Riz Ahmed and Bassam Tariq curate new season of films at BFI Southbank

The BFI have announced the full programme for NEAR THE JUGULAR, a season of films curated by MOGUL MOWGLI writer/director Bassam Tariq and co-writer, producer, and star of MOGUL MOWGLI Riz Ahmed. The season will look at their cinematic influences, including films that have inspired their new feature MOGUL MOWGLI (Bassam Tariq, 2020), which is released in selected cinemas by the BFI on 30 October, following its UK Premiere at the BFI London Film Festival on 10 October and screenings on BFI Player and in regional cinemas as part of the LFF from 10 – 13 October. NEAR THE JUGULAR will run at BFI Southbank from 19 October to 30 November and include titles such as First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2017), The Three Rooms of Melancholia (Pirjo Honkasalo, 2004), A Taste of Cherry (Abbas Kiarostami, 1997) and Four Lions (Chris Morris, 2010). The season will also be made available to UK-wide audiences via a collection of films on BFI Player (from 19 October), and through special events on BFI YouTube, details of which will be announced soon.

MOGUL MOWGLI follows the story of a rapper (Riz Ahmed) who, on the cusp of his first world tour, is struck down by an illness that forces him to face his past, his family, and the uncertainty of his legacy. It is the debut narrative feature from award-winning documentary filmmaker Bassam Tariq (who also co-writes) and is co-written, produced by and stars the Emmy award-winning Riz Ahmed. The film will screen alongside the NEAR THE JUGULAR season at BFI Southbank from 30 October.

This incredibly personal season is introduced here, in his own words, by director and co-writer of MOGUL MOWGLI, Bassam Tariq:

“The best film experiences provoke wordless reactions. They hit you so close to your core that you have no choice but submit to its Truth. There is strong authorship but also a desire to connect with an audience. Which in a way might seem contradictory but I don’t believe so. When we are truest to ourselves, the more specific and vulnerable we are, the stronger we can connect with those around us. Perhaps this comes from my Islamic understanding of creativity and its inseparable connection to Divinity – as God is described by many attributes in Islam – the one that I seem to keep returning to is Al-Khaliq, The Unprecedented Creator. Which means that every moment and every creation in existence is unprecedented, it has never existed before the way it has in front of us as it does now and will never again exist as such. Like that, so are we. Each one of us is a unique manifestation of God’s Divine Attributes and in celebrating our uniqueness we are affirming an Unspeakable Beauty. 

These films hit Riz and I close to our jugular veins. They push us to be better, more compassionate filmmakers. These films stretch the possibilities of filmmaking and even in their supposed “vulgarity” there is a submission to Divinity that perhaps the filmmakers themselves would scoff at – but that’s the reality that I see. Whether you believe or do not, it shouldn’t matter. The best of film are like the best of the Sufis, they allow space for us all to exist: heretics, agnostics, and believers of all shapes. I pray these films can equally expand your heart and karate chop you near the jugular.”

The season at BFI Southbank is divided into two areas – the films that have inspired Bassam and Riz in the making of MOGUL MOWGLI, and the films that have been influential in their lives more broadly.

MOVIES THAT INSPIRED MOGUL MOWGLI

  • A Man Escaped (Robert Bresson, 1956) is a meticulous account of a life lived in a cell, and the planning and execution of an escape.
  • Bassam and Riz call Paul Schrader’s First Reformed (2017) “one of the best meditations on the clash of modernity and faith”; it focuses on a pastor at a Dutch Reformed church in upstate New York, who has a crisis of faith. 
  • Leos Carax’s The Night is Young (1986), set in Paris of the not-too-distant future, helped established Juliette Binoche as one of France’s most talented young actors.
  • Abbas Kiarostami’s masterpiece Close-Up (1990) is a multi-layered ‘documentary’ recreating real events in which a cinephile is placed on trial for fraud, having persuaded a family he was a director and would cast them in a film.
  • Pirjo Honkasalo’s The Three Rooms of Melancholia (2004) is a searing anti-war documentary which examines the effect of the conflict between Chechnya and Russia.
  • Grant Gee follows Radiohead as they record their seminal album, OK Computer before heading out on an exhaustive tour in Meeting People Is Easy (1998); it will screen alongside Buffalo Juggalos (Scott Cummings, 2014), an experimental exploration and celebration of the Juggalo subculture.
  • In Post Tenebras Lux (Carlos Reygadas, 2012) a well-off couple and their children move to the country in the hope of improving their lives, but things don’t always go as planned.

Other films that inspired MOGUL MOWGLI will be available on BFI Player, including: Tokyo Story (Yasujirô Ozu, 1953), Güeros (Alonso Ruizpalacios, 2014) and The Fits (Anna Rose Holmer, 2015) – see BFI Player section for details.

