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BFI Flare, the UK's biggest LGBTQ+ film festival, returns for its 33rd edition from 21 - 31 March, with screenings taking place at the BFI Southbank in London. With over 50 features and more than 80 shorts across its three strands - Hearts, Bodies, and Minds - as well as special events and Q&As, the festival will open with Vita & Virginia and close with the European premiere of JT Leroy.
For those looking to attend, Into Film has the following recommendations for young audiences. Please note that attendees must be 15 years old or over unless otherwise specified.
Note: Rafiki is rated 12A, meaning people under 15 can attend.
Based on an award-winning short story, this film was initially banned in its home country despite playing to great acclaim in the Cannes Film Festival in 2018. Set in Nairobi, Rafiki (which means 'friend') is a Kenyan same-sex love story between two young women. Though their feelings go initially unsaid and not acted upon, Kena and Ziki begin to fall for each other even though they are meant to be rivals, with their fathers competing against one another in an upcoming local election. Despite this Romeo + Juliet-like scenario, the two take increasing risks in public to be together in a film full to the brim with colour through its costumes, hair and makeup, production design and locations.
Playing in the Bodies strand is Girl, a daring portrait of desire and determination as a young transgender ballerina must overcome societal, practical and biological obstacles to succeed in the most challenging of environments. The physical toll of rehearsals for the film's protagonist, Lara, is shown throughout, as is her frustration at the slow process of transition. After rave reviews at Cannes, followed up with further acclaim at London Film Festival five months ago, this Belgian-Dutch drama is also released in UK cinemas this week (Fri 15 March) for those unable to attend BFI Flare, and is available on the Into Film catalogue for club members to review.
One of many intriguing titles in the Minds strand is The Gospel of Eureka, a feel-good documentary which was a real crowd-pleaser at Sheffield Doc/Fest back in June, and which shines a light on the compatibility between religion and sexuality. With a population of just over 2,000, the Bible Belt town of Eureka Springs in Arkansas has a thriving gay community alongside religious fundamentalists, with the townspeople having voted down the trans-exclusionary bathroom bill in an act of real solidarity. Perhaps most remarkable of all is the Christian theme park which exists as the town's main attraction, staging regular lio-synced performances of their passion play as the community's drag queens do similar in a sacred space of their own.
Another hit at London Film Festival in 2018, Papi Chulo follows the personal life of weatherman Sean who is given time off after he has a breakdown on air. Struggling to move past the memories of his previous relationship with an older man named Carlos, Sean attempts to move on by redecorating his house, hiring a straight migrant worker named Ernesto to help. Despite the language barrier, the two appear to hit it off and the companionship Ernesto provides seems to help Sean enormously. But does Sean see him as just a friend - or something more? From Irish writer-director John Butler, who also gave us the coming-of-age, coming out romance Handsome Devil, this is a sweet comedy-drama full of heart.
[Please note: there is no trailer currently available for Papi Chulo.]
Playing alongside both Papi Chulo and Rafiki in the Hearts strand is dreamlike US indie We the Animals, in which three young brothers attempt to navigate the turmoil of their home life during their formative years in rural New York. As their parents' abusive relationship endures around them, Manny, Joel and Jonah attempt to find their own way in the world, with Jonah appearing to feel slightly separate from his brothers on occasion. He finds his own particular form of escape through his drawings - brought to life in a series of animations - as well as through a burgeoning friendship with a neighbourhood boy in this sensitive coming-of-age adaptation.
Please note that while some screenings are currently sold out. The BFI are releasing more tickets on Thursday 14 March at 11.30am. For ticket and programme information, please visit the BFI Flare website.
LGBTQ+ cinema is an important, necessary tool for young people to see themselves represented on screen, as well as learning about acceptance and empathy.
A list of films on Into Film+ and Into Film+ Premium exploring and celebrating issues and discussion points surrounding LGBTQ+ stories around the world.
No. of films20
Joe and Michael from our curation team reveal their highlights from this year's BFI Flare festival for LGBTQ+ cinema.
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