BFI Flare London LGBTQ+ Film Festival ’18 Review: Lesbian films don’t get much more disappointing than ‘Snapshots’

As I sit here, I am trying in vain to find something positive to say about this film. I have no doubt that ‘Snapshots’ is a labour of love – independent filmmaking always is – yet, the result is such a twee, cringe-worthy mess that I cannot consciously recommend the experience to even the most dedicated of lesbian cinephiles.

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Piper Laurie in Snapshots (2018) © Three Women in a Box Films

The film revolves around a tri-generational family of women. Allison (Emily Baldoni), a young woman amidst in conflict with an absent husband, visits her grandmother Rose (Piper Laurie) with her mother, Patty (Brooke Adams) in tow. Allison and Patty are constantly at each other’s throats, with Rose situated firmly in the middle of these tensions. Through a series of flashbacks, we discover that Rose hides a secret that may provoke further strife – the love of her life was not Patty’s father, but an enigmatic redhead named Louise.

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BFI Flare London LGBTQ+ Film Festival ’18 Review: ‘They’ is a beautifully subdued observation of identity

Anahita Ghazvinizadeh is certainly a filmmaker to watch. A student of Abbas Kiarostami, the writer-director already has a Cinéfondation First Prize under her belt, picked up in 2015 with her short film ‘Needle’. Now, Ghazvinizadeh’s debut feature casts a careful eye over the subject of childhood gender-fluidity, the pressure of conformity, and the construction of identity.

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Rhys Fehrenbacher in They (2017) © Mass Ornament Films

J (Rhys Fehrenbacher) is an introspective adolescent who takes hormone blockers to prevent the onset of puberty. This is a temporary measure, we learn in the film’s opening, as J’s medical tests suggest that a decision must be reached soon, lest their health be put at risk. J’s life is at an impasse as they float between childhood and adulthood, unable to progress until they tick a box: B or G.

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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.

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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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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.

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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:

Becks

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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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