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:
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
Director: Naoko Ogigami
Cast: Toma Ikuta, Rinka Kakihara, Kenta Kiritani
Summary: ‘Close-Knit’ is an unconventional tale of motherhood that takes the theme of knitting and spins this under-explored hobby into an extended metaphor. Rinko, the source of this enthusiasm, is a gentle and soft-spoken care nurse who develops a bond with eleven-year-old Tomo after she begins dating her uncle. This relationship is not without its troubles however, as Rinko is transgender, and the bigotry of the outside world causes Tomo hesitation. Her life blossoms with love and happiness, however, once she accepts Rinko for all that she is. This sweet Japanese film looks heart-warming and genuine, whilst positively exploring the issue of trans parenting.
Screening Info: Wednesday 28 March 2018 20:20 / Friday 30 March 2018 13:30
Malila: The Farewell Flower
Director: Anucha Boonyawatana
Cast: Sukollawat Kanarot, Sumret Muengput, Anuchit Sapanpong
Summary: Anucha Boonyawatana’s sophomore feature film is an exploration of a re-kindled love through the lens of Buddhist philosophy. Former lovers Pitch and Shane are reunited in mutual grief; Shane has tragically lost his daughter, whilst Pitch has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. The concept of two people rejoined with a different perception of their lives has great potential to be both humbling and provocative – and early reviews suggest that this Korean drama succeeds in its aim to evoke thought.
Screening Info: Tuesday 27 March 2018 20:50 / Friday 30 March 2018 15:30
My Days of Mercy
Director: Tali Shalom Ezer
Cast: Ellen Page, Kate Mara, Amy Seimetz, Brian Geraghty, Elias Koteas
Summary: Ellen Page? Kate Mara? In a lesbian film? This could be absolutely awful and it would still be one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. ‘My Days of Mercy’ is opening this year’s festival, and screened in the Gala Presentations section of the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. Reviews are mixed thus far, but the premise sounds intriguing regardless: Lucy (Page) is the daughter of a man on death row, and falls in love with Mercy (Mara), a death penalty supporter. This obvious clash of social issues in combination with the acting talent on display makes this romantic drama a clear highlight of the fest.
Screening Info: Wednesday 21 March 2018 18:15 / Wednesday 21 March 2018 20:50 / Thursday 22 March 2018 15:50
Postcards from London
Director: Steve McLean
Cast: Harris Dickinson, Jonah Hauer-King, Richard Durden
Summary: This years festival will be closing with ‘Postcards from London’, a stylish romantic drama exploring an absurd form of escort work. Protagonist Jim journeys to Soho seeking cultural adventure, but finds himself in trouble after he is robbed soon after arriving. In a curious twist of fate, Jim becomes caught up in a group of alternative escorts that specialise in the arts – but a rare medical condition may prevent him from becoming the expert in this off-kilter field.
Screening Info: Saturday 31 March 2018 18:50 / Saturday 31 March 2018 21:10
The Happy Prince
Director: Rupert Everett
Cast: Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Emily Watson, Colin Morgan
Summary: Though I’m not usually a huge fan of biopics, Oscar Wilde is one of the biggest and gayest literary icons of all time, and exploration of his complicated life history is always of great interest to fans of his work. ‘The Happy Prince’ focuses on the final years of Wilde’s life, and the tangle of controversy he found himself embedded within after an affair with Lord Alfred Douglas. Everett’s performance in particular has received rapturous praise, in a role that he appears to be born for. Whether ‘The Happy Prince’ can beat the pitfalls of the biopic is another question, of course, but at Much Ado, we’re always here for for some literary homosexuality.
Screening Info: Wednesday 28 March 2018 20:45 / Saturday 31 March 2018 11:00 / Sunday 01 April 2018 15:20
Director: John Trengrove
Cast: Nakhane Touré, Bongile Mantsai, Niza Jay Ncoyini
Summary: Short-listed for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, ‘The Wound’ already has a heavy amount of critical support behind it. Enigmatic and striking, the film details a secretive Xhosa initiation ceremony, and a closeted relationship that is caught up in these distinct ideals of manhood. ‘The Wound’ addresses the culturally embedded homophobia within this community, and sensitively explores a taboo that crosses international lines.
Screening Info: Sunday 25 March 2018 18:30 / Monday 26 March 2018 20:30
Director: Anahita Ghazvinizadeh
Cast: Rhys Fehrenbacher, Koohyar Hosseini, Nicole Coffineau, Norma Moruzzi, Diana Torres
Summary: ‘They’ has been on my radar since its debut at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. Produced by the esteemed Jane Campion and directed by newcomer Anahita Ghazvinizadeh, the film is an “impressionistic character study” about a fourteen year old named J, who goes by the pronouns they/them. Ghazvinizadeh appears to opt for a poetic, intricate style when presenting her characters; the trailer is quite simply beautiful. Representation of gender-fluidity in such a considerate manner is rare even within the indie film industry, so this is definitely one to grab a ticket for if you can.
Screening Info: Friday 23 March 2018 18:30 / Saturday 24 March 2018 11:40
BFI have also organized many other events over the two weeks, including workshops on AIDs representation and a look into QTIPOC on screen. Several short film collections will be screened across the festival, and there are quizzes, club nights, and various other activities to get involved in. Grab a ticket or five now, and let us know what you’re most excited for on twitter @muchadocinema!