Words: Attitude; Images: BFI Flare
This article appears in Attitude isse 354, March/April 2022.
After two years of digital events, the 36th BFI Flare: London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival will be presented from 16-27 March 2022 in person at BFI Southbank, with an online component available on BFI Player.
Screening the best in contemporary LGBTQIA+ cinema from across the globe, in addition to a rich selection of events and archive titles, Flare is the UK’s largest celebration of queer lives on screen.
You can check out the full programme online. Here, three of the festival programmers, Michael Blyth, Zorian Clayton, and Brian Robinson share their favourites from this year’s festival.
Esther Newton Made Me Gay
Magnetic and insightful, Esther Newton’s books on drag, butch, and camp have had an enormous impact on cultural anthropology and queer studies. This film is devoted to the extraordinary academic and chronicles around 70 years of queer history through Newton’s life. And for all those dog lovers out there, the movie also explores her many years in the world of competitive dog agility.
The End of Wonderland
Tara Emory is surely one of a kind. Maker of kitsch kink photography and films, she is the brains, brawn, and beauty behind this pornographic odyssey as sole designer, builder, and star of her science fiction, trans femme, fetish world. She’s also a classic car enthusiast and hoarder of mechanical goods. Enjoy this rip-roaring ride through the mind of a unique artist.
Fanny: The Right to Rock
Opening the door for women in rock, Fanny was one of the first all-female 70s rock bands on a major American record label. Despite their musical prowess which would go on to influence The Go-Go’s, Joan Jett, and many more, they faced a mountain of sexism, homophobia, and racism in the industry, disbanding in 1975. It was David Bowie’s dying wish that they would reform and in 2018, this happily came true. Come and learn all about Fanny, your new favourite band!
Private Desert (Deserto Particular)
A disgraced cop falls head over heels for a woman he has met online, but when he makes plans to see her IRL, she stops responding. When he obsessively tracks her down, she is intrigued but evidently wary of his ardour, and hasn’t yet come out as trans to anyone besides her best friend. This tenacious Brazilian love story has been accumulating rave reviews and award nominations since its premiere in Venice last year.
Boy Culture: The Series
A welcome return to the festival for Q. Allan Brocka’s 2006 original hit comedy Boy Culture with the original stars Darryl Stephens (of Noah’s Arc fame) as his boyfriend and Derek Magyar as the escort known as X reunited in a six-part series sequel. X gets involved with a hilarious range of sexual situations as he teams up with Chayce, a younger rent boy, to explore escorting in the digital era.
Everything at Once
A revealing look at some of the model shoots for homo-erotic photography zine, Kink. Long-term lovers Paco and Manolo from Barcelona have created a unique style of photography and a community of fans with their lovingly produced zine. They pride themselves on creating a special sense of intimacy which offers a collaborative visual celebration of sexual passion. A fascinating excursion into a lyrical vision of masculine beauty.
In from the Side
A thrilling drama set in the highly pressured world of a south London gay rugby team. One of the leading players, the handsome Mark (heartthrob Alexander Lincoln) becomes involved with another player, and the tensions between their own emotional lives and the balance of friendships in the team are under threat. On or off the pitch there’s always a chance to score. A rugger-bugger’s delight.
Bruno Reidal: Confessions of a Murderer
It’s not for everyone, but this recreation of a historic, true-life murder based on the testimony of the perpetrator is a film that will stay with you. It’s a gripping excursion into the mind of a sadistic, gay killer but every scene is composed with painterly care. The 17-year-old Bruno is brilliantly portrayed by Dimitri Doré as a tortured psychopath driven by a terrible passion to destroy the ones he loves.
The Sound Of Scars
A fascinating, eye-opening documentary which chronicles the turbulent history of metal band Life of Agony, whose lead singer Mina Caputo came out as transgender in 2011. Offering a refreshing antidote to the masc-fuelled heteronormativity usually associated with the metal/ hardcore scene, this inspiring tale of strength and survival is essential viewing, whether you are a fan of the band or not.
Jimmy in Saigon
A documentary filmmaker pieces together the mysterious story of his late brother, who died in Saigon in 1972 at the age of just 24. What begins as a shameful family secret is slowly revealed to be something unexpectedly complex and ultimately romantic, in this absorbing and deeply emotional commemoration of a queer life nearly forgotten.
A gorgeous fusion of road movie, family drama, and love story, Wildhood is the story of an indigenous two-spirit teenager searching for his mother, who learns to embrace both his sexuality and his Mi’kmaw heritage in the process. Sumptuously shot and richly emotional, this is a coming-of-age movie of rare authenticity and depth, painting a sensitive portrait of self-acceptance combined with ancient tradition.
Terence Davis’ sumptuous and achingly melancholic portrait of First World War poet Siegfried Sassoon is notable for many things, not least in being the acclaimed British filmmaker’s first film to place a queer story at its centre. The results are magnificent, featuring unforgettable performances from Jack Lowden and Peter Capaldi as Sassoon, a man battling the psychological aftermath of trauma.
BFI Flare: London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival runs from 16-27 March 2022 at BFI Southbank and online at the BFI Player. Get tickets here.