Oh, LFF, Up Yours!

Oh LFF, UP YOURS!

Yes, I’m listening to X-Ray Spex.

Also, I’m having a terrible time organising tickets with London Film Festival.

So, in the past when I got the LFF catalogue, my eyes would over-dilate at the most wide ranging big ass selection of films, decide I want to see Everything (just as you would flipping through the Argos catalogue at Xmas) and then see nothing at all. It was very annoying

The last couple of years, I’ve learnt to be more discerning and specific. This was in no small part helped by my lovely friends like Jamie of Queer Manchester film fest who like a lightning bolt would send out his own selection of LGBT films. This was mega inspiring and helpful. With a renewed vigour (and better mental health emotional regulation) I’ve been learning how to find the Queer films, the Feminist films, the Black films and all the more marginalised type films that you may not see in your local cinema when this glorious festival had passed through our city. This led to my Moonlight moment in 2016, a cinematic experience that I’ll never forget and will always cherish,

My first step was to re-utilise my BFI Flare ticket spreadsheet where the timeline is broken down into sort-of hourly slots (and colour coded, always colour coded). Then I’m skimming through the programme. I’m not remotely in that white boys coming of age, thank you very much. Is it full of famous folk? You’re alright, I’ll check you out in Peckhamplex later. Is the lesser-spotted Black protagonist? Lovely! And so on. I fill in the films in my spreadsheet, with enough slots for double bookings. This year I unleashed it onto my friends, who I haven’t seen as much of due to phyiscal health kerfuffles (chronic disability y’all). The enthusiasm, the love I received back was almost overwhelming. I couldn’t wait to have so many more beautiful film experiences with the people I love.

It was going so well…

It is quite well known amongst people who visit (and love – this is coming from a place of love) that the BFI website is a jumbled up mess. It is not instinctual, things don’t work. This time the frustration is almost killing me. You wait, breath baited, with your spreadsheet. The gate is lifted for BFI members and you gotta get those tickets. You have get them now. You have to get them in the perfect seats. You have to get them for your mates. You’re given 40 minutes to bundle up as many screenings as you can. You scowl at the ticket prices. Feel embarrassed, victimised by the pricings. What’s happened to the concession tickets. £17 for an evening ticket in the central London cinemas, where the vast majority of the films you want to see are? I’m still disabled, and unemployed – where is my concession? When did we suddenly be excluded from so many films? I see the £6.50 matinees, thank goodness but these are few and far between.

Even so, I make my bookings. I got ages, nearly 20 minutes before the seats get released again. I go to make a cup of tea. When I come back, BFI website has logged me out for no reason and all my hard work down the drain. The horror. The horror. The website tells me it has done this for my security but actually it’s just nonsensical ineptitude.

Start again. I did it all over again. I’m a stubborn cinephile. And I get to the end, the payment page, intact.

Only, this time the payment will not go through. Why. Why is this. My card is fine. I’ve double checked with my bank and they say it’s the dodgy BFI website and completely their issue. I call BFI Box Office (the BFI Front of House staff are heroes FYI) and they say quite easily when I tell them the payment isn’t going through that yeah, of course, the BFI website is terrible and everyone knows that. We laugh, because the BFI Front of House are lovely and always make me feel at ease.

I’ve managed to book some tickets – Jeunne Femme, Roller Dreams, Dolores and The Slits documentary. I hope to book several more. But before then, I will have to scratch out many films, simply because there are shown in the central cinemas whose ticket prices are so very very out of reach. And I’ll have to call the box office everytime, because their website doesn’t work and it’s acknowledged but not, you know, FIXED. You can fix this, BFI. Your staff are hard working and smart. You can fix this. You can do limited numbers of concession tickets for your central London venues. When members are being blocked from paying online and they tell you, you can look at how to fix it. Just saying, Please, for my sake!

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Favourite Films, Year by Year

Favourite Films of My Life

Because listicles are cute and easier to write!

