It happens annually this time of year: BFI Southbank becomes the hottest place for gays to hang out. This year’s 29th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival has been rebranded BFI FLARE: London LGBT Film Festival and it takes place 20th-30th March. Tickets are on sale, and the big movies sell out quickly, so don’t delay: visit bfi.org.uk/flare for all the details….
A NEW NAME
Yes, the LLGFF is no more, to be known henceforth as BFI FLARE. As in a burst of light or groovy trousers. It could also be a signal of distress or a recurring rash. But it’s great to have a distinctive new name that doesn’t rely on the usual film festival descriptors like “queer” or “out”, although we’ve still got the initials “LGBT” in the strapline. And aside from the overly BFI branding, it’s something distinctive and memorable. And this year’s graphics will look fabulous on a T-shirt.
Kicking everything off on 20th March is LILTING, a sensitive drama starring Ben Whishaw and directed by Londoner Hong Khao (who directed the unforgettable S&M-themed short Spring). After kicking off the World Cinema strand at Sundance in January, the film makes its European premiere here. The centrepiece gala is THE LAST MATCH, a lusty romance from Cuba about unexpected gay passion. And wrapping everything up on the 30th is the warm, witty Australian drama 52 TUESDAYS, about a teen girl who takes a year to get used to the idea of her mother transitioning into a man.
Films about love, romance and friendship include the hilariously colourful teen comedy G.B.F. and the unusual romance HAWAII from Argentine filmmaker Margo Berger (Plan B). From Switzerland, ROSIE centres on a gay writer struggling to care for his diva-like mum. TEST is a sensitive, beautifully played American drama set in 1985 San Francisco as Aids emerges, while Looking’s Jonathan Groff stars in the offbeat coming-of-age tale C.O.G.
Stories of sex, identity and transformation include Bruce LaBruce’s controversial inter-generational romance GERONTOPHILIA and AGE OF CONSENT, a lively and explicit documentary about London’s iconic fetish bar The Hoist. From Chile, THE PASSION OF MICHELANGELO explores a 14-year-old boy’s collision of religion and sexuality, while the semi-autobiographical WHO’S AFRAID OF VAGINA WOLF is a wacky comedy about seeking fame and fortune.
Explorations of art, politics and community include BIG JOY, about artist-filmmaker James Broughton, and the hugely emotional, crowd-pleasing doc BRIDEGROOM, a love story cut short by unexpected tragedy and the lack of legal protection gay marriage would provide (bring a box of tissues!). There’s also the Brazilian cabaret romp TATTOO, the American hip-hop drama BIG WORDS and CONTINENTAL, a colourful look at New York’s iconic gay bathhouse, where Bette Midler and Barry Manilow launched their careers.
Catch up with favourites from the past year in the company of an appreciative audience. These include the brilliant, uber-gay biopic BEHIND THE CANDELABRA, the gay naturist thriller STRANGER BY THE LAKE, the beat poets drama KILL YOUR DARLINGS and the essential, award-winning BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR. There’s also a selection of queer Bollywood epics, women-in-prison movies and camp 1980s horror films, plus several programmes of gay shorts.
EVENTS & CLUB NIGHTS
Special events almost every day will make regular visits to BFI Southbank essential between 20th and 30th March. Serious discussions will explore global homophobic laws, short filmmaking and the making of this summers big gay movie Pride. You can also visit a lesbian-feminist haunted house and dance the night away as Flare turns BFI Southbank into a nightclub every evening.
• The full BFI Flare programme and ticketing info are at bfi.org.uk/flare