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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Review: ‘Love, Simon’ Breaks Down the Barriers for Mainstream LGBT Films

If there’s one thing that Love, Simon succeeds at, its giving us something new in a genre that is characterized by the regurgitation of the same tropes and clichés. Needless to say, I am not a big fan of teen romcoms, so I walked into my advanced screening last Tuesday with cautious optimism. I was immediately surprised to see how packed the theater was with plenty of young faces and couples, and as soon as the movie started they cheered and filled the theater with so much delight and energy that can only be beaten by a crowd of a Star Wars movie on opening night. It was in that moment I knew that I was about to watch something very special for my community. Love, Simon is a heartfelt, positive, and inviting romp through the personal journey of a closeted gay teenager, and being that it is a mainstream studio film- that in itself is an honorable achievement.

From left to right: Love Simon’s Jordan Lendeborg Jr, Nick Robinson, Alexandra Shipp and Katherine Langford

Adapted by the 2015 young adult novel, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Love, Simon tells the story of a teenage boy dealing with the struggle of embracing his own sexual identity whilst also wanting to also fit in and be treated normally by his family, friends, and peers around him. It was directed by Greg Berlanti, the writer-producer of other teen-aimed movies and shows such as the D.C. network shows and was produced by the same people who brought you films like The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns. This is a good indicator of what kind of film to expect going in, but Love, Simon does offer some very substantial subversions of traditional romantic comedy fare, including a character that serves as a callout to the obnoxious white knight archetype you see in a lot of these films.

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The Future is Bright (And Gay): 8 LGBTQ+ Films to Look Out For in 2018

2017 was a fantastic year for LGBTQ+ cinema. From ‘Call Me By Your Name’ to ‘A Fantastic Woman’ to ‘Battle of the Sexes’ to ‘120 BPM’, both mainstream and independent films proved that the industry is developing rapidly in terms of its approach to sexuality and gender. 2018 looks set to continue this, with a number of upcoming films featuring LGBTQ+ themes. Though we’ll have to wait and see if this year can improve on the last, the future looks bright (and rainbow) if the following films are anything to go by.

Please note that reviews linked to in this thread may contain spoilers. 


The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Chloë Grace Moretz, Forrest Goodluck, and Sasha Lane in The Miseducation of Cameron Post. © Sundance Institute

Director: Desiree Akhavan

Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane, Jennifer Ehle, John Gallagher Jr., Forrest Goodluck

Release Date: 22nd January 2018 (Sundance Film Festival)

Premise: One of quite a few conversion therapy films this year, ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’ tells the story of a young woman (Chloë Grace Moretz) who, after being caught with the prom queen, is sent to a “de-gaying” camp by her conservative family. Though things will become much more clear after the film’s imminent Sundance debut, at the moment hopes are high – director Desiree Akhavan’s previous work includes the much treasured ‘Appropriate Behaviour’. The cast is also promising, with ‘American Honey’ breakout star Sasha Lane in her second cinematic appearance, and the always trustworthy Jennifer Ehle co-starring.

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“Thelma”: A Striking Imagery of Female Power Told In European Art-house Style

Eili Harboe as the titular character in Thelma. | Photo: Imagine Film/The Orchard

“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” whispers Margaret White to herself, near the start of the infamous third arc of Brian De Palma’s 1976-made cult masterpiece Carrie, based on Stephen Kings’s novel of the same name and starring Sissy Spacek in the titular role of a demure, innocent high-school girl who realizes she has telekinetic powers after her first period. The setting is the movie’s silence before the storm, with Carrie having just left her mother alone in their home to go to the prom, which is in itself an act of rebellion that accumulates the varying loose threads of her growing confidence in a final push against her mother, who begs her not the go many times, basing her protests on the ground that “they’re (as in her peers) all gonna laugh at her”. Carrie doesn’t listen to her mother’s paranoid arguments and leaves, happy to finally be seen as beautiful and noteworthy, her breasts showing behind her pink dress and a corsage in her hand, given by William Katt’s Tommy Ross.

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Female Director Spotlight: Dee Rees and the Beauty of Personal Identity

I first came across the work of Dee Rees a few years ago, during a search for good quality LGBTQ+ cinema to add to my viewing list – ‘Pariah’ is, to this day, one of the best lesbian films I have ever seen. It was to my complete joy, then, that I heard her name bandied around film circles once more earlier this year, this time in the context of a potentially awards-worthy Netflix original, ‘Mudbound’ (2017). Regardless of that ongoing debate, and the overall impact of Netflix on the prestige of cinema, Rees’ work contains a depth of character and attention to detail that is befitting of a director with much more experience than her current three feature films; her introduction into a more mainstream circuit can only result in a great gain for the industry in the future.

