BFI invites designers and illustrators to reimagine classic films

BFI invites designers and illustrators to reimagine classic films

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Three new books and 17 reissued titles will be released later this month as part of the BFI’s Film Classics series, all with new cover designs.

Nearly 30 years since its inception, the British Film Institute’s (BFI) Film Classics literary series is being redesigned and relaunched in a bid to recognise a more diverse set of films and writers.

Since 1992, the book series, published with BFI partner Bloomsbury, has invited writers to muse on movies they think are key contributions to the history of film. Some 200 titles have been released as part of the initiative over the years, with books covering everything from Hitchcock’s The Birds, to the Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski.

In a move that aims to bring “women, LGBTIQ+, black, Asian, mixed ethnicity and the Global South” to the forefront, the series is being relaunched at the end of this month. To mark the change, the BFI has invited a selection of illustrators, designers and photographers to reimagine the covers of the three new and 17 reissued titles due to be published.

Covers by Ismael Fino (left) and Christine Delaquaize. Banner image taken from the cover of The Manchurian Candidate by Eric Skillman

Encouraging readers to “revisit” classic films

The intention behind the project was to give each title a “fresh new look”, according to Bloomsbury lead designer Louise Dugdale, while also “breathing a new life” into the series itself.

“[We wanted to] encourage readers to revisit and study these classic films,” she says.

Each creative involved in the project, then, was given a brief for their individual film, Dugdale continues.

“[We gave them] a short description of the film, along with an idea of certain characters or a scene central to the film to portray in their won style,” she says, adding that the designers were also sent images of the previous cover (in the case of the reissued titles) to inspire their work.

Having approached a range of designers, illustrators and photographers, the resulting 20 covers are a diverse range of styles, the extent of which Dugdale says the team was not expecting.

“There’s photography, paper cut-outs, pastels, watercolour with gold leaf and screen printing,” Dugdale says. “And most of the illustrations are the artists representations of the film rather than directly illustrating a scene, which is very exciting.”

Covers by Xavier Payne (left) and Julia Soboleva

Highlighting the contemporary relevance of classics

The reissued titles for the series include discussions on Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing.

Each book will be accompanied by a new foreword from its respective author, which aims to highlight the films’ contemporary relevance in a world facing, for example, the aftermath of #MeToo, Brexit, populism and racially motivated police brutality.

In addition, three new books will be added to the series. They come from film critic and scholar Rebecca Harrison, feminist scholar and advocate Patricia White and writer and activist So Mayer, who write about the Empire Strikes Back, Hitchcock’s Rebecca and Sally Potter’s Orlando respectively.

Covers by Mark Swan (left) and Kate Baylay
Covers by Mathilde Aubier (left) and Nick Morley
Covers by Louise Weir (left) and Yuko Shimizu
Covers from Saksham Verma (left) and Marc Atkins
Covers by Max Loeffler (left) and Federica Masini
Cover by Christian Barthold (right)
Cover by Robin Heighway-Bury (right)


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