It’s great to see London’s legendary BFI Flare LGBTIQ+ Film Festival zooming back into focus as we all plan our coming out of lockdown. Here’s our pick of this year’s online event.
Following announcements that BFI Flare LGBTIQ+ Film Festival (17 to 28 MAR 2021) will be an entirely online affair, the team launched their full programme a little earlier this week. Booking opens today for BFI Members (26 FEB) and a little later for everyone else (02 MAR).
Having devoured the programme in full, there are many ups and one, inevitable, down (more of that in a bit). The main ‘up’ is of course that the festival is happening at all after last year’s cancellation and the ongoing uncertainty of the global pandemic. The BFI crew has put together a strong programme of some 26 features and loads of FREE shorts that can be seen from anywhere in the UK for the duration of the festival. This is an approach we really like, feeling that some of the ‘time-limited’ 48hr viewing windows we’ve seen in other virtual festivals force audiences into venue-style behaviour without recognising the limitations caused by the enduring chaos of COVID-19. So, bravo to the BFI.
Following their usual format, the Flare programme is broken down into three main strands (HEARTS, BODIES, and MINDS, each with 8 or 9 premieres). The programmes of FREE shorts are gathered in their own thematic groups (choose from ‘Beginnings & Endings’, ‘For The Record’, ‘Hearts’ Desires’, ‘Into The Unknown’, ‘Queer As In Question Everything’, ‘Shapes We Make, Spaces We Take’ and, ‘Striving To Be Seen’). The crop of shorts offers considerable bounty. In yet more good news, there will be FREE ‘meet the maker’ content appearing on the BFI’s YouTube and Facebook channels (…if anyone still uses those? ;-). Stay tuned for announcements as the main event unfolds.
The only downside to all this joy is that the features programme feels, inevitably, like a reduced selection from the overflowing Flare feasts we are used to. And the main casualty of all this is that there are few ‘downlist’, experimental, genre-bending oddities for those of us who class ourselves as cinematic bottom feeders (we tend to browse festival brochures for the kind of ‘undiscovered gems’ that only their crowdfunder communities could love…). It seems churlish to bemoan this point, but it’s important to keep a grip on what happens to culture when it gets closed down; it looses some of its raw, spikier edges. None of this is BFI’s fault and it isn’t just about narrower choice: films might be immutable documents, but it’s the live/shared audience experience that brings out their queer character.
Looking ahead then, we have booked into a series of 5 features that we are genuinely excited to see. And you better believe it, we will be binging those FREE shorts like our summers depend on them. Scroll down for our pick of the programme then head to BFI Flare to get booking (from today 26 FEB for BFI members and from 02 MAR for the general public). Tickets cost £10 per feature (£8 for members) and there’s a festival pass for £90/£70 which gives you 10 films for the price of 9. Films are available for the whole festival, subject to booking limits. You have 4hrs to complete a film after you’ve started watching it.
BFI Flare 2021 screens online from 17 to 28 MAR.
> If you can’t wait until the festival itself, you can still dip your wick into a substantial queer stream on BFI Player. Titles include END OF THE CENTURY (d. Lucio Castro, 2019), STUD LIFE (d. Campbell X, 2012), GIRLS LOST (d. Alexandra-Therese Leining, 2015), WEEKEND (d. Andrew Haigh, 2011), DRESSED AS A GIRL (d. Colin Rothbart, 2015), and a brace of RADIANT CIRCUS favourites, CARAVAGGIO (d. Derek Jarman, 1986) and TOMBOY (d. Céline Sciamma, 2011). You will need a BFI Player subscription to view.
Quick links to the venue/box office.
HEARTS: Films about love, romance and friendship.
d. Max Currie, 2020/New Zealand.
“This hit New Zealand drama is a moving and entertaining account of a trans man’s attempts to reconnect with his Māori roots and to rebuild the relationships he had left behind.” BOOK NOW
THE RADIANT CIRCUS VIEW: This one’s personal… I spent my childhood listening to an LP of Māori music each & every Christmas, so there’s a migration here back to my roots (and no, I’m not Māori…). Also, this one feels right as it was “originally conceived as a 5-part web series, and presented here as a feature length film”.
BODIES: Stories of sex, identity and transformation.
d. Anna Kerrigan, 2020/USA
“Unfolding across the stunning mountain ranges of Montana, Anna Kerrigan’s gripping thriller finds a father and son attempting to escape a mother who is unwilling to accept her child’s gender dysphoria.” BOOK NOW
THE RADIANT CIRCUS VIEW: This one’s also personal, because of its focus on mental health and ‘father-son’ bonding issues (remember those Māori records…?). But also because it looks stunning!
d. Phil Connell, 2020/Canada
“At 94, the late, great Cloris Leachman steals the show in this gloriously offbeat drama about a drag queen who takes time out to care for his wise-cracking grandma.” BOOK NOW
THE RADIANT CIRCUS VIEW: No other reason than drag queens and Cloris fucking Leachman. If you don’t want to watch this film, we simply won’t be your blogging friends anymore…
MINDS: Reflections on art, politics and community.
d. Bennett Singer & Patrick Sammon, 202/USA
“This astonishingly rich documentary explores the campaign by key US activists to remove homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s definition of mental illness.” BOOK NOW
THE RADIANT CIRCUS VIEW: Mental health is our untold issue of the pandemic and, if anything positive emerges from a year of turbulent lockdowns, tiers, illness and a ridiculous amount of suffering and hardship, it’s that we start to recognise the equivalence of mental and physical health. Point made…
d. Harri Shanahan & Sîan Williams, 2021/UK
“A brilliant and refreshing story of UK post-punk dyke culture, told by those who lived it.” BOOK NOW
THE RADIANT CIRCUS VIEW: Possibly the film that comes closest to embracing the spirit of the communal queer culture that we’ve craved during our months of isolation. For everyone who didn’t get to see BLOODSISTERS last year… x
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*THE SMALL PRINT: Opinions author’s own. // As accurate as we could make it. Apologies for any errors. Updates & corrections will be made to the online version only. // Event dates/times/formats are subject to change by the venue/organiser. Events may already be sold out at the time of posting, so please click quickly. // We try to list as many original format screenings as we can (8 to 70MM), but sometimes formats change due to age of the print, availability, logistics etc, so please check ahead with your venue if the format is your thing. // All images are used in the spirit of fair use for reporting & review – no ownership is implied or intended / unless otherwise credited to RADIANT CIRCUS as the original rights holder. We will remove any images immediately upon request – just get in touch. // We don’t filter our listings by age/certification: all readers & subscribers should therefore be 18+. // Finally, we always try to follow The Carny Code by “not screwing up anyone else’s game”, but everyone can make mistakes… If something does go wrong, we will always do our best to put it right. //.