British-Themed ‘BFI Player Classics’ SVOD Service Launching in the U.S. May 14

The British Film Institute’s BFI Player Classics streaming service is launching in the United States on May 14.

The $5.99 monthly service (with a free seven-day trial) features a curated collection of classic British movies specifically for the American market. The platform will debut with a collection of more than 200 British or co-produced British films picked by BFI experts.

The BFI Player Classics catalog features films and filmmakers that demonstrate some of the greatest innovation in British filmmaking, including auteurs and mavericks such as Alfred Hitchcock, Michael Powell, Ken Russell and Ken Loach, according to the service. It also includes a number of notable filmmakers who reportedly pushed the boundaries of cinema, pioneering the exploration and representation of issues such as race, gender, sexuality and disability. Content includes Horace Ové (Pressure, 1975), Laura Mulvey (Riddles of the Sphinx, 1977), Ron Peck (Nighthawks, 1978, and Strip Jack Naked, 1991); Menelik Shabazz (Burning an Illusion, 1981), Sally Potter (The Gold Diggers, 1983), Gurinder Chadha (I’m British But …, 1989), Waris Hussein (Sixth Happiness, 1997) and John Akomfrah (Speak Like a Child, 1998).

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The streaming platform will also host a number of titles not currently available on any other SVOD service in the United States, including  The Lion in Winter (Anthony Harvey, 1968), I’m All Right Jack (John Boulting, 1959), Dunkirk (Leslie Norman, 1958), Went the Day Well? (Alberto Cavalcanti, 1942), Ice Cold in Alex (J. Lee Thompson, 1958) and Whisky Galore! (Alexander Mackendrick, 1949), among others.

BFI Player Classics joins British-themed streaming services in the United States that include Acorn TV and BritBox.

Silent ‘Shiraz: A Romance of India’ Coming on Disc Under New Label From Juno Films and MVD

Juno Films has licensed the exclusive North American rights to the British Film Institute‘s 2K restoration of director Franz Osten’s black and white silent Shiraz: A Romance of India.

The film will premiere in the United States at New York’s Metrograph Theater in January 2019 with a DVD and Blu-ray release to follow in May on the new Juno Selects home video label distributed in partnership with MVD.

Shot entirely on location in India and based on the romance between 17th century Mughal ruler Shah Jahan and his queen, the epic tells the romantic tale behind the creation of the Taj Mahal. Produced by and starring Indian film legend Himansu Rai, the film is performed by an all-Indian cast, featuring Rai as humble potter Shiraz, who follows his childhood sweetheart Selima (Enakshi Rama Rau) when she’s sold by slave traders to the future emperor (Charu Roy).

The release features a new digital restoration by the conservation team at the BFI National Archive and a specially commissioned score by the Grammy Award-winning Anoushka Shankar.

“It is an honor to work with the BFI on the release of Shiraz: A Romance of India,” said Elizabeth Sheldon, Juno’s CEO and co-founder, in a statement. “It is a timeless tale of devotion that left humankind with a monument to the inspiration and power of true love, the Taj Majal, and the new score by the Grammy-award winning Anoushka Shankar seals it as a contemporary masterpiece.”

“The restoration of Shiraz was the culmination of thousands of hours of painstaking conservation work by the BFI National Archive to transform this silent classic, thereby ensuring its safe preservation for future generations,” said the BFI’s Violette Martin in a statement. “The BFI therefore is very happy to see Shiraz in the highly skilled hands of Juno Films and Elizabeth Sheldon for its North American distribution, as well as to have the Metrograph Theater on board for the opening week in New York. We look forward to further collaborations with Juno Films around our classic film collection.”

“I’m excited to be teaming up once again with Elizabeth Sheldon and her new company Juno Films for the release of the beautifully restored classic 1928 silent film Shiraz,” said Eric Wilkinson, director of home video sales and acquisitions for MVD Entertainment Group. “Ms. Sheldon and I have had many successes in the past during our time together at Kino Lorber and it just made perfect sense to continue that partnership by pairing Juno Films and MVD. We’re excited to bring this wonderful movie to North American audiences and collectors for the first time.”

Additional home video titles to be released on the new Juno Selects label include Peter Sellers’ debut feature film Pennies From Heaven and his short film Let’s Go Crazy.