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:

  • A Date for Mad Mary: Missed this film first time round at LFF, and have heard it is genuinely funny. Didn’t know it was a queer film either, so now doubly eager to check it out

  • Our Love Story: It looks adorable, and I’m always interested in films aren’t so US-Eurocentric (or just brooding white women in cardigans)

  • Shorts: Not Over Til It’s Over: I always go for the shorts, especially as someone who’s curated a queer short film festival for 3 years, and the style of shorts is quite different this year (more on that in another post). Anyway, the themes of this programme relate to heartbreak and redemption, which has a lot of potential to say a lot within the tighter frame of a short film

  • UK Shorts: Falling Free: I like that this mix is more random and involves all the iterations of L + G + B + T. I’m sure gay men don’t actively avoid watching lesbian/bi films, ha I can’t believe I said that * whistles *

  • Below Her Mouth: I’ve been promised hot lesbian sex that reflects real world women desire and I’ve got my fingers crossed. The Kuntinuum panel last year re: depictions of queer women’s desire highlighted this is merely 100 years late in the history of cinema

  • Body Electric: Looks like a slice-of-life drama with intersections of desire, race, status, class set in Brazil so another chance to see diverse lives on screen

  • The Handmaiden: So, like one of my favourite queer writers (Sarah Waters) has had one of my favourite novels of all time (Fingersmith) adapted into a 1930’s South Korean setting by a fabulous director (Pan Chan-Wook of Old Boy, a fabulous action revenge film) and I still haven’t seen it. I’ve missed about four events screening it already. It pains me. It looks gorgeous. Everyone I know who’s seen it have raved about it. IF I DON’T SEE IT AT FLARE I WILL CRY

  • The Pearl of Africa: Because we will always need film that focus on Black Trans Women, btw. Also interested how they will put this web-series together as a cohesive feature documentary.

  • Rewind / Fast Forward: Sandi Hughes is the QTPOC National Treasure you didn’t know existed. She has a precious archive dating back to the 1970s, showcasing the LGBT Liverpool scene she’s lived and loved in. After all, we’ve always existed. It’s now being digitised and uploaded for posterity, and this event screens some work by the next wave of QTPOC film makers inspired by her work as well as film by Sandi and a Q&A with the great woman herself. Sandi is a hilarious, engaging, warm, spirited character so do not miss this opportunity to see her in person. Go to her website and give her some love.

  • The Untamed: Basically I was hooked by the line “part tentacular science fiction enigma”. I so very much want this to be wild and queer.

  • SEXIT– panel and film screenings: This will be Jay Bernard’s second special Flare event specifically relating to queer porn and I salute them heartily! This time the panel discussion is about the encroaching laws set by fusty white men to criminalise minority desire and sexuality. Also really intrigued by the presence of POC in the films, as they are almost never ever seen in the queer porn I have watched at any queer film festival. Expecting that there’ll be no dry seats left in the house…

  • Shorts: Trials and Liberations. This looks great – a bunch of shorts seem to look towards a hopefulness, pride and full life beyond the tropes of Trans & transition films. I’m a bit frustrated that it’s been shunted to the smaller screens. This I am worried will be shut off from massive swathes of the audience who should be watching this and may need to be watching this. I don’t know if it’s an issue of logistics or confidence, but believe me, the audience is there. They’re probably one of the main reasons BFI updated the festival name in the first place.

  • 50 Years of Queer History Through the Moving Image and Beyond: Don’t freak out that it’s five hours. Rejoice that it’s free and drop in. Perfect with tea and friends, between films, or films you couldn’t get into. Looking to themes within documenting, preserving and showcasing queer history, the afternoon promises a mix of illustrated talks, first hand tales, screenings and academics it’ll be a one off event worth getting involved with.

