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BFI Flare Film Festival 2017

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

Film Festival Feature

With just under a week to go until the start of this year's BFI Flare Film Festival, we take a look at some of the festival's highlights, and what audiences attending one the UK's most diverse and exciting movie events can expect. UK Film Review will be covering the film festival so make sure you come back regularly for film reviews and articles.

BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival unveiled its 31st edition’s full programme tonight. As

announced last week, BFI Flare opens on the 16th March with the World Premiere of Fergus

O’Brien’s BBC Production Against the Law at BFI Southbank. The Film Festival closes with the

International Premiere of Jennifer Reeder’s Signature Move at BFI Southbank. One of the

most significant and long standing film events in the world’s LGBT calendar, BFI Flare will

present over 50 features, more than 100 shorts and a wide range of special events, guest

appearances, discussions, workshops, club nights and much more. Tickets go on sale via to BFI Patrons, Champions and Members from Monday 20 Feb and General

Public on Monday 27 February.

Tricia Tuttle, BFI Deputy Head of Festivals:

If last year’s 30th Anniversary of the Festival was time for reflection on just how far we’ve

come, many world events in the 12 months since have reminded us just how vital this event

still is. And what a programme we have to offer this year – it’s vibrant, politically engaged,

playful, stirring – and with a number of World, International and European Premieres on

offer, BFI Flare is absolutely the place to see the best new LGBT cinema first.”

Film Festivals UK

The Centrepiece Screening of the 2017 Festival is the European Premiere of Torrey Pines, a

psychedelic stop-motion animation about a child grappling with gender identity and a

schizophrenic mother. The film will be accompanied by a live score from director Clyde

Peterson’s Queercore band, Your Heart Breaks. The year’s Special Presentations are both

World Premieres: the new UK web series, Different for Girls, a smart, sassy, sexy multi-

layered lesbian drama, directed by award-winning Festival alumni Campbell X and After

Louie in which Alan Cumming plays a New York artist whose life is turned upside down by an

encounter with a much younger man.

2017 sees the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act which decriminalised

private homosexual acts in England and Wales. The Festival marks this anniversary in a

number of ways:

  • Fifty Years of Queer History through the Moving Image and Beyond a unique afternoon of illustrated talks, screenings and storytelling with a wide range of historians, archivists and individuals who lived through the period.

  • The aforementioned Against the Law is the profoundly moving true story of Peter Wildeblood and the events that led to the creation of the Wolfenden Committee on sexual law reform.

  • BFI Flare will host the World Premiere of the politically charged Pride? (dir. Ashley Joiner), a provocative and intelligent documentary which details the history of the Pride celebrations.

  • As previously announced, the BFI is also marking the 50th anniversary with a new season of screenings and events in July and August. Gross Indecency will explore the pioneering – and sometimes problematic – depictions of LGBT life in British film and TV in the 50s, 60s and 70s.

In a global climate which sees many LGBT people struggle for basic human rights, BFI Flare

also presents a selection of films and events which explore LGBT culture around the world.


  • Out of Iraq (dirs. Eva Orner and Chris McKim) is an outstanding documentary about the forbidden relationship of two Iraqi young soldiers at the height of the Iraq war.

  • The Pearl of Africa (dir. Jonny von Wallström) follows the story of Cleopatra Kambugu, the first out transgender woman in Uganda.

  • Sridhar Rangayan, the Director of Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival will attend BFI Flare and take part in an event exploring LGBT film and television culture in India, as part of UK/India 2017.

  • LGBT film gets an international spotlight with the welcome return of fiveFilms4freedom, programmed in partnership with the British Council, which sees five LGBT short films from BFI Flare available online for free throughout the festival. Last year’s films were seen in more than 130 countries worldwide.

