HATS OFF TO HOLLYWOOD, Dir. Penelope Spheeris
Special Events


18:10 Tue 14 Jan 2020

BFI Southbank NFT2

Before the success of Wayne’s World and the punk scene investigations of The Decline of Western Civilization trilogy, Penelope Spheeris established herself as a deeply radical and ambitious filmmaker.

Screening on restored 16mm prints from the Academy Archive, this cross-section of her early short films reveal a rule-breaking talent concerned with contemporary life, highlighting authoritarian regimes, trans relationships and a desire to reclaim the female body. Programmed by Tom Grimshaw 74’

We present a selection of these films on restored 16mm prints from the Academy Film Archive

This programme contains homophobic language

BFI Southbank

Belvedere Rd, South Bank
Adult £12.50 / Concessions £11.25 / 25 & Under £3


Please find all access information here, or drop a line to Helen MacKenzie at for more information or special requests.


    Penelope Spheeris 8 mins (US, 1968)

    Penelope Spheeris’ first film, made in 8mm Kodachrome while she was a student at UCLA, is set in a seemingly near-future control room devoid of people, where various readouts and calculations suggest that humankind is not altogether compatible with the grand scheme of the universe.
  • SHIT

    Penelope Spheeris 3 mins (US, 1969)

    Never completely finished during its original production, this snarky comic piece was rediscovered in director Penelope Spheeris’ vaults in 2010 and preserved “as is.” The titular substance plays a key role in determining an outmoded man’s role in a changing society.

    Penelope Spheeris 12 mins (US, 1969)

    Two years before Peter Watkins’ Punishment Park (1971), director Penelope Spheeris takes the McCarran Act to its inevitable next step and shows us—via an early use of mockumentary—what the U.S. might be like if potential subversives were simply locked up en masse before they had a chance to subvert anything.

    Penelope Spheeris 20 mins (US, 1970)

    I Don’t Know (1970) observes the relationship between a lesbian and a transgender man who prefers to identify somewhere in between male and female. This nonfiction film is the first of director Spheeris’ films to fully embrace what would become her characteristic documentary style: probing, intimate, uncompromising and deeply meaningful.
  • BATH

    Penelope Spheeris 6 mins (US, 1968)

    Made in an environment and at a time when frequent and gratuitous images of nude women permeated the work of her male counterparts, director Penelope Spheeris produced this intimate and sensual observation of a woman bathing; how does voyeurism change when we know the voyeur is actually a voyeuse?

    Penelope Spheeris 25 mins (US, 1972)

    Picking up the story first presented in I Don’t Know (1970), Hats Off to Hollywood (1972) brazenly and brilliantly mixes documentary reality with fully staged recreations/reimaginings of episodes in the lives of Jimmy/Jennifer and Dana, a loving, bickering couple who challenge the notion of homonormativity.