It’s arrived, the 35th BFI Flare film festival. Twelve days of screening, 26 feature films, and 38 free short films, from 23 countries. All films are available online on the BFI Player from the 17th-28th March. There will also be talks available on BFI YouTube and BFI Flare Facebook, including a Screen Talk with actor Russell Tovey. All widely available wherever you are in the UK.
The festival kicks off with the International premiere of JUMP, DARLING. A heartfelt family drama about a drag queen reconnecting with his aging grandmother, featuring a stunning performance from the late Hollywood legend Cloris Leachman in her final starring role, and there are more films to see, immerse yourself in and live through.
Our 2021 selection of Feature and Short films to see at the festival, includes films from Kenya, Canada, Israel, Portugal, France, Brazil, Germany, the UK and USA. There are films about love, activism, and campaigning, with some focusing on individuals and groups that made a difference. Tickets can be purchased on the BFI website.
BODIES includes stories of sex, identity and transformation.
I Am Samuel
This is as much a film about Kenya’s complex cultural landscape as it is about two young men who must keep their love a secret. As Murimi notes, ‘Most Kenyans are poor and live in rural areas or informal urban settlements where they cannot afford to hide dangerous secrets like their sexuality’. Filmed over the course of five years, I Am Samuel details how daily life is navigated, with both men negotiating their place in the world as heirs to a traditional way of life. At the same time, we are privileged to witness their commitment, daring and imagination as figures in the queer Kenyan underground. Murimi holds his gaze as he stares this fraught and troubling subject in the face.
Kenya, United Kingdom, USA, Germany, Netherlands, Canada, South Africa 2020 | 70 minutes
Directed by: Pete Murimi
On a day unlike any other, Tunde Johnson is confronted with both his sexuality and his race. After coming out to his parents, he is the victim of a racially motivated shooting. Instead of dying he repeatedly undergoes re-incarnation, but the opportunity to do things differently and avoid the tragic consequences of his actions meets the harsh reality of being black and queer in the US. A fresh take on the time loop narrative, The Obituary of Tunde Johnson examines the overlaps of wealth and race, beauty and sexuality, creating a disturbing universe where even the hereafter is a restless limbo upon which the burden of straddling many worlds at once constantly weighs.
USA 2019 | 104 minutes
Directed by: Ali LeRoi
Featuring: Steven Silver, Spencer Neville, Nicola Peltz
Valentina wishes the only complications in her life were crushes on cute boys and fake IDs to go clubbing. But as a transgender teen in Brazil today, she faces significant social stigma and bureaucratic barriers. Her steadfast mum will do anything to smooth the path, so together they start over in a new town where nobody knows Valentina is trans. She becomes fast friends with a sweet gay guy and a pregnant computer nerd, but when they find themselves separated at a drunken party Valentina is harassed by someone who threatens to out her. However, with her steely support network and a maturity and resolve far beyond her years, she steamrollers the haters in this timely and transcendent drama.
Brazil 2020 | 95 minutes
Directed by: Cássio Pereira dos Santos
Featuring: Thiessa Woinbackk, Guta Stresser, Rômulo Braga
Shana Myara’s documentary focuses on fat and fierce babes in Canada who are using their creativity to clap back at a diet culture that seeks to shrink marginalised bodies. Interviewees all tell stories of struggle, self-actualisation and radicalisation, and taking back charge in a fatphobic, racist heteronormative society. Here, fatness, queer identity and race intersect in unique ways that never get represented in film, underlined with a fat-ass bass soundtrack and gorgeous animation. It’s a truly liberating film, and through its use of burlesque, comedy, dance circus, media and more, you will be left in no doubt of the intrinsic value of ALL bodies. DIY, direct and full of heart, Well Rounded takes us through personal stories of terror and triumph – this is the fat queer film we’ve been waiting for!
Canada 2020 | 61 minutes
Directed by: Shana Myara
Featuring: Candy Palmater, Ivory, Lydia Okello
HEARTS includes films about love, romance and friendsh
Boy Meets Boy
It’s Harry’s final day in Berlin, and he has been partying for the last 48 hours. On the sweaty euphoria of the dancefloor he shares a kiss with Johannes. Striking up a conversation, Johannes offers to help Harry print his boarding pass, leading them to spend the rest of the day wandering the city streets together. But with Harry’s imminent flight back to the UKlooming, the pair are quickly forced to understand the true impact of this brief encounter. Boasting beautifully natural performances from Matthew James Morrison and Alexandros Koutsoulis, Boy Meets Boy is a distinctly modern queer love story, exploring the complexities of attraction and power of connection in ways that are both refreshingly realistic and achingly romantic.
Germany 2021 | 75 minutes
Directed by: Daniel Sánchez López
Featuring: Alexandros Koutsoulis, Matthew James Morrison
The last place socially awkward 17-year-old AJ wants to be is on holiday at the seaside with her oh-so-annoying family. Dragged along by put-upon mum Tina, AJ is determined not to have fun. When she discovers the campsite doesn’t even have Wi-Fi, it promises to be the worst week of her life. But then a chance meeting with resident lifeguard Isla changes AJ’s perspective. Perhaps being stuck there with no means of escape isn’t so bad when there is the chance she could fall in love for the first time. Marley Morrison’s debut feature is a refreshing take on the coming-of-age story. Playing it confidently for laughs, with some dramatic currents underpinning the action, it features a knockout performance by Nell Barlow as the misunderstood AJ. A delight throughout and not to be missed.
United Kingdom 2021 | 103 minutes
Directed by: Marley Morrison
Featuring: Nell Barlow, Jo Hartley, Ella-Rae Smith
MINDS features reflections on art, politics and community.