When I first saw this going round I was a bit freaked out, but technology comes to the rescue. I use Letterboxd a lot and you can go through the films you’ve logged by year. I fear that some of the lovely LGBT films I’ve watched may not be logged on Letterboxd. I’ve also decided not to add my favourite short films as that would make my life impossible. I’ve put in several runner ups and special mentions. Some years are weaker than others (looking at you 2005, what happened?!)

1988: My Neighbour Totoro

1989: Tongues Untied

1990: Edward Scissorhands

1991: Terminator 2

1992: Malcolm X

1993: Jurassic Park

1994: The Lion King
(special mention Rivers of Grass)

1995: Toy Story

1996: Set it Off
(special mention: Matilda)

1997: Starship Troopers
(special mention: Eve’s Bayou)

1998: Truman Show
(special mention: Rushmore)

1999: The Matrix
(special mentions Toy Story 2, American Beauty)

2000: Bamboozled / X-Men

2001: LOTR Fellowship of the Ring
(special mentions Monsters Inc, Training Day)

2002: LOTR The Two Towers
(special mention: 28 Days Later)

2003: LOTR: Return of the King
(special mention: X2, Old Boy)

2004: Shaun of the Dead
(special mention: Mean Girls)

2005: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (what a shit year!)

2006: Pans Labyrinth

2007: Hot Fuzz

2008: Iron Man

2009: Star Trek
(special mention: Moon, UP)

2010: Social Network
(special mention: Beginners, TOY STORY 3, Inception)

2011: Pariah, The Raid
(special mention: Source Code, Attack the Block)

2012: Avengers Assemble

2013: A crazy year!!!! Her, Iron Man 3, The Heat
(special mention: Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Stoker)

2014: Another ridic year!!! Pride, Guardians of the Galaxy, Raid 2, The Lego Movie, Captian American Winter Soldier, Appropriate Behaviour. I refuse to choose a favourite. Fight me.
(special mentions for a special year: Song of the Sea, Nightcrawler, Wild)

2015: Inside Out, Bessie
(special mention: Major!)

2016: Moonlight

2017: Hidden Figures
(special mention: Get Out, Lego Batman)

BFI Flare 2017: What I’m Really Looking Forward To…

It’s March, end of the first quarter and the most wonderful time of the year…

I’ve blocked off my calendar, done hours of reading and research, booked all the industry events and have once again produced my festival spreadsheet to make sure I don’t miss one moment of queer film goodness.

Flare Spreadsheet screen capture

Mmmm, colour-coding.

I am of course, talking about BFI Flare, one of the biggest and longest running queer film festivals in the world. I was lucky enough to be part of the team as Events Coordinator in 2013 and 2014, and have a lifetime of anecdotes to show for it. I love the variety of films shown, the ambition, the club nights and the BFI Festival team is its own superhero gang, but maybe I’m biased.

The festival kicks off tonight with Against the Law, a portrait of gay male life in the 1950s before the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality, now half a century ago. Everything the festival does this year falls under this shadow; I hope it’s a strengthening, emboldening factor rather than a flattening, dulling one. I hope the festival, especially this years, continues to be a mixture of remembrance, celebration and activism.

If you hadn’t heard about it, why not?! But honestly, don’t worry about tickets. I’ll say it again: Don’t freak out if you haven’t got tickets. I say this for several reasons; have you tried to herd queers? Have you ever tried to get a large group of queers (or your Caribbean family) to get to a venue on time for anything? There will be some tickets available from people who haven’t turned up, people trying to sell spares, unused sponsor tickets and sometimes late releases. If there’s a film you really really want to see, I honestly recommend turning up and queueing up. Worst come to worst, you’ll get to hang out with your friends who didn’t get tickets either. BFI Flare will have you bumping into all of your friends (including your exes, so be prepared).

With this in mind, I have a big bunch of films I want to point out for your enjoyment. These are the films I’m really looking forward to seeing:

Continue reading BFI Flare 2017: What I’m Really Looking Forward To…

Merely Films 21 I Missed Out On At BFI Blackstar

Late last year, something absolutely wonderful happened.

From October to December, BFI Black Star created a season of film full of Black talent. Week after week I camped out at Southbank, seeing a massive variety of Black films. It was such a glorious thing to have Black faces dominating the screen for weeks and months at a time.

