BFI Flare LGBTQ+ Film Festival ’18 Review: ‘The Revival’ is a necessary, if imperfect, take on the rocky relationship between religion and homosexuality

Jennifer Gerber’s debut feature is a piece that will certainly provoke a powerful reaction. Described as an intense emotional drama, ‘The Revival’ explores the tensions between Southern Baptist Christianity, modern life, and gay relationships with a blunt edge that will be too much for some – but may be necessary for many.

Raymond McAnally, Stephen Ellis, David Rysdahl, and Kathleen Suit in The Revival (2017) © Natural Slate Films

In the age of Trump and a new kind of right-wing radicalism, a film of this topic feels eerily relevant; the film’s setting is a small town in Arkansas, populated largely by Evangelical Christians, and a post-screening Q&A revealed that 70% of this town voted for Trump in real life. Our protagonist, Eli, is a pastor who wishes to transform the way that his congregation views religion. Eli cannot stand the way that modern Christians twist their faith to suit themselves and aims to educate against the use of God to justify wrongdoing. He’s fully engaged in his faith, with just one problem; he’s gay, and must fight against his own hypocrisy when rugged drifter Daniel saunters into his life.

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Why was ‘Ghostwatch’ so successful?

This essay is by our guest writer, Toni Stanger.

Arguably the most fascinating phenomenon within television history is BBC’s Ghostwatch. It first aired on Halloween night in 1992 and never aired again on British television. The BBC kept it buried deep until they released it on VHS ten years later, with the DVD release in 2011. Ghostwatch was a programme with a very simple premise. It was broadcast as live television as its hosts explored the haunting of a very ordinary British family in Greater London. The story was based on the famous Enfield Poltergeist case which also loosely inspired the plot of The Conjuring 2, though was perhaps not as effective. The hosts themselves were real life television personalities Michael Parkinson (host of talk show Parkinson) and Sarah Greene (of Blue Peter fame), as well as Greene’s husband Mike Smith. It was written as a drama by Stephen Volk who eventually pitched to the BBC that they do a The War of the Worlds type of thing. Even though it aired under Screen One – the BBC’s drama department – its documentary on-air investigation style, in addition to real-life hosts, led the majority of its 11 million viewers to believe that what they were witnessing was in fact real.

Michael Parkinson, Sarah Greene and Mike Smith, presenters of ‘Ghostwatch’ © BFI

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Films Directed by Women in 2017 that You Might’ve Missed (Part 2)

This piece is co-written with Iana Murray.

2017 was a year full of the celebration of female filmmakers. Patty Jenkins brought Wonder Woman to the big screen and proved to those still in doubt that women can make blockbusters! (Wow, can you believe?!) Dee ReesMudbound and Greta Gerwig‘s Lady Bird were nominated for Academy Awards! So to celebrate female filmmakers and Women’s History Month we’ll share with you some films that were directed by women that you might’ve missed. Here is the 2nd part of our suggestions!

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BFI Flare LGBTQ+ Film Festival ’18 Review: ‘My Days of Mercy’ is momentarily sweet, but ultimately unsatisfying

For years, the LGBTQ+ community have been begging for cinema beyond the typical coming-out story – cinema that explores conflict within queer relationships without resorting to “help me, I’m gay!” Tali Shalom Ezer’s latest feature ‘My Days of Mercy’ promises such a story. The premise is simple but intriguing: protagonist Lucy (Ellen Page), whose father is on death row, falls in love with pro-death penalty campaigner Mercy (Kate Mara). Unfortunately, despite truly electric chemistry between Page and Mara, ‘My Days of Mercy’ never delves far enough into the dramatic potential of such viscerally clashing moral standpoints. The result is a film that is momentarily sweet, but ultimately unsatisfying.

Ellen Page and Kate Mara in ‘My Days of Mercy’ (2017) © BFI Flare

Shalom Ezer begins the film by throwing us right into the protest action; a man is on death row for killing a police officer, and there are pickets on both sides of the argument. Lucy, accompanied by her siblings and, protests as though it is part of her daily routine. Desensitised and slightly bored, she continues through these motions in the dimly lit hope of changing things for her own father. As the pro-death penalty campaigners arrive, notably more prim and proper than the “hippy” antis, Lucy’s eyes meet Mercy’s across the picket lines. It’s cheesy, and a little lacking in believability, but nonetheless a classic way for two would-be lovers to first notice each other.

