BFI FLARE 2020: Bodily Autonomy + BLOODSISTERS (21 MAR).


With tickets on sale from 27 FEB, it’s time to give BFI Flare 2020 a look. The rebranded LGBTIQ+ festival runs from 18 to 29 MAR at BFI Southbank & is a regular beacon of diversity on London’s alternative cinema scene. Here’s our handy guide to this year’s programme, including our ‘top ten best of the fest’.

BFI FLARE 2020: LINGUA FRANCA at BFI Southbank (25 & 26 MAR).
BFI Flare 2020: LINGUA FRANCA at BFI Southbank (25 & 26 MAR).


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UPDATE 02 MAR: As usual, a lot of this year’s film events are already selling out. But don’t panic! BFI Flare will release more tickets on 12 MAR including a schedule of their ‘best of the fest’ for 29 MAR (we counted 12 unprogrammed screening slots at the time of posting). Still some tickets left for our RADIANT CIRCUS favourite picks from the programme…

BFI Flare is one of London’s premier queer film festivals. Taking place at BFI Southbank each year, it benefits from their considerable programming clout and takes over the venue for 12 days with a packed programme of screenings, talks, panels and parties (and an always popular Big Gay Film Quiz). Here’s how everything breaks down this year.


BFI FLARE 2020: special presentation DISCLOSURE - TRANS LIVES ON SCREEN at BFI Southbank (26 & 27 MAR).
BFI Flare 2020: special presentation DISCLOSURE – TRANS LIVES ON SCREEN at BFI Southbank (26 & 27 MAR).

Flare’s opening and closing galas are always popular but, in our ever downlist opinion, not always the films we want to see first (find out what those are in our ‘top ten best of the fest’ below).

This year’s festival opener is CICADA (d. Matthew Fifer & Kieran Mulca, 2020 – 18 & 19 MAR) – “A young man is forced to face past traumas when he embarks on a new relationship, in this remarkable feature debut” – and closing is SUMMERLAND (d. Jessica Swale, 2020 – 28 MAR) – “Gemma Arterton stars in acclaimed theatre director Jessica Swale’s moving Second World War drama, as a woman rediscovering her ability to love“.

There’s also a special presentation of DISCLOSURE: TRANS LIVES ON SCREEN d. Sam Feder, 2020 (26 & 27 MAR) – billed as “A well-timed and thrilling analysis of the history of transgender stories on screen, from the silent era to the present day” –  which is definitely our pick of this bunch.


BFI FLARE 2020: CAROL, discussed at Lesbian Cinema: From Subtext to Visibility (22 MAR).
BFI Flare 2020: CAROL, discussed at Lesbian Cinema: From Subtext to Visibility (22 MAR).

We love talking about film, and this year’s Flare has some good looking opportunities to talk about LGBTQ+ screen representation and inclusion. Our favourite session is Bodily Autonomy (21 MAR – main featured image!) which looks at how “body modification procedures using consent laws have restricted queer practices” and makes a great companion piece to classic dyke rough sex doc BLOODSISTERS which gets a world premiere of a new restoration (see our film choices below).

Activist Valentino Vecchietti will be talking about intersex culture during Intersex Stories: Activism, Resistance & Being (24 MAR) and the embracingly inclusive programme also includes We’ve Always Been Here: D/deaf Disabled Queers On Film (21 MAR) and Lesbian Cinema: From Subtext to Visibility (22 MAR – FREE!).

Other events tagged in this section include a SHOWGIRLS ‘Shade-along’ Screening (20 MAR – paired with Jeffrey McHale’s 2019 doc YOU DON’T NOMI, 20 MAR 18:10 / 22 MAR 20:30), Drag Queen Story Time (21 MAR – FREE!) and that Big Gay Film Quiz (23 MAR).


Us queers love a party, and the BFI throws its doors open for a bunch of them every year. FREE! bop-alongs for 2020 include The Batty Mama’s mix of “old skool 90s R&B & hip hop, garage, afrobeats, bashment, funky house & Detroit techno” (20 MAR), DJ Twang’sspecial blend of high-energy Electro and Disco” (21 MAR), Lavender Nightsfor those who thought their clubbing days were over!” (26 MAR); and, Club Kali featuring DJ Ritu’s “incense-fuelled Hollywood to Bollywood soundtrack” (27 MAR). There’s also a chance to swoon with the stars at the Closing Night Reception (currently looking SOLD OUT! and Party (both 28 MAR, the party is FREE!).


BFI FLARE 2020: LES LÈVRES GERCÉES, part of I Am My Mother's Child (21 & 22 MAR).
BFI Flare 2020: LES LÈVRES GERCÉES, part of I Am My Mother’s Child (21 & 22 MAR).

The main programmes breaks down into three tribes – HEARTS / BODIES / MINDS. Each comes packed with a number of feature film screenings and short film programmes. There are usually great opportunities to hear from the talent behind these screens with filmmaker intros and Q&As, but BFI doesn’t seem to list where these will be in advance.