MV5BZjAwNTQ2ODMtMmY2Yi00M2M2LThiMTctM2ExNTNhMmE0OGY4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDg2MjUxNjM@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_Mudbound (2017). Photo by Steve Dietl. © Netflix All Rights Reserved

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BFI London Film Festival ’17 Review: ‘Professor Marston and the Wonder Women’ is a character-driven, psychosexual drama that seriously deserves your attention


Polyamory is not a subject that is often tackled within fiction – much less in a way that portrays such a relationship as a multifaceted romance, rather than voyeuristic soft porn. ‘Professor Marston and the Wonder Women’, therefore, already excels from the offset purely due to its unique subject matter and the respectful tone in which this is addressed. The semi-biographical story follows American psychologist William Moulton Marston (played by Luke Evans), and his relationships with the two women who inspired his beloved creation: Wonder Woman. It is an exploration of the psychology of domination, submission, and sexual dynamics – but ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ this is not. Instead, ‘Professor Marston’ incorporates psychosexual themes into a fully rounded human story about power, love, and societal pressure to conform. Though the film brims with sexuality, the tastefully directed sex scenes are never exploitative of the queer love which the film represents.

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Istanbul FilmEkimi ’17 Review: A Fantastic Woman and Perception

(The following review includes spoilers)

This year’s line up for Istanbul FilmEkimi (October Of Film), organised by Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), had many films with LGBT themes and characters, including Sebastián Leio’s A Fantastic Woman. The film tells the story of Marina, a transgender woman brought to screen by the impeccable performance of Daniela Vega, whose older boyfriend Orlando (Francisco Reyes) dies because of a aneurysm shorty after the film starts. After his death, we are taken on a journey of Marina dealing with getting treated as a suspect by authorities and as a shame by Orlando’s family. Marina can hardly find time to grieve her boyfriend when she is faced with accusations, insults and physical attacks by almost everyone for things she didn’t do or had no control over. The struggles, of course, come from people’s perception of who she is, based on her sexuality.

There is a scene in the film in which Marina is lying naked on the couch, with a mirror covering her genitals. The mirror catches Marina’s face, looking at the place where society’s judgement against her rests. The scene plays as a metaphor for the film, what lies – or doesn’t lie – between your legs is what you are in the eyes of others. The mirror not only reflects Marina’s face back to her, but in the eyes of society, what the mirror is covering reflects who she is. Our genitals determine who we are, how we are seen and perceived by the others, and in the case of Marina and thousands of trans people, when someone doesn’t fit into the norms of society, they are deserving of being treated inhumanely. People’s perception of Marina’s gender is what puts her in the category of murder suspect, when the treatment she deserves is the one of a grieving girlfriend.

“I don’t know what you are,” says Bruno, Orlando’s son, to Marina, who he kicks out of his father’s house. He then attacks her verbally and physically with his friends to show Marina her place in their eyes. Bruno’s mother and Orlando’s ex wife makes a similar statement: “I don’t know what I’m seeing,” and forbids Marina from coming to Orlando’s funeral. She then insults Marina when she attends. Their statements point to where their transphobia lies – not knowing. They cannot categorise Marina within their norms and, as the saying goes, what they don’t know they fear. Their fear expresses itself in confusion first and violence later when Marina refuses to go by their rules. In his Guardian review of the film Ryan Gilbey, points out how some of the characters physically resemble each other. Amongst these look-alike people, Marina continues to be different and, as happens in a beautifully shot scene, keeps fighting against the strong wind.

Despite the tragic experiences Marina goes through, the film gives it’s audience, and Marina, a much hoped for happy ending of sorts. She takes her revenge in her own way, by jumping on Orlando’s family’s car where they’re trapped under her strength. In the finale we see her as we first did through Orlando’s eyes, singing, but this time she isn’t singing in some bar. Instead she takes the centre of a big stage, singing a piece worthy of her talent.

Leio’s direction and framing is amazingly done. He shows Marina on the screen in a way that makes the character stand out and shine amongst other characters. Daniela Vega is absolutely phenomenal in her first big role. It’s a nuanced and powerful performance that deserves to be included in contention for every major award, including the Oscar, which would make her the first openly transgender actress to be nominated.

‘A Fantastic Woman’ will be released in the US on the 2nd of February 2018, and in the UK on the 2nd of March 2018. Tweet me your thoughts at @muchadocinema or @marioncotilards, or comment below!