Flare Festival Carries the LGBT Torch

BFI Flare 2018 kicked off in style with the Opening Night UK Premiere of MY DAYS OF MERCY. Powered by stirring performances from Ellen Page (JUNO, INCEPTION, FREEHELD) and Kate Mara (HOUSE OF CARDS, THE MARTIAN), Shalom-Ezer’s follow up to PRINCESS is a poignant love story between two women from vastly different backgrounds and opposing political views. This well received first film welcomed in a host of varied and relevant pink flicks. From love stories, to life struggles, to biopics – subject matter ranged far and wide but always through queer eyes. 

MARIO tackled the issue of coming out in professional football. This thoughtful love in a German-Swiss world of soccer, where love still dare not speak its name, was one of the festival hits. The man who coined that ‘dare not’ phrase was brought to life on the big screen by Rupert Everett, as star and director of THE HAPPY PRINCE. His portrayal of the gay icon was considered a triumph.

Two stateside-set films depicted the struggles to come out in that vibrant, spiteful and, at times, violent world of American high school. Coming out was visited from opposite ends of the spectrum. In FREAK SHOW, directed by Trudie Styler,  we see Billy Bloom flaunting his gayness and gender fluidity before classmates with inevitably dramatic consequences. LOVE SIMON charts the tentative path to coming out for a modern-day teen. This takes the traditional teen movie template and infuses it with a gay coming out theme. Touching, with wide appeal, LOVE, SIMON is a key film along to road to mainstreaming the gay experience in cinema.

The Festival offered an exciting industry programme alongside talks with Robin Campillo (writer / director of 120 BPM and EASTERN BOYS). The film also had a gala screening at the Curzon Soho, which was attended by members of the film’s team, including one of its leading men, Nahuel Perez Biscayart. The screening was a benefit for ACT UP and was followed by a lively Q&A.

Other talks included those with Elizabeth Karlsen (producer of Carol, Colette, The Crying Game and Hollow Reed) and recent BAFTA Nominee Francis Lee (writer / director of God’s Own Country). Plus a chance to dissect one of the hottest gay TV shows of the moment at Anatomy of an Episode: The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. Writer and executive producer Tom Rob Smith came to the BFI to offer the inside story on the making of the series. 

And historic landmarks got in on the act at Flare 2018, turning one of London’s most famous buildings into a big screen. A spectacular projection on the Tower of London celebrated the British Council’s #FiveFilms4Freedom as part of the BFI Flare: London LGBTQ+ Film Festival, with the support of the UK government’s GREAT Britain campaign. The projection showed clips from five films from across the world that celebrate LGTBQ+ stories with the message Love is a Human Right. The international filmmakers for each film gathered at the Tower to experience the projection. After the moat of poppies the fortress sent out another strong message.

Short films, from India, Canada, South Korea, Greece and the UK shone a light on the experiences of people from different parts of the world. The selected clips included a passionate kiss between Devi and her housemaid risking both family and Indian tradition; two British farmers witnessed kissing by disapproving family members; a South Korean man hiding evidence of his partner when he receives an unexpected visit from his mother.

Another side of historic London was showcased in the Flare closing night film in Steve McClean’s POSTCARDS FROM LONDON, which showed an decidedly arthouse view of Soho and some young men making a living from the world’s oldest profession.  ‘Postcards from London’ was the Flare Closing Gala and the film’s European Premiere. This stylish and sexy film tells the story of beautiful teenager Jim (Harris Dickinson, BEACH RATS) who, having travelled from the suburbs, finds himself in Soho where he falls in with a gang of unusual high-class male escorts ‘The Raconteurs’.  Set in a vibrant, neon-lit, imaginary vision of Soho, this morality tale manages to be both a beautifully shot homage to the spirit of Derek Jarman and a celebration of the homo-erotic in Baroque art. This was a very daring way for queer love to speak its name


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