Virtual Flare puts LGBTQ+ cinema at your fingertips

Just 12 months ago Flare was pushed online at the very last minute in the face of the emergence of Covid 19. But the show went on …online. In the meantime the disruptions of lockdown did not stop Channel 4s  It’s A Sin putting queer personas front and centre – reframing a conversation about AIDS from a 21st century perspective.

Against this backdrop Flare 2021 arrives, though once again in a remote format but with greater preparation. And one big plus, for the audience, virtual events have become second nature. The UK’s biggest showcase of LGBTQ+ cinema proudly hoists the rainbow flag in the face of the pandemic. Despite Covid restrictions, Flare programmers have delivered a rich and varied selection. Director, BFI Festivals Tricia Tuttle in a two-hander with BFI head, Ben Roberts. Flare 2021 Zoom introduced a thought-provoking and eye-catching line up of queer cinema.

In the Hearts section was just such an accomplished take on a very modern diverse family getting hot under the collar in The Greenhouse. An ambitious movie described as a ‘queer fairy tale ‘ and set in a queer version of Neighbour’s Ramsay StreetNothing if not ambitious. On the eve of Ruth’s sixtieth birthday, Beth follows a vision into the garden and discovers a greenhouse that sends her into the past, where her mother is alive. Beth is taking her first steps in trying to deal with or ignore her own burgeoning sexuality. Director Thomas Wilson-White has shaken up the genders, the sexes, and the timeline. Talking directors, Flare offers a chance – in the Minds strand – to see Cannes selection Enfant Terrible – a  biopic of Reiner Werner Fassbender.

A truly giant talent with great thunderous passions. The wild hedonistic lifestyle of this obsessive and outrageous director is shown unvarnished in a theatrical setting complete with painted scenery. Enfant Terrible makes Black Swan look like a tea party.  Ranting and bellowing demanding and boozing, Fassbender sends shockwaves through his entourage. It has bluster and bombast and will leave audiences shaken and stirred. As Screen International noted “a convincingly Fassbinderian aura in its general tone of raucous sleaze and heightened artificial visual stylistics.” Jump, Darling, in the Bodies strand, is a rather darkside of RuPaul with an amazing turn as grandma from the late great and much lamented, Cloris Leachman.  A drag diva at the crossroads heads back to the safe house of his grandma (Leachman) who is reaching the age when independence is no longer sustainable. At the same time, the diva with doubts is having to face the reality of fully investing in a stage persona on both a professional and personal basis. 

Offering a classic ‘love that dare not speak its name’ theme, is Firebird set in the Soviet Air Force and significantly featuring in the Hearts strand. A Tom of Finland style dark Baltic Top Gun. Things hot up same-sex in the Cold War. Uniforms and furtive glances behind the iron curtain in boot camp condition. Sergey is set to go back to the farm but has a dream of heading to drama school in Moscow.  His illicit affair with a dashing fighter pilot does not exactly make him Kremlin poster boy material. Bringing things right up to date in the Hearts strand is Boy Meets Boy, a low budget present-day gay version of Before Sunrise set in Berlin. A Nottingham lad and a hunky Berlin boy dancer meet in a club and pass a day together prior to a night flight back to the UK for the Brit. Boy Meets Boy is Grindr gritty showing the dystopia of gay dating apps in this carefree world of easy sex and easyJets. Navigating the gay shallows, the boys are looking for their happy ending.

Sergey (Tom Prior) and Roman (Oleg Zagorodnil) as Top Guns lovers in Firebird

Aside from films there are queer talks notably Russell Tovey in conversation. Covid stipulations mean this goes out via BF! YouTube and on the BFI Flare Facebook. From his breakout role in The History Boys, to out gay roles like the lead in gay football feature The Pass, Tovey is well placed to speak about being a pink leading man.And to bring an element of fun and party to proceedings click on one and all for the Big Gay Film Quiz at 7pm on Monday 22nd March. The Quiz can be joined as a group of solo to test LGBTQ+ film knowledge. And don’t forget – no Googling!!Flare has pulled out all the stops to keep the rainbow flag flying in these Covid times so log on and enjoy the best of queer cinema. Next Flare expects to be back in cinemas so enjoy the last virtual Flare in the foreseeable future.

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