  • Free Cece!: Let me say it again for those in the back – BLACK TRANS LIVES MATTER. Lauren Laverne is a queen and this film is a documentation and a demand for action against the transmisogynoir Black Trans women experience, specifically those within the prison complex as Cece experiences

  • Jewel’s Catch One: Saw this at LFF and loved it. It’s a story about the tenacity, intelligence and beauty of Jewel, a queer black woman, club owner and community activist. With detail and care it shows an insight into LGBT club culture community – its vitality, its vital-ness. It also appeared to me a piece anyone who’s ever organised a queer event will recognise and take to heart. Another bit of history worth knowing about. It doesn’t shy away from the impact of racism and the HIV crisis and some parts of the film are extremely emotional

  • Out Run: Saw this at my other favourite queer film festival in London, Fringe! – the documentary is about LadLad, the world’s first LGBT political party and their campaign to get representation within Philippines government system. I really enjoyed seeing grassroots politics in action in the nail bars, beauty salons, pageants and small neighbourhoods within their community

  • Political Animals: I will always be there for anything featuring badass women taking on the system and fighting the good fight within a complex and humiliating political culture. This film is about four women US politicians from the 1980s. Really looking forward to this one!

  • Pride?: Ooh, in my Flare copy, this film has got a star with a circle round it. Double want. Must be excited… I’m excited because this film is confronting the dodgy intersectional behaviours within Queer and Pride culture – racism, homonationalism, classism etc. Does the “?” in Pride? ask if the mainstream LGBT community have so much to be proud of, especially as the content and the intent of Pride events continue to shift and conflict against itself?

  • The Queer Frontier: LGBT Web Series and Beyond: queer web series and streamed content has been thrust into great importance and coverage over the last few years. Emma Smart will lead what sounds like a frothy, excellent event for collecting recommendations and general squee.

  • Queering Love, Queering Hormones: Last year, BFI Flare had a vaguely similar event relating to queerness and science, technology, chemistry and botany. It was generally about challenging a science that can be very conservative, binary and reductive. This seems like a continuation of this narrative with a bunch of new artist moving image and discussions. May have to miss because of the timings (3 hours on a Saturday) but definitely a more intriguing event.

  • Re:Orientations: I had never heard of the original Orientations film before now – a film that looked to embrace the diverse identities, politics and passions of queer Asians from all over Canada. The revealing documentary returns to honour them 30 years later. Both films are being shown together and it sounds fabulous.

  • Surprising Ancestors: Cinema’s Forgotten Queers: Of course, queers have always existed, no matter how hard society has attempted to erase and repress. There are more institutional queer archiving and heritage projects than ever before but what about explicit/coded queer action in early cinema? I’m looking forward to Brian Robinson’s illustrated talk on this as it looks set to be more of a fun, cheeky look into queer coding, my eyes looking into the eyes from queers on film many decades ago, where we can both express – yes, that’s exactly what it looks like; yes, it is exactly what you’re thinking.

  • Two Soft Things, Two Hard Things: this documentary looks awesome! A reclamation of the Inuit communities in North West Canada after years of colonisation and repression by European settlers; in particular their own version of queer identity and relationship structure surviving under such pressure. Films relating to queer indigenous life are so few and precious.

  • Waiting for B: I reread the description and my jaw dropped – they camped for TWO MONTHS outside a venue to be first in line for Beyonce tickets?! Absolutely wild! Will I ever be this young again? Queer fandom can be something even greater and more beautiful than the sum of its parts, so will be queueing up for this one.

  • Shadow and Act: QTPOC short film programme? Yes. Ofc. Also featuring a dear friend and excellent film maker Kai Fi’ain. But when the only screenings are in NFT2 and Studio, who’s gonna be able to see it?

  • Shorts: The Permanent Perception: Titles like Spermwhore and descriptions like ‘QVC for queer robots?’ definitely entice. It is always worth having a go on experimental moving image shorts. It’s like going to an art exhibiton; some of them you will like/love or it’ll provoke some questions within you and the ones you don’t like will be over in a few minutes and then you can move on


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I'm a 20ish black female feminist queer polyamorous sci fi fangirl nerd who likes books. In general.

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