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BFI FLARE 2015 – Programme Announced

February 19, 2015

FestivalsFilm + Entertainment | by Francesco Cerniglia


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Last night, I had the pleasure to sit in the largest screening room of BFI Southbank where the public launch of the 2015 BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival took place. Clare Stewart, BFI Head of Cinemas and Festivals, and her team of five programmers (Brian Robinson, Emma Smart, Jason Barker, Jay Bernard and Michael Blyth) introduced the programme for this year’s festival which will take place 19th – 29th March 2015 at BFI Southbank and it’s also led by BFI Deputy Head of Festivals Tricia Tuttle.

BFI Flare is the UK’s leading LGBT film event and one of the world’s longest established with over 50 features, more than one hundred shorts and a wide range of special events, guest appearances, discussions, workshops and more.

Fresh from its world premiere at Sundance and its European one at the Berlinale, this edition of BFI Flare will open with the UK Premiere of I Am Michael. A feature directorial debut for Gus Van Sant protégé Justin Kelly, the film stars James Franco and Zachary Quinto in a powerful interrogation of gay identity through the real-life story of Michael Glatze, who went from crusading gay journalist to anti-gay pastor.

As evidence of the strength of documentary work in this year’s Festival, the closing night will feature the European Premiere of director Malcolm Ingram’s highly topical and rousing Out To Win, charting the experience of LGBT sportspeople working in the highest echelons of professional sport. Featuring contributions from such pioneers as Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, David Kopay, John Amaechi and Jason Collins, Ingram returns to the Festival after previously having screened documentaries Small Town Gay Bar (2006) and Continental (2013).

Director David Thorpe delivers the Accenture Gala with the European Premiere of Do I Sound Gay?, a documentary exploring the provocative idea of whether there is a ‘gay voice’ and featuring humorous, insightful contributions from performers and comedians including Margaret Cho, David Sedaris, George Takei and Dan Savage.

The centrepiece ccreening, the UK Premiere of Stories Of Our Lives, directed by Jim Chu Chu is a drama adapted from real testimonies of LGBT Kenyans (where the film is banned for promoting homosexuality). Fresh winner of a Teddy Jury Prize at the Berlinale, this is powerful cinema but also essential viewing for those who are concerned about global human rights.

The festival offers rich cinematic insight into LGBT lives and loves around the world with films from the USA, France, UK, Spain, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Poland, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Australia, Greece and India plus the world’s first LGBT film from Sri Lanka (Frangipani).

Confirmed guests so far include Justin Kelly (I Am Michael), Malcolm Ingram (Out To Win), Jeffrey Schwarz and Tab Hunter (Tab Hunter Confidential), Mark Christopher (54: The Director’s Cut), Carol Morley (The Falling), Colin Rothbart (Dressed As A Girl), Jonny Woo and friends. More confirmations expected shortly.

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The festival’s films are grouped into themed sections as follows:

HEARTS – films about love, romance and friendship

BODIES – stories of sex, identity and transformation

MINDS – reflections on art, politics and community

There is also a wide offering of special events:

This year is the 40th anniversary of the film The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) which launched a thousand devotional dress-ups, and there will be a special anniversary screening at the BFI IMAX followed by a Blue Room party; dressing up is definitely encouraged. In the regular lecture series “We Love…” this year’s subject is Xena Warrior Princess which will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Xena and other glorious female role models, followed by a suitably themed Warrior Women after party. The pioneering archive classic from Germany, Different from the Others (1919) will screen at the V&A.

And for book lovers, a special Flare bookclub ‘Reading Between the Lines: Queer Books on Film’ will allow a chance for discussion through screenings of key LGBT literary adaptations: Orlando (1992), The Color Purple (1985), Strangers On A Train (1951) and Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe (1991).

Once again the festival offers the chance to reprise some of the year’s most thrilling, previously released LGBT films in the BEST OF YEAR programme: Appropriate Behavior (2014), a delicious Persian-American bisexual comedy; The Duke Of Burgundy (2014), a coolly modern take on a stylish 70s, European porn; and Pride (2014), the beloved Brit hit which will be followed by a talk with some of the people on whom the film’s characters were based who will share memories and experiences..

This year’s festival will have an increased industry programme for registered delegates and the launch of a new mentorship programme, in association with Creative Skillset, for five emerging LGBT filmmakers.

Following its introduction last year the BFI’s VOD platform will again feature a selection of related titles under the Flare banner so wherever you are in the UK you can get a flavour of the festival.

Tickets go on sale via BFI FLARE’s official website on 25th February for BFI members and 2nd March for non members.

Francesco Cerniglia – Film Editor