Described as a ‘love letter to a charismatic activist’, Fisher’s heartfelt debut is a warm and honest depiction of trans life in Chicago’s Black community. Gloria Allen, also known as ‘Mama Gloria’, narrates her life from early childhood and becoming a fixture of the ball scene in Chicago’s South Side to creating a charm school for local trans girls, proving that trans women can live to old age. Gloria’s unique perspective dispels the myth that aggressive racism only existed in the southern states, and from that context the film confronts the distressing violence that has punctuated her life. Nonetheless, it is a life lived with the support of deep family ties, buoyed by faith and carried forward with remarkable kindness.
USA 2020 | 76 minutes
Directed by: Luchina Fisher
Featuring: Gloria Allen
It’s finally here! After a rabble-rousing preview at Flare 2016, Rebel Dykes returns in all its ass-kicking, leather-wearing glory. The film follows a tight-knit group of friends who met at Greenham Common peace camp and went on to become artists, performers, musicians and activists in London. A heady mash-up of animation, archive footage and interviews tells the story of a radical scene: squatters, BDSM nightclubs, anti-Thatcher rallies, protests demanding action around AIDS and the fierce ties of chosen family. This is an extraordinarily privileged glimpse into a bygone world by those who not only lived out their politics with heartfelt conviction but lived to tell the tale.
United Kingdom 2021 | 82 minutes
Directed by: Harri Shanahan, Sîan Williams
Featuring: Siobhan Fahey
Other films worth seeing:
The Greenhouse – Discovering a way to travel back in time helps Beth come to terms with her present in this daringly original debut.
No Ordinary Man – The fascinating story of pioneering jazz musician Billy Tipton is brought thrillingly to life in this celebratory documentary portrait.
Includes insight from scholar, author, and activist, C. Riley Snorton on the interaction with Black musicians.
P.S. Burn This Letter Please – When a cache of letters written by 1950s New York drag queens was discovered in 2014, filmmakers Michael Seligman and Jennifer Tiexiera tracked down the authors to hear their story.
There is a brief and fascinating look at the Harlem drag scene at that time.
Beginnings and Endings
From an unexpectedly eventful train journey, to the end of the world, this stunning collection of shorts explores the trials and triumphs of being your true self.
Buck – In an attempt to deal with his depression, Lynn goes out into the night looking for a good time.
Dirs. Elegance Bratton, Jovan James. USA 2020, 14mins.
Cosmopolitan – Jacob faces racial prejudice when he attempts to enter a gay nightclub.
Dir. Moran Nakar. Israel 2020, 7mins.
For the Record
Traversing a wide range of subjects, this inspiring selection of short form documentaries is guaranteed to provoke and inspire in equal measures.
Above the Troubled Water – Three Nigerian men are scattered across the globe after escaping homophobic violence.
Dir. Joe Cohen. United Kingdom, USA 2020, 38mins.
Tracing Utopia – Young queers connect in a sci-fi dream world to build a war machine of love and a virtual manifesto for the future.
Dirs. Catarina de Sousa, Nick Tyson. Portugal, USA 2021, 27mins.
History, geography and personal circumstances may change but challenges facing the heart are timeless and universal.
The Act – One young man faces up to the joys and perils of living a gay life amidst the sexual repressiveness of pre-1967 London.
Dir. Thomas Hescott. United Kingdom 2020, 18mins.
Isaac and the Ram – A tense encounter between a young man in distress and his reluctant saviour.
Dir. Jason Bradbury. United Kingdom 2020, 15mins.
Of Hearts and Castles – When two lonely men meet they discover something revealing about each other and themselves.
Dir. Rubén Navarro. USA, Spain 2020, 14mins.
Into the Unknown
The blurred lines of love and friendship between women are explored in these poignant and beautiful short films.
The Cost of Living – Lily is stuck in a state of ennui, until Death comes along in the form of a beautiful woman and entices her to live.
Dir. Alice Trueman. United Kingdom 2021, 13mins.
Love Is a Hand Grenade – Mixing drink, drugs and a friendship on eggshells was always going to be an explosive mix in this bittersweet British mini drama.
Dir. Jessica Benhamou. United Kingdom 2020, 13mins.
Queer as in Question Everything
Here’s a collection of funny, sweet and strange shorts for the natural contrarian.
Acrimonious – Hilarious, heart-breaking and relatable all at once – how to bounce back when a breakup crashes you back down to earth?
Dir. Olivia Emden. United Kingdom 2020, 14mins.
Pure – Whoever you are, whatever your desires, you too shall go to the prom!
Dir. Natalie Harris. USA 2020, 12mins.
We Two – A smart, meditative take on the gulf that emerges between ex-lovers.
Dir. Grace Porter. United Kingdom 2020, 3mins.
Shapes We Make, Spaces We Take
Our relationship to our bodies and our homes have become more complex than ever. These five shorts up the ante, exploring where, how and with whom we feel at home.
Space / Walk – Two queer people talk intergenerational experience down on England’s south coast.
Dirs. Tarik Elmoutawakil, Amina Yousif, Carmen D’Cruz. United Kingdom 2020, 23mins.
Transitions II: Movement in Isolation – Aesthetically bold, visually rich – a beautiful non-linear encounter with the physical and social dimensions of chronic pain.
Dir. Tobi Adebajo. Nigeria, United Kingdom 2020, 12mins.
Striving to Be Seen
Inquisitive tales of resilience, memory and enlightenment in this largely fictional selection, traversing an expanse of trans experience across Europe and the Americas.
Dustin – A wild drug-fuelled ride and the long morning after follows the highs and lows of a Parisian party queen.
Dir. Naïla Guiguet. France 2020, 20mins.
Unliveable – Those close to a missing trans woman join forces to search for her, until a strange canister points towards an extra-terrestrial mystery.
Dirs. Matheus Farias, Enock Carvalho. Brazil 2020, 20mins.