There’s also a BEST OF YEAR strand which gives you another chance to see some of 2019’s finest LGBTQ+ programming (with all screenings on 29 MAR ‘only’ £8). We pick the features we’d most like to see below, but you can find all the shorts you fancy here:

FESTIVAL TIP: Films can sell out but keep an eye out for encore screenings of the most popular titles as Flare often stuffs more into its schedule as the festival unfolds.


BFI FLARE 2020: ASK ANY BUDDY at BFI Southbank (19 & 22  MAR).
BFI Flare 2020: ASK ANY BUDDY at BFI Southbank (19 & 22 MAR).

Here’s our highly personal pick of the films we would most like to see this year, our RADIANT CIRCUS ‘top ten best of the fest’:

ASK ANY BUDDY d. Evan Purchell, 2019 (19 MAR 13:50 / 22 MAR 18:15):

  • This lovingly edited compilation of erotic gay film is the nearest you’ll get to experiencing queer life in the glory days between 1968 and 1986.
  • CONTENT WARNING: “Please note, this film contains explicit sex.”

FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO d. Daniel Karslake, 2019 (19 MAR 18:10 / 20 MAR 13:50):

  • No description of Daniel Karslake’s powerful documentary can do justice to its sheer emotional intensity.

MAKE UP d. Claire Oakley, 2019 (20 MAR 18:20 / 23 MAR 18:30):

  • The debut feature from acclaimed short filmmaker Claire Oakley is a riveting psycho-sexual drama in which nothing is quite what is seems.

PIER KIDS d. Elegance Bratton, 2019 (20 MAR 20:35 / 22 MAR 15:40):

  • Queer black youth in New York contend with homelessness, violence and discrimination with dedication, humour and passion.
BFI FLARE 2020: BLOODSISTERS at BFI Southbank (21 MAR).
BFI Flare 2020: BLOODSISTERS at BFI Southbank (21 MAR).

BLOODSISTERS: LEATHER, DYKES & SADOMASOCHISM d. Michelle Handelman, 1995 (21 MAR 16:00):

  • In this S&M classic, eight self-described leather dykes discuss queer politics, power and self-determination.
  • CONTENT WARNING: “Please note, this film contains explicit sex.”
  • FESTIVAL TIP: Joint ticket available with panel discussion Bodily Autonomy (21 MAR 18:35 – only available from the box office!).

SPIRAL d. Kurtis David Harder, 2019 (21 MAR 18:30 / 23 MAR 16:00):

  • Like a gay variation on GET OUT, this socio-political shocker is a masterclass in escalating tension.

T11 INCOMPLETE d. Suzanne Guacci, 2020 (24 MAR 20:40 / 26 MAR 15:50):

  • Past mistakes haunt the present and threaten a new love affair between an older woman and her patient in this compelling melodrama.

LINGUA FRANCA d. Isabel Sandoval, 2019 (25 MAR 20:30 / 26 MAR 20:50):

  • A deftly woven tale of love and inequality for a Filipina transwoman living under the radar in New York.
  • FESTIVAL TIP: Along similar undocumented themes, try LA LEYENDA NEGRA d. Patricia Vidal Delgado, 2020 (26 MAR 18:40 / 28 MAR 13:40).

DISCLOSURE: TRANS LIVES ON SCREEN d. Sam Feder, 2020 (26 MAR 18:20 / 27 MAR 16:10):

  • Cinema and TV have a difficult history in reinforcing narrow mainstream gender norms and have often painted LGBTIQ+ people as dangerous. Like a trans-focused sequel to the seminal documentary The Celluloid Closet, this fascinating film wrangles with the history of problematic depictions and celebrates the unravelling of various stereotypes.
  • FESTIVAL TIP: If you like the look of this, why not try QUEERING THE SCRIPT d. Gabrielle Zilkha, 2019, a doc about “the history of queer women on television and the various fandoms they inspired” (25 MAR 18:15 / 26 MAR 20:30)?

SIXTH HAPPINESS 35mm d. Waris Hussein, 1997 (28 MAR 15:30):

  • An opportunity to see Firdus Kanga’s powerful autobiographical drama, detailing his battle to overcome prejudice.
  • FESTIVAL TIP: We think this is the only original format screening in the festival, so if you have a thing for celluloid, this is definitely the one for you!

And that’s the meat of it…

BFI Flare London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival

BFI FLARE 2020: PIER KIDS at BFI Southbank (20 & 22 MAR).
BFI Flare 2020: PIER KIDS at BFI Southbank (20 & 22 MAR).

BFI Flare screens at BFI Southbank from 18 to 29 MAR 2020.

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*THE SMALL PRINT: As accurate as we could make it. Apologies for any errors. Updates & corrections will be made to the online version. Event dates/times are subject to change by the venue/organiser. We try to only list events you can book for at the time of posting: however, some events may still be sold out. Please click quickly! We don’t filter by age/certification: all readers & subscribers should be 18+.