BFI Flare, formerly known as the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, is celebrating its 30th birthday, and the programme for this year's edition has just been announced. As the years go by, and with the way society has evolved, there are some who question the need for lesbian & gay film festivals. The scene might have evolved and be more diverse, gay venues might be closing one after another in big cities (and particularly in Ballard-esque contemporary London), but there still battles to be fought, and stories that remain to be told within the community
While recent years have brought us some incredible films with gay characters in leading roles (Carol, Stranger by the Lake, The Duke of Burgundy...), it is a shame then the quality of specifically LGBTQ films vary so wildly, as few directors manage to transcend some well worn tropes. At a quick glance in the programme, it seems as if 90% of this kind of films are the usual tales of sexual awakening/coming of age/love in a forbidden country. And it has to be said, there is a rather opportunist streak within many films found at such film festivals, with its audience which at times does not seem to be too demanding when it comes to quality, as long as it can watch films it recognises itself in. Still, I have identified a few films in this year's festival that are definitely worth seeing.
Sisters of the Plague by Jorge Torres-Torres
Josephine Decker has made a name for herself recently as a director with a truly distinctive voice, thanks to two recent films that became festival sensations: Butter on the Latch (2013) and Thou Wast Mild and Lovely 2014. She takes on the lead role in Sisters of the Plague (with the best title of the festival!) as a haunted house tour guide in New Orleans, plagued with visions and nightmares, as she tries to cope with the untimely death of her mother, and keep her relationship with her partner Kate going. This promises to be an atmospheric and unique take on the horror genre, as well as an exploration of female relationships.
The Chambermaid Lynn by Ingo Haeb
After the exquisite S&M flourishes of The Duke of Burgundy, The Chambermaid Lynn is another exploration of love between women that hurts in more ways than one. In it, a young woman recently discharged from a mental hospital finds a job as a chambermaid in a hotel, in which she let her fantasies about the hotel guests run wild, until she runs into a beautiful sex worker who introduces her to some new forms of pleasure intertwined with pain. The Chambermaid Lynn has an intriguing premise and the film stills look pleasantly stylised.
Carmin Tropical by Rigoberto Perezcano
Trans characters rarely take the lead in cinema, despite what deluded toff Eddie Redmayne he has accomplished with The Danish Girl, and even less in genre films, where they are usually serial killers or supportive characters only brought in for a bit of urban grit. Here in Carmin Tropical, singer Mabel return to the trans scene of her hometown to investigates the murder of her oldest friend, and find herself drawn into a dangerous world she fought so hard to escape. The film won best screenplay at the Ariel (the Mexican Film Awards) and promises to be atmospheric and mysterious enough, with echoes of João Pedro Rodrigues.
As per previous years, BFI Flare also has some catch-up screenings of a few LGBTQ films from the LFF's previous editions. Do not miss the brilliant Venezuelan From Afar, winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival last year, the razor sharp tale of an ambiguous relationship between an older man and a rentboy/small time hustler, and Sebastian Silva's Nasty Baby with Kristen Wiig, whose familiar premise of a young gay couple trying for a baby with their best friend gives way to something far more sinister as the film goes along.
BFI Flare will take place at the BFI in London from the 16th to the 27th of March 16. For more information and to buy tickets, follow this link: http://www.bfi.org.uk/flare
Posted by Laurent de Alberti