The Film Festival continues to develop new LGBT filmmaking talent with a third year of its

Mentorship programme, working alongside BFI NETWORK and BAFTA:

BFI NETWORK@FLARE Mentorships in partnership with BAFTA offers emerging

lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-identified filmmakers the opportunity to

develop industry knowledge, professional connections, and a deeper understanding

of the landscape for LGBT film. The program is structured around a professional

relationship with a senior figure from the industry and engagement in a year of BFI

Flare and BFI London Film Festival screenings, and a wide range of filmmaker-

focused and social events and talks. Applications are open until 19 February.


From 16-26th March at BFI Southbank, the Film Festival will showcase the best in contemporary

global LGBT features and short films, talks, events and archive screenings.

Film Festivals Against the Law BFI Flare

The Film Festival opens with the World Premiere of Against the Law (directed by Fergus O’Brien

and starring Daniel Mays, Mark Gatiss and Charlie Creed-Miles), a sensitive adaptation of

Peter Wildeblood’s bestselling memoir, telling the story of his affair with a handsome

serviceman and the subsequent court case which led to his imprisonment.

The Film Festival’s Closing Gala on Sunday 26th March is Signature Move, directed by BFI London

Film Festival alumni Jennifer Reeder. The comedy drama stars Pakistani-Canadian actress,

Fawzia Mirza, Bollywood star Shabana Azmi and Mexican-American Sari Sanchez, and is a

cross-cultural romance about a lesbian living in Chicago with her recently widowed mother.

Special Presentations include Clyde Peterson’s return to the festival for the third time with a

captivating semi-autobiographical animated musical Torrey Pines, which will feature a live

score on the night. Alan Cumming gives a stand-out performance as a troubled survivor of

the AIDS epidemic in Vincent Gagliostro’s passionate and inspirational After Louie. BFI Flare

also screens the World Premiere of Different for Girls (dir. Campbell X), a sassy, sexy lesbian

web series set in West London, starring Rachel Shelley (The L Word) and Guinevere Turner

(American Psycho, Go Fish).

The Film Festival is further divided into sections: HEARTS, BODIES and MINDS. Highlights in the

programme include:

Film Festival 2017 Handsome Devil

HEARTS includes films about love, romance and friendship. Handsome Devil, directed by

John Butler and starring Andrew Scott, is a witty Irish charmer which charts the unlikely

friendship between an isolated gay teen and his hunky rugby playing roommate. Maura

Anderson’s elegant and assured debut Heartland is a powerful examination of love and loss

and tells the tale of Lauren, who is forced to return to live in rural Oklahoma following the

death of her girlfriend. Dear Dad (dir. Tanuj Bhramar) is an India-set bittersweet father and

son road movie. André Techine’s powerful and affecting Being 17 is the story two young

boys in their last year of high school, co-written by Celine Sciamma (Tomboy, Girlhood). The

pain and heartache of young love is laid bare in Monja Art’s hugely accomplished second

feature Seventeen.

BODIES features stories of sex, identity and transformation. The diverse selection of films

includes the Interbank LGBT Forum Special Screening of Nathan Adloff’s winning gay teen

movie Miles. Park Chan Wook’s ravishing The Handmaiden, inspired by Sarah Waters’

Fingersmith, sees a woman hired as a handmaiden to a Japanese heiress, secretly involved

in a plot to defraud her. Marcelo Caetano’s Body Electric follows a handsome young man

enjoying casual encounters in contemporary Brazil. Created by an entirely female crew,

Below Her Mouth (dir. April Mullen) is a no holds-barred depiction of what happens in the

first few days of two women falling in love. Dante Alencastre’s documentary Raising Zoey

follows a strong family who demonstrate how open mindedness and love can pave the way

for a joyful transition for their 13-year- old Zoey. In FTWTF: Female to What the Fuck (dirs.

Katharina Lampert, Cordula Thym), several trans-identified people openly discuss the

intricacies of transitioning. Timothy Greenfield Sanders returns to BFI Flare with The Trans

List, in which some of the world’s most prominent transpeople, including Caitlin Jenner and

Laverne Cox, tell their stories.

