2014 was a crucial year for LGBT rights, with the landmark legislation of gay marriage going someway to finally creating a fairer society deserved by all. However, it was also an important year culturally, particularly within the world of LGBT cinema. This year’s BAFTAs saw not one but two LGBT films, Pride and Lilting, nominated for big awards, with Pride also picking up a nomination for Best Film in the Comedy & Musical category. And with Pride also becoming a commercial success at the UK Box Office in 2014, it finally looks like audiences are showing LGBT films the interest and respect they have long since deserved.
Between the 19th & 29th of this month at the BFI Southbank, you can show your support for queer cinema by attending Flare, the London LGBT Film Festival. Now in its 29th year, Flare is Britain’s longest running and most popular film festival dedicated to cinema that explores lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues. And this year, like every other, Flare’s line-up is filled with cinematic gems waiting to be realized or rediscovered. To help you navigate this year’s schedule, we’ve picked apart the programme and found a number of recommendations to offer you; some we’ve seen, others that we’re looking forward to seeing, all ones you should make sure you do see!
Films We Can’t Wait To See
I Am Michael (Dir. Justin Kelly) – 19th & 20th March
Starring James Franco, who with his performances in the likes of Milk and Howl has shown a great commitment to gay cinema, I Am Michael tackles the identity issues that can affect many homosexuals. Based on a New York Times magazine article, it tells the true tale of Michal Glatze (Franco). Glatze was a gay activist who underwent crisis of faith and went on to become a Christian pastor who denounced homosexuality. Receiving favourable reviews following its premiere at Sundance earlier this year, this is a perfect opportunity to see what promises to be a fascinating film.
Stories of Our Lives (Dir. Jim Chuchu) – 26th, 28th & 29th March
This timely drama, directed by Jim Chuchu (African Metropolis), offers a peak behind the veil of Kenya’s LGBT community through five separate vignettes. The struggle for equality and acceptance for the queer population in Africa is one of unending hardship. As a case in point, Kenya’s Film Classification Board rejected the film on the grounds that it promoted homosexuality. The critical response, however, has been far more positive. Chuchu’s determination to bring these stories to the screen distinguishes him as an artist of great vision and commendable courage, who deserves to be rewarded by having his film seen by as many people as possible.
Futuro Beach (Dir. Karim Aïnouz) – 20th & 21st March
Directed by festival favourite Karim Aïnouz, this quiet melodrama takes us from the scorching beaches of Brazil to the freezing cityscapes of Berlin to tell a tale of love and loss. Wagner Moura stars as Donato, a lifeguard haunted by the loss of a German tourist who recently drowned. Spurned on by the solace he finds in the company of Konrad, a friend of the victim, Donato soon considers relocating to Germany, but pieces of his past continue to follow him. Praised at the Berlinale as being a powerful and passionate film, this looks set to be another masterpiece from Aïnouz that’s not to be missed by fans of his work.
Of Girls & Horses (Dir. Monika Treut) – 25th & 27th March
Another festival favourite, Monika Treut’s tender romance follows troubled teen Alex, who is sent to work as an intern at a horse ranch in the German countryside. There she meets Kathy, a shy girl of similar age, who ignites intoxicating feelings within Alex that slowly spin her out of control. Shot against striking German landscapes and suffused with a pair of highly praised performances, Of Girls & Horses looks set to echo the quality of Treut’s other celebrated works such as Virgin Machine and My Father is Coming.
The Amina Profile (Dir. Sophie Deraspe) – 24th & 26th March
The events that have continued to play out in Syria have quite rightly shocked the world, and this documentary by Sophie Deraspe is likely to do nothing but fuel that collective flame. The subject is the ‘Gay Girl in Damascus’ blogger, who disappeared from the face of the Earth having published various posts citing radical lesbian viewpoints. What followed was a campaign set up by Syrian LGBT activists that threw up some startling questions. Fresh from Sundance, The Amina Profile sets about trying to pick this mystery apart, but is unlikely to offer any easy answers.
Films That We Recommend
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Dir. Jim Sharman) – 27th March
Surely there isn’t a more iconic example of LGBT cinema than Jim Sharman’s cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Now celebrating its 40th Anniversary, its high time to revisit this camp classic, and what better place to do so than at the BFI IMAX? Part musical tribute to the Hammer Horror B-movies, part celebration of queer sexuality, this is one of the most deliriously dazzling films you’re ever likely to see… so make sure you don’t miss it!
The Duke Of Burgundy (Dir. Peter Strickland) – 27th & 28th March
Likely to be listed as one of our favourite films of 2015, this third film by Peter Strickland is arguably his most accomplished. Lacing hypnotic images on top of each other and juxtaposing them with a hallucinogenic score, Strickland crafts a kaleidoscopic reflection of domination and desire within the confines of a lesbian BDSM relationship. So much more than just a hollow tale of bare bums and bondage, The Duke Of Burgundy reveals itself to be an important study of power and sexual-politics within all relationships. Through the passion and personal persecutions of the two leads, the director weaves a poignant parable that observes the pain and sacrifice we must all make for the sake of companionship. It is, quite simply, impossible not to submit to.
Pride (Dir. Matthew Warchus) – 21st & 28th March
There were few films released in 2014 that were as culturally defining as Pride! Its deserved critical and commercial success stands as a turning point within the world of LGBT cinema, proving that there is a much wider audience interested in discussing the divisive social subjects explored here. Based on a true story, Matthew Warchus’ film follows a group of gay activists who helped support miners striking in Wales during the summer of ’84. Perfectly compositing heart with humour, it’s a bold and bittersweet tale that addresses some serious socio-political situations from our recent past. Not only is it a great film, but also because of its success Pride is arguably one of the most important British films made in recent years.
BFI: Flare runs from the 19th to the 29th of March. Follow this link for full details and tickets.