What the Hell Is It This Time?
Sparks Live in London

UK, 2021, 95 mins
Director: Edgar Wright

+ intro by Edgar Wright

Dive into the Maelstrom with this full-length live Sparks concert, filmed on their most recent world tour at the O2 Forum in Kentish Town in May 2018. An infectiously energised performance of 22 tracks that span 5 decades of their musical genius, there is little wonder as to why Ron & Russell Mael are still luring in new generations of fans and making Top 10 albums, 50 years into their career.

The Sparks Brothers
The career of the ground-breaking pop pioneers Sparks – brothers Ron and Russell Mael – is an immaculate lesson in how to stay consistently interesting for 50 years. Internationally acclaimed, Sparks have released 25 creatively bold albums since their debut in 1972. Moving to London from their native Los Angeles in 1974, Sparks released their influential album Kimono My House, which quickly became a worldwide phenomenon, setting the tone for the band’s creative output to follow. Since that time, the musically vital pop pioneers have created a unique legacy both on record and in live performances.

The evergreen masters of the musical vignette, Sparks show no loss of appetite for their singular sonic adventures. Replicating the critical and commercial success of their 2017 album Hippopotamus – which featured on countless Album of the Year lists – the band’s latest album A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip, released in 2020 to global acclaim, became their second UK top 10 album since 1974, when Kimono My House and Propaganda reached number 4 and 9 respectively.

Now entering their sixth decade, 2021 will see the eagerly awaited premiere of the movie musical Annette, the first English-language film from groundbreaking French director Leos Carax (Holy Motors, Pola X), a musical drama with original story, music and lyrics by Ron and Russell Mael and starring Adam Driver, Marion Cotillard and Simon Helberg. The band’s singular career is explored and celebrated in The Sparks Brothers, the eagerly-anticipated feature-length film by Shaun of the Dead/Baby Driver director Edgar Wright, which saw its acclaimed premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.

Sparks are currently in the studio working on a new studio album and a new movie musical.

Edgar Wright
Growing up in the UK, Edgar Wright began crafting his distinct visual style directing Super 8 films starring his school friends. At 20, he directed the no-budget western A Fistful of Fingers, which had a limited theatrical release. This led to a foray into television, directing comedy shows including both seasons of the award-winning cult classic, Spaced. It was here that Wright began his iconic collaboration with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as well as his producing partner, Nira Park, with whom he has worked with on everything he has directed since.

Spaced served as a launching pad for the 2004 film Shaun of the Dead which became a sleeper box office hit. This was followed by Hot Fuzz and The World’s End. These films became known as the ‘Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy’, all of which were co-written by Wright and Pegg. In between Fuzz and World’s End, Wright co-wrote and directed the acclaimed Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

Wright has also collaborated with many acclaimed filmmakers: he co-wrote The Adventures of Tintin for director Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson and directed the faux trailer for Don’t, which played between Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse double-bill. As an executive producer, Wright championed Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block and Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers.

Wright’s 2017 film, Baby Driver, starring Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx, grossed over $220 million worldwide at the box office and went on to receive three Academy Award® nominations as well as two BAFTA® nominations, one of which it won for Best Editing.

In 2018, Wright and Park set up production company Complete Fiction Pictures with long-time collaborators Joe Cornish and Rachael Prior.

Wright’s latest film, Last Night in Soho, which he co-wrote with Krysty Wilson-Cairns, will be released in 2021. The film stars Thomasin McKenzie & Anya Taylor-Joy. Wright’s first documentary, The Sparks Brothers, covering the entire 50 year legacy of Ron and Russell Mael of California pop band Sparks, premiered at Sundance and will also be released in 2021.
Production notes


Director: Edgar Wright

UK 2021
95 mins

Courtesy of Focus Features

Sonic Cinema World Premiere: What The Hell Is It This Time? Sparks Live in London+ intro by Edgar Wright
Tue 3 Aug 17:10
Preview: The Sparks Brothers + Q&A with director Edgar Wright
Tue 3 Aug 19:45
BFI & Radio Times Television Festival presents: TV Preview: The North Water + Q&A with director Andrew Haigh and cast
Wed 4 Aug 18:15
The Alan Whicker Centenary: Welcome to Whicker’s World + intro
Sat 7 Aug 14:30
The Alan Whicker Centenary: The Life and Legacy of Alan Whicker
Sat 7 Aug 17:40
Preview: I’m Your Man (Ich bin dein Mensch) + pre-recorded Q&A with director Maria Schrader
Mon 9 Aug 17:50
BFI & Radio Times Television Festival presents: TV Preview: Vigil + Q&A with cast and creatives
Mon 23 Aug 18:10

Seniors’ Free Matinee: Personal Services + intro and Q&A with author, Graham Rinaldi
Mon 9 Aug 14:00
Projecting the Archive: The Blue Lagoon + intro by actor Susan Stranks (young Emmeline)
Tue 10 Aug 18:00
Member Picks: Almost Famous
Thu 12 Aug 17:45
Silent Cinema: The Wit and Wisdom of A.A. Milne + intro by Bryony Dixon, BFI Curator
Sun 15 Aug 12:40
DVD Launch: Great Noises That Fill the Air: Music, Poetry and Performance on Film
Mon 16 Aug 17:50
S.O.U.L. Fest 2021
Fri 20-Sun 22 Aug
Experimenta: Thundercrack! + intro by Jane Giles, author of ‘Scala Cinema 1987-1993
Sat 21 Aug 17:00
Relaxed Screening: Stand Clear of the Closing Doors
Tue 24 Aug 18:00
Woman with a Movie Camera: Preview: Souad + pre-recorded Q&A with director Ayten Amin
Tue 24 Aug 18:00
Terror Vision: Dr Terror’s House of Horrors
Thu 26 Aug 20:40

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Programme notes and credits compiled by the BFI Documentation Unit
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