MINDS features reflections on art, politics and community. Morgan White chronicles the

world’s most recognisable pair of shoes with The Slippers, a documentary about Dorothy’s

iconic ruby footwear in The Wizard of Oz, which features appearances from the late Debbie

Reynolds and Carrie Fisher. Waiting for B (dir. Paulo Cesar Toldeo) is a kitschy, light-hearted

and thoroughly camp portrayal of pop culture, mega fandom and the adoration of Beyoncé.

Mark Kenneth Woods’ Two Soft Things, Two Hard Things sensitively observes the

complexities of LGBT life in Canada’s remote Arctic Inuit population. Last Man Standing (dir.

Erin Brethauer) is a beautifully made documentary charting the life of eight long-term

survivors who live with AIDS. Led by Laverne Cox, Jaqueline Gares’ Free Cece documents the

case of Cece McDonald, a transwoman imprisoned in a male facility.

Film Festivals Two Soft Things, Two Hard Things

BFI Flare also includes a wide range of events, talks and debates.

SEXIT: What the Fuck is Happening with UK Porn Laws? debates the recent anti-porn laws

which disproportionally target queer businesses, performers and portrayals of alternative

sexualities. This event will question this new wave of censorship with a panel of filmmakers,

organisers and activists on the front line of the debate.

Zorian Clayton, in his first year as a BFI Flare programmer, will present A Romp Through

Classic-Camp a lecture exploring the arch queer aesthetic in cinema that has been enjoyed

from the margins to the mainstream. This will be complemented by screenings of camp

classics; Mommie Dearest, Barbarella, a sing-a- long Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and an

exclusive presentation of Can’t Stop the Music at the BFI IMAX.

Celebrated out lesbian film and TV director Jamie Babbit, returns to the Film Festival to discuss a

body of work celebrating strong female-focussed stories. More than 15 years after her

glorious and defiant teen romance But I’m a Cheerleader, Babbit continues to bring a

delightfully queer eye to features like The Quiet, Itty Bitty Titty Committee and Addicted to

Fresno and TV works including United States of Tara, The L Word, Girls and Looking.

Surprising Ancestors: Cinema’s Forgotten Queers sees Brian Robinson uncover hidden

queer gems from cinema’s silent era. This illustrated lecture will feature a complete

screening of What’s the World Coming To? (dir. Richard Wallace, 1926), a newly restored

Hal Roach comedy set 100 years in the future where butch women rule the world and

effeminate men stay at home and read fashion magazines.

With Queering Love: Queering Hormones BFI Flare screens a collection of artists’ films

which examine love through the filters of biomedical science, culture and politics. These

films were funded by Wellcome Trust, delivered by BFI and, in collaboration with

King’s College London.

In The Queer Frontier: LGBT web series and beyond Emma Smart steps us through the best

LGBT work online, revealing just how much of a game-changer the internet has been for

creating more varied representation and better accessibility in LGBT media.

BFI Flare joins forces with interactive theatre company Clay & Diamonds for Orlando: The

Queer Element, an education event which uses Sally Potter’s film and Virginia Woolf’s text

to allow audiences to step inside a world that breaks apart traditional boundaries between

science and art and explore notions of gender and sex from the Elizabethans through to


BFI Flare Film Festival Quiz

Following the thrills and spills of the BFI Flare Film Quiz last year, Michael Blyth leads the

challenge again, inviting you to put your queer knowledge to the test with the Big Gay Film


We see the return of the hugely popular BFI Flare Club Nights (Fri 17, Sat 18, Thur 23, Fri 24,

Sat 25) at Benugo Lounge and Riverfront with our favourite DJ’s including: Pink Glove, Club

Kali, Maricumbia! Sadie Lee and Jonathan Kemp, BBZ and Unskinny Bop for the BFI Flare

Closing Night Party.


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