BFI Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVj-rmrMZQw

Unfortunately I still managed to muck it up. There was a lot of films I regret missing during BFI Black Star Season. Some by accident, through overwhelming choice, through timing, being broke, ticket deals that don’t loner cinephiles are allowed to use; at one point where I was going to buy 10 tickets I only gotten 2. Hoping BFI improves on this in the future. I really did see a f*ckton of films. And yet during the late autumn I met so many POC who hadn’t heard of Black Star, or only saw one film, or knew about Film Africa, come to the BFI and still completely miss out on Black Star.

Forever more I will be a strange mixture of smug-strated that I got to be in an audience of 30 people for the UK premiere of Lime Kiln Club, the oldest surviving film with an all black cast, dated 1913 with a display of carefree Blackness and humour. This film could easily have been one of the biggest events of the season, backed up with talks and panels and gif workshops. Instead it was scheduled at 18:15 on a Friday night in one of the smaller screens against Boyz in the Hood with director John Singleton doing a Q&A. I’m pretty sure everyone involved did not mean for it to happen, but it happened. And who knows when the next time this film (in the care of MOMA’s vaults) will be seen in the UK again?

So below, see a list of the top ten films I regret missing so you don’t have to. I urge you to look up these films. Their stories are wonderfully varied, and feature star turns from Black actors throughout the history of cinema, that can only benefit anyone who engages with their work, who don’t see their lives or faces reflected:

  1. In the Heat of the Night
    Voted greatest Black Star performance of all time. I can also recommend an amazing book about the creation of modern cinema through inception and production of the 1967 Oscar Best Picture Nominations: Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood by Mark Harris (thoroughly, gorgeously researched, written and presented)
  1. Robeson films (The Proud Valley, Song of Freedom, Show Boat)
    Paul Robeson is most likely a literal superhero and mainstream missed out because like, racism. I was very overwhelmed by choice in this one.

  1. Stormy Weather
    I want to see this performance on the big screen!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNKRm6H-qOU

  1. Devil in a Blue Dress
    I have heard that Don Cheadle is a BOSS in this

  1. Imitation of Life (1959)

  1. Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit – this is one of my favourite films ever, I have watched it at least 20 times. It was scheduled against Desmond’s with cast and director Q&A and the Beyonce Symposium on the same Sunday afternoon .

  1. To Sleep With Anger plus Danny Glover in conversation.
    Shame on me to miss on events when there’s live talks with legendary actors. Not that I really understood how badass Danny Glover is.

  1. House Party

  1. and 10. Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassssss Song & Foxy Brown.
    Again with scheduling – you could see one but not quite both on the same night. And then I was double booked with other things.

Best of the Rest…

  • Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

  • Within Our Gates

  • New Jack City

  • Bush Mama + Child of Resistance + Diary of an African Nun
    – Because LA Rebellion movement films are very rarely screened!

  • Black Christmas
    – A 1977 BBC TV movie starring Norman Beaton and Carmen Munroe. I fear I will never have a chance to watch again unless I screen it myself :/

  • Playing Away
    – A film that plays on my nostalgia of when the West Indies cricket team would kick arse epically. At least this one is available on BFI Player

  • Secrets and Lies

  • Nothing But a Man

  • Claudine

  • Beverley Hills Cop

  • Waiting to Exhale

    Can’t lie, literally for this GIF:

     tumblr_ny6qqqjrs61u99k6xo1_500

    This, unbelievably, is not an exhaustive list. Did y’all go to Black Star and only see one film? Do you even know what I’m talking about? Let me know, let’s chat!

    www.bfi.org.uk/blackstar

So What’s This About Then? 

I’m Tara and I am starting a blog because I see a lot film and generally get up to a lot of things. I tend to have strong feelings about culture, and how we see things. And it’s all indelibly informed by me being a Black Queer Fat Intersectional Femme Feminist Fangirl Polya Cinephile. My fab fat queer black femme self informs everything the same way the vast majority of senior TV execs’ white heteronormative narrow viewpoint informs who we get to see on TV. 

There will be many posts to follow. But right now my sleeping pill is kicking in so is best sign off.