Thomas Curry presents a shortlist from the upcoming LGBTQ film festival BFI Flare, returning to London in March
- TextThomas Curry
One of the largest and most significant celebrations of queer cinema in Europe, the 34th edition of acclaimed LGBTQ film festival BFI Flare returns to the Southbank from March 18 to March 29 this year. Featuring a powerful, thought-provoking and eclectic mix of features, shorts, discussions, talks, workshops and club nights, this year’s festival reflects on themes of sex, identity, politics and community.
Alongside stand-out features such as Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt) – a charming and joyously unusual take on a teen romcom – and Drag Kids – a shimmering, flamboyant and tantrum-filled foray into the world of child drag performers – this year’s BFI Flare features more than 50 full-length features and 80 shorts by filmmakers from across the globe. To help navigate the days of back-to-back viewing you’d need to watch all of them, we spoke to BFI Flare programmer Brian Robinson, to help shortlist a selection of unmissable screenings.
The Prince (El Príncipe) (lead image)
“This won the Queer Lion at Venice. It’s set in a prison; a young man who has committed a crime (we know not what) is brought under the care of an old lag who’s been there for a long time. He’s inserted into the pecking order and it’s sometimes very violent, sometimes very tender but throughout it feels really authentic. It’s based on a 1950s novel from Chile, and it’s set around a key political moment in Chilean history. The Allende government is coming in, so there’s a kind of subtext to the brutal life of the prison which parallels the then politics of Chile. It’s got a real intensity to the story, it’s a little bit like the gay version of The Prophet, you don’t know where it’s going. To top all that it’s also the first time that a cock has been seen in a Chilean feature film which makes it worth seeing for that alone.”
“A dazzling labour of love composed of 125 extracts from classic gay porn from 1968 to 1986. For anyone who’s looking for a story, there isn’t one. It’s just a collage, a glorious mosaic, of great scenes from films most people will not have seen. It’s shot in cruising grounds in New York and San Francisco. It’s powerful, beautiful, sexy – if you like moustaches and tight jeans, then you’re going to have a very good time. The way this picture is cut together, a myriad of seemingly random bits of films, draws you in so that you feel like you’re living it. Like you’re walking that street, you’re walking the piers…” Watch the trailer here.
“This is a big-budget, 1940s, delightful, knitted-cardi lesbian film. It’s wonderful to see history inhabited by queers, that our stories don’t just focus on the contemporary world. Women have fallen in love with one another throughout history, particularly during the war. I’m a sucker for stories not just about people meeting but about the aftermath. It’s very easy for a narrative to deal with the first meeting, but this is a story about ‘years later’ when you’ve moved on, or you haven’t moved on, and how you deal with still living and loving. It’s not all about meeting a perfect person, falling in love and living happily ever after. Love and life are much more complicated than that.”
“This film comes at a key moment in the history of trans representation on screen. It provides an international record of burgeoning trans representation on the big and small screen. I think ten or 20 years ago it would have seemed impossible that a film like this could be made – instead it acts as a measure of where we are, of where we’ve come. It’s like water dripping on a stone, you don’t quite notice the gradual progress, but this film takes a moment to hold the stone up and look at how it’s been reshaped. The world climate is shifting, we no longer have trans films obsessed with the physical, bodily transition. We’re seeing stories about authentic lives, it’s a real step change.”
“Oh god, this is a film that made me cry. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It’s four stories about families that have queer or trans children, religion is involved, and it centres on how the families grapple with that. At first you’re not quite sure what links these stories but the more layers are peeled back, you begin to see relationships develop, love stories emerge in the face of hideous homophobia from the church. I’d rather not say too much about the content, but it’s beautiful and intensely moving about real people’s lives. It makes us think about what it means to be queer or trans in 21st-century America. It’s not a comfortable or attractive place but this story of persistent bravery in the face of danger is an astonishing achievement.” Watch the trailer here.
“This film is about two men who live ostensibly ordinary lives, one is 65, one is 70. They both live in flats, they both have families who don’t know they’re gay, one is a taxi driver, one is retired. They find each other during the day, they have sex after getting to know one another, and soon discover that they’re part of a wider community. There are bars and tea shops and saunas and community groups and a queer elders housing campaign. It’s something we see very little about. So many films, good films, are about 14-, 15-, 16-, 17-, 18-, 19-, 20-year-olds and their discovery, but this is another stage of life when people don’t feel able to be out. They’re on a journey, it’s about how they find love, and how they deal with that. I was utterly charmed by it.” Watch a clip here.
Tickets for BFI Flare are on sale from February 27, 2020.