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May Shakespeare Lives on Film: Ian McKellen heads to India

  • Ian McKellen

Ian McKellen is a global ambassador for Shakespeare Lives

Highlights from the May 2016 Shakespeare Lives on Film tour include Ian McKellen visiting Mumbai with Richard III; plus a jam session for All Night Long in Nairobi, Romeo and Juliet in Iraq and much more.

Our hugely ambitious 'Shakespeare Lives in Film' tour, which we hope will reach more than 100 countries this year, sees the legendary Ian McKellen visit Mumbai to present Richard III this month.

British Council Film is working with the British Film Institute, Film London and other partners to deliver a touring package of outstanding British film adaptations of Shakespeare's work.

We are showing truly cinematic films that demonstrate how film has transformed and reimagined Shakespeare's work in so many genres and styles by such a range of talents.

This month sees Ian McKellen visit Mumbai to present a screening of Richard III (1995), which he co-adapted and starred in.

Richard Loncraine's brilliantly modernised adaptation is set in a comic-book vision of 1930s London, part art-deco, part Third Reich, part industrial-age rust and rot. McKellen stars alongside Robert Downey Jr, Maggie Smith and Jim Broadbent.

The film has just been screened as part of BFI Presents: Shakespeare on Film at BFI Southbank and venues across the UK, and Mumbai marks the first stop of McKellen's global tour as the BFI's ambassador for 'Shakespeare Lives on Film'.

MAMI Film Club is partnering with the British Council, BFI, GREAT campaign, NCPA and Fountainhead to bring the tour to India. McKellen's first stop will be a public conversation with a major Bollywood actor on May 23, followed by an exclusive screening of Richard III on May 24, introduced by McKellen.

McKellen said: "I have been aware of India’s passion for Shakespeare ever since I saw Shakespeare Wallah (1965) and more recently the outstanding Bollywood versions of the plays. This is my first visit to Mumbai when I look forward to hearing local reaction to the Shakespeare on Film season and to meeting with colleagues in the Indian film industry."

And that's only one highlight for May, other activities include:

A number of Shakespeare films from Oliver Parker's Othello (1995) to Romeo and Juliet (1968) will be screening in Iraqi Kurdistan in cinemas in Erbil, Sulaymaniyah and Dohuk

British Council Kenya is organising a very special screening in Nairobi of All Night Long (1961), Basil Dearden's jazz version of Othello, with live music and a jam session

In partnership with the Romanian Cultural Institute EUNIC, Elvira Popescu Cinema will host screenings of Much Ado About Nothing (1993) and Peter Greenaway's Prospero's Books (1996), among others

The Angelic Conversation (1985), Jarman's evocative and radical visualisation of Shakespeare's love poems, and King Lear (1971) will screen at the Mimara Museum

April's huge success

Last month saw a huge amount of film activity around the time of Shakespeare's birthday on April 23, with over 120 screenings taking place across the globe from Algeria to South Korea.

Maxine Peake's ground-breaking Hamlet played a major part in our 'global moment' on April 23 with screenings in Malaysia, Romania, Myanmar, Croatia, India and the Philippines. Shakespeare Day also prompted a surge of bookings for the tour and we have helped to organise screenings in more than 60 countries at the time of writing.

The hashtag #ShakespeareLives made more than 750 million impressions on Shakespeare Day, with a estimated 596m coming on Twitter from 33,391 mentions by 22,077 users. Facebook provided almost 92 million impressions, with Instagram and others achieving more than 88 million impressions.

Overall, the hashtag #ShakespeareLives has had an lifetime reach of more than 1.25 billion impressions to date, the majority coming from Twitter with 1 billion impressions.

Other April highlights included:

* In partnership with Jeonju International Film Festival, British Council South Korea hosted the international premiere of Play On! - Silent Shakespeare, among other works to showcase Shakespeare;

* A big Shakespeare film sidebar in partnership with the Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival (BAFICI) in Argentina;

* Three screenings of Franco Zeffirelli's lushly romantic Romeo and Juliet (1968) in Ireland following the international launch of the digitally remastered film;

* Tunisia's Cine Theatre Le Rio hosting a programme of Shakespeare adaptations;

* Branagh's Hamlet (1996), Roman Polanski's Macbeth (1971) and more screening in Santiago, Chile in association with cultural centre GAM;

* Israel's Tel Aviv Cinematheque showing Derek Jarman's The Tempest (1979) and Peter Brook's King Lear (1971), among others;

* and Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing (1993) screening at the Franco Namibia Cultural Centre.

The film tour is part of the larger Shakespeare Lives project, which sees the British Council celebrating Shakespeare as a living icon on the 400th anniversary of his death. Our partners include the BFI, GREAT campaign, Park Circus, and Film London.