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BFI Flare Opening Night Gala: Lilting

March 21, 2014

FestivalsFilm + Entertainment | by Francesco Cerniglia


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The newly re-christened BFI Flare aka the London LGBT Film Festival officially kicked off its 2014 edition last night with the European Premiere of British indie drama Lilting, a lyrical piece of filmmaking that was a perfect choice for the festival’s opening gala and it’s hopefully destined to touch audiences’ hearts just like it did with mine. The film is the feature-length debut of writer/director Hong Khaou after a couple of successful shorts. It was produced under the Film London Microwave Scheme that was launched back in 2006 and has easily become the premier talent development program for emerging feature filmmakers based in London.

Starring the multi-talented Ben Whishaw (Cloud Atlas, Skyfall, Bright Star), Andrew Leung and Chinese legend Cheng Pei Pei (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon), Lilting is the delicate story of Junn (Pei Pei), a Cambodian-Chinese woman who still hasn’t adapted to her life as a transplant in the UK after twenty years (she doesn’t even speak English) and who unexpectedly loses her son Kai (Leung), the only contact she has with this alien world. While feeling suffocated in the home for the elderly where she resides, this mother in mourning struggles to let go of her beloved son but she isn’t the only one. Richard (Whishaw), Kai’s boyfriend, is equally devastated and does his best to honour his love for the untimely departed Kai by visiting Junn and trying to connect with her which isn’t an easy task given the cultural gap, the language barrier and Junn’s ignorance about her late son’s secret.

After its world premiere at the latest Sundance Film Festival back in January where it won a well-deserved award for its cinematography by Ula Pontikos (who also shot Andrew Haigh’s Weekend), Lilting is one of those films meant to shake you up from the inside but also leave you with a reinvigorating sense of hope despite the ongoing melancholia. Aided by outstanding performances across the board and especially by a heartbreakingly authentic Whishaw, Hong Khaou easily establishes himself as one of those emerging talents able to share their sensibility with grace and poetic touch. This is a film that matters a lot in this day and age of constant debate about the ever changing face of society and it’s laudable for the effortless way in which depicts gay love for what it actually is: just love.

Lilting will be released in the UK on August 8th and we’ll publish a full review near to release.

Meanwhile you definitely don’t want to miss out on the eclectic program offered by BFI Flare. Several screenings are still available. You can book tickets here: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/flare/Online/

Francesco Cerniglia – Film Editor