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BFI Flare LGBTQ+ Film Festival ’18: Ones to Watch

BFI Flare is just around the corner; the festival, now in its 32nd year, opens with Tali Shalom Ezer’s ‘My Days of Mercy’ on the 21st March. This year’s programme is bursting with wonderful queer content, ranging from cheesy teen romcoms, to sobering documentaries, to experimental short film. Flare takes great pride in its development from the “London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival”, to the “London LGBT Film Festival” and now, finally, to the much more inclusive “LGBTQ+”. This updated name is reflected in the diversity of the films on offer here – regardless of your label (or lack thereof), there’s something for all interests. Though we don’t have time to sink our teeth into everything on offer, here are a few feature films that we’re especially looking forward to:


Mena Suvari and Lena Hall in Becks (2017) © Blue Fox Entertainment

Director: Elizabeth Rohrbaugh, Daniel Powell

Cast: Lena Hall, Dan Fogler, Mena Suvari

Summary: After a crushing breakup with her girlfriend, a Brooklyn musician moves back in with her Midwestern mother. As she navigates her hometown, playing for tip money in an old friend’s bar, an unexpected relationship begins to take shape.

At first, I thought this looked a little kitschy, especially considering the focus on music. However, ‘Becks’ has been getting some fantastic reviews since its US release last month even despite the natural lesbian movie backlash, with many stating it to be incredibly genuine and heartfelt. As a result, my curiosity is piqued; it could well be that ‘Becks’ joins the elusive club of cute lesbian indies to be held in in the hearts of gay women for years to come.

Screening Info: Thursday 29 March 2018 18:30 / Saturday 31 March 2018 16:00

Links: Tickets| IMDB | Trailer

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SXSW Film Festival ’18: Elle Fanning and Ben Foster shine in ‘Galveston’, despite some minor flaws

This review is by our guest writer, Christina Huang. 

Being from Texas myself, ‘Galveston’ is a film that I have been anticipating for awhile now. Fortunately, I was not disappointed. Mélanie Laurent brings the small beach town that I have known for years to life in a beautiful way. Elle Fanning and Ben Foster are quite the duo, and the score is simply marvelous. Even though I was relatively satisfied with the quality of this film, I must say that the first twenty minutes or so were somewhat weak in terms of storytelling. Despite this, ‘Galveston’ is a solid crime thriller that is not to be missed.

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‘Tomb Raider’ promises a new age of action heroine, but doesn’t quite deliver

Tomb Raider’s popularity is genderless. For one reason or another, even the most misogynistic of men have found no problem raiding tombs as the one-woman legend Lara Croft, and many find a great deal of enjoyment in their female protagonist. Academics have investigated this extensively, with some speculating that the power of controlling a woman allows these men to overcome their initial prejudice. Another argument is that Lara’s sexualised form (the origins of which were apparently accidental) appeals particularly to these players and downplays the agency of the character via the male gaze.

The reboot of the game franchise, which began with 2013’s ‘Tomb Raider’ and is currently awaiting news on a third entry, focuses much more on Lara as a young, evolving adventurer. The first game – which the 2018 movie is based on – tells the origins of the icon, developing the character’s emotional and physical depth. The use of performance motion-capture means that this new era’s Lara is less overtly sexualised – she is, quite literally, a “real woman”. It isn’t much of a stretch to say that the Tomb Raider franchise today, whilst clearly influenced by the games that came before, reflects a Lara with much more agency, and a more easily accessible personality.

Lara Croft in Tomb Raider (2013) (Video Game)

From the very beginning, then, director Roar Uthaug had a pretty big mountain to climb with his film adaptation of this incredibly cinematic and story-driven game. Whilst his efforts are admirable, and Alicia Vikander forms a perfect modern-day Lara, ‘Tomb Raider (2018)’ suffers greatly from a poor script and a needless focus on male supporting characters.

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