Every month BBC iPlayer offers a plethora of new movies and TV shows to watch. Critic Lillian Crawford picks six of the best titles to check out in the coming weeks.
Top Picks: TV
Gaming Prom (BBC Four, From August 5)
The 2022 season of the BBC Proms is well and truly underway, and this month we have one of the most exciting new additions to the programme to look forward to: a gaming prom celebrating the music of video games. The programme features recent orchestral scores, such as Battlefield 2042 with music by Hildur Guðnadóttir, to renditions of some of the earliest 8-bit soundtracks.
The concert is conducted by Robert Ames and features the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra playing music from hit games such as Kingdom Hearts, Shadow of the Colossus, and Final Fantasy. As a result, it features the most diverse programme of any Prom this season, including composers from across the globe. Be sure to watch the concert in full on BBC iPlayer over the next thirty days!
In this one-off documentary, diving champion Tom Daley uncovers the uncomfortable truth of the situation for queer athletes around the world during the course of the Commonwealth Games, all of which is currently being shown on BBC One during August. Daley visits some of the countries where homosexuality is a criminal offence, such as Jamaica where one can be sentenced to hard labour for ten years, and Pakistan where the punishment is death by stoning.
Daley talks to some of the athletes navigating this dangerous political situation, as well as those who are using their position to fight for changes to these discriminatory laws. Among the interviewees are Michael Gunning, Dutee Chand, and the swimmers Theresa Goh from Singapore and Amini Fonua from Tonga. It is a vital and prescient documentary while others freely celebrate the sports that unite the Commonwealth, and it invites us to reflect on the varying international situations of safety for LGBT+ people.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival has developed over the past 75 years from a small Scottish arts fest to a national staple and locus of the finest emerging talent in Britain. This one-off documentary traces the history of the Edinburgh Fringe, while also looking at the place of the festival today. It moves from some of the great overnight success stories to those who took many years to breakthrough in the industry, many to no avail.
Among the contributors to the film are comedy and drama heavyweights Bill Bailey, Emma Thompson, Phoebe Waller-Bridge (whose Fleabag premiered at the Fringe), and Stephen K Amos. As the anniversary edition of the festival gets underway, this provides the perfect opportunity to look back on its rich and diverse history, available to view over the next month.
Top Picks: Movies
Nothing will hold a candelabrum to the 1995 BBC adaptation, but this 2005 film adaptation of Jane Austen’s masterpiece Pride & Prejudice comes pretty close. Directed by Joe Wright, whose other lavish literary adaptations include Atonement and Anna Karenina, this version stars Keira Knightley as a purse-lipped Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew Macfadyen as a reserved but debonair Mr Darcy.
The film’s greatest assets come in its more cinematic qualities. It opens with a luscious piano piece by Dario Marianelli called “Dawn“, played by Jean-Yves Thibaudet, as sun-dappled cinematography by Roman Osin moves us through the stunning halls and landscapes of the English countryside. It’s an unmissable version of Austen’s book that sets a high standard for the quality of adaptations of her works, especially considering the atrocity of Netflix’s recent “update” on Persuasion.
Paul Torday’s novel Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a charming collage of emails, letters, and assorted documents which tell the story of a wealthy sheikh who attempts to bring the sport of fly-fishing to the desert. This 2011 adaptation directed by Lasse Hallström delightfully brings the parallel storylines of the book to life, creating a light but often poignant drama.
The film is led by Ewan McGregor as Dr Alfred Jones who is tasked with calculating the project to ship salmon to Yemen, with the companionship of Emily Blunt. Stealing the show however is Kristen Scott-Thomas as the Prime Minister’s press secretary, who pushes the project forward despite its absurdity, for the potential positive press it will attract for her boss. The film will be available on iPlayer after broadcast for thirty days.
An obscure adaptation from 2012 of Salman Rushdie’s 1981 Booker Prize winner Midnight’s Children comes to BBC Four this month as preparations continue for the 2022 prize. The plot follows two children who are born at the moment of Indian independence and subsequently get swapped in the delivery room. One returns to a wealthy family, the other to poverty. Both of the children have a magical gift which allows them to commune with other “midnight’s children” as the newly reconstituted India finds its new identity.
The film’s screenplay was written by Rushdie himself (who also narrates the film) and it was directed by Deepa Mehta, best known for her “Elements” trilogy. As the film appears on iPlayer for only thirty days, be sure to catch this beautiful adaptation of a remarkable book while you can.