience members are invited to pay between £3-£15. 

Event Cinema

Royal Opera House Live: Carmen (12A)

Sun 5 May, 2pm
Cinema 3 

Aigul Akmetshina performs the title role in Damiano Michieletto's sizzling new production of Bizet’s ever-popular opera.

Met Opera Live in HD: Madama Butterfly (12A)

Sat 11 May 2024, 5.55pm

Cinema 1 

In her Met debut, Asmik Grigorian tackles the demanding role of Cio-Cio-San, the trusting geisha at the heart of Puccini’s tragedy.

Royal Opera House Live: The Winter's Tale (12A)

Sun 26 May, 2pm
Cinema 3 

Shakespeare’s profound story of love and loss, artfully adapted into a contemporary three-act narrative ballet by Artistic Associate Christopher Wheeldon, celebrates its tenth anniversary.