MOVIES THAT HAVE BEEN INFLUENTIAL IN THEIR LIVES 

  • Charles Burnett’s first feature Killer of Sheep (1978) is a classic of African-American cinema and US indie filmmaking; of the film, Bassam and Riz said: Black dignity. Every frame of this film is affirming “we are enough, we are enough, we are enough, just as we are” It will expand your heart with its wordless, cinematic power.”
  • Chris Morris’ brave and uncompromising satire Four Lions (2010) is perfectly summed up by Bassam: “I’ve seen this film 14 times and every time I watch it, I’m in awe of Riz, the wonderful cast and Chris Morris’ complex understanding of Islam in the West. The best film I’ve seen about being Muslim in the West and that fact that it’s made by a white dude blows my mind.”
  • These Birds Walk (2013), co-directed by Bassam Tariq alongside Omar Mullick, is a heart-wrenching and inspirational film documentary that captures the lives of runaway children in Karachi. 
  • Mathieu Kassovitz’s La Haine (1995) shows the world through the eyes of three friends, Arab, Jew and Black, who are frustrated by politicians and the media excusing police brutality. The black-and-white visuals and hip-hop soundtrack underscore the urgency and rebellion at the heart of this classic. Also on BFI Player from 16 November.
  • Michael Haneke’s award-winning Hidden (2005) sees a literary chat-show host sent anonymous, vaguely menacing videos of his comings and goings which suggest the sender has intimate insights into his life.
  • Andrei Tarkovsky’s celebrated sci-fi allegory Stalker (1979) follows two men, Writer and Professor, and their guide (the titular Stalker) as they cross the Zone – forbidden territory in the police state they inhabit – towards the Room, where, it’s believed, one’s innermost needs and desires are granted.
  • The first film of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s admired trilogy Three Colors: Blue (1993) explores the inner life of a woman, played by Juliette Binoche, who suffers an unspeakable loss.
  • Described by Bassam and Riz as a film that will “never leave you”, A Taste of Cherry (Abbas Kiarostami, 1997) sees a man drive around the desert and hills outside Tehran offering carefully selected men a lift and well-paid work; only after a while do we learn he needs someone to assist in his planned (and forbidden) suicide.
  • In Oldboy (Park Chan-wook, 2003) a troubled drunk, is abducted and imprisoned over the course of 15 years, with only a TV for company. Upon his sudden release, he begins a violent journey to discover who his captor was.
  • Harmony Korine’s directorial debut Gummo (1997) follows a group of eclectic, feral teenagers who pass their days by riding their bikes, playing practical jokes, sniffing glue and paying for sex; it will screen alongside The Belovs (Victor Kossakovsky, 1992), a beautifully shot mesmerising, tragic and raucous documentary about a troubled Russian farming family.
  • Adapted from James Jones’ novel about the attempts of a US platoon to take control of Guadalcanal from the Japanese, The Thin Red Line (Terrence Malick, 1998) is an extraordinary and epic war movie.

Other films that have inspired Tariq and Ahmedwill beavailable on BFI Player, including: Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski, 2013), Mother (Bong Joon Ho, 2009), Ballast (Lance Hammer, 2007) and Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990) – see BFI Player section for details.

BFI PLAYER COLLECTION

BFI Player releases a collection of films to accompany the NEAR THE JUGULAR season on 19 October, all chosen by Bassam Tariq and Riz Ahmed. The collection will be a mixture of rental and subscription titles and will allow audiences around the UK to watch films chosen by the filmmakers:

  • Scorsese’s classic portrait of the Italian-American underworld Goodfellas (1990) centres on misplaced loyalties, violent crime, vengeance and betrayal, with an all-star cast including Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Lorraine Bracco.
  • Set in a wintry Mississippi delta, Lance Hammer’s bold debut feature Ballast (2007) charts the effects of a man’s suicide on his nearest – a twin brother – and his not-so-dearest: namely, his estranged wife and 12-year-old son.
  • In Bong Joon-Ho’s Mother (2009) the notion of maternal love is explored to eye-opening and thought-provoking effect, as an elderly woman, whose beloved son has been charged with the brutal murder of a young girl, investigates the crime for herself.
  • Yasujirô Ozu’s masterly Tokyo Story (1953) is a beautifully nuanced exploration of filial duty, expectation and regret, told through a simple tale of an elderly husband and wife’s visit to Tokyo to see their grown-up children.
  • A testament to the importance of strong female authorship. This is the kind of work is made when women are given control of writing, directing, producing and editing” said Bassam and Riz about Anna Rose Holmer’s The Fits (2015), the story of an 11-year-old who joins a tightly knit dance team, only to see her desire for acceptance thwarted., when a mysterious outbreak of fainting spells plagues the team.
  • In Pawel Pawlikowski’s Oscar-winning Ida (2013) a young woman about to become a Catholic nun is told by her aunt – her only living relative, a hedonistic judge and former member of the anti-Nazi Communist resistance – that her parents were in fact Jewish.
  • In Alonso Ruizpalacios’ acclaimed debut Güeros (2014), which Bassam cites as the “best first film ever made”, a single mother who feels unable to cope with her young son sends him to stay with his brother, a student in Mexico City.

HEALTH AND SAFETY MEASURES

Throughout October and November BFI Southbank continues to operate with exhaustive health and safety measures including social distancing throughout the venue, face coverings as standard for all visitors and staff, increased frequency of deep cleans, e-ticketing, scheduling of staggered screenings and more. These measures continue to be informed by ongoing consultation with the industry, our staff, and our customers, with health and safety the highest priority in the operation of the venue.