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Beyond Moonlight: BFI Flare LGBT Film Festival

We look at some of the highlights of the BFI Flare Festival, championing the greatest talent from LGBT film.

It is now fifty years since the 1967 sexual offences act was passed. What better way to celebrate the progressing freedoms of the LGBT community than at the BFI’s Flare Film Festival on Southbank? Taking place between March 16 – 26, this festival is now in its 31st year and boasts a long tradition of subversive and much talked about work. The festival historically once debated ‘Was Bugs Bunny Gay?’ and with so many more delicious thoughts to ponder be sure to look out for the talks, parties and interactive events taking place this month. With 50 features and 100 short films on display, there is plenty of exciting material for the film fanatic to sink their teeth into.

Main Events

This year’s festival is bigger and brighter than ever, exploring the theme of Hearts, Minds and Bodies. Hearts looks at love, romance and friendship, Bodies centres on sex, identity and transformation, while Minds shifts our focus towards art, politics and community. Flare’s opening gala screening Against the law has sadly now sold out, but the BFI have released extra event tickets giving us ample excuse for a socially conscious film binge! The closing gala screening Signature Move has been dubbed one of Filmmaker Magazine’s Most Anticipated Films of 2017. This stars Bollywood veteran Shabana Azmi and loud and proud Pakistani-American actress Fawzia Mirza. The festival’s centrepiece screening is the animated musical Torry Pines accompanied by a live score, with special presentations of After Louie and the web series Different for girls. If that’s a little too much film to digest, head down to the festival afterparty which will be reviving the infamous Unskinny Bop disco night at the BFI Benugo bar. This was originally a club event hosted by Ladyfest London but it has now taken up a regular spot at The Star of Bethnal Green pub. Unskinny Bop’s killer ethos - ‘disco dancing opportunities for girls, gays and misfits’ - is not to be missed.

After Louie

Foreign film

Flare will of course be screening the Oscar winning Moonlight but there are many other interesting projects stimulating debate in this year’s line-up. In keeping with BFI tradition, the festival is screening an enormous range of foreign cinema including Japanese, Argentinian, Korean and Icelandic films with many other industries finding their UK audience on the glittering shores of Southbank. Particular highlights include the French language film Being Seventeen, co-written by Celine Sciamma of Toyboy and Girlhood acclaim. Another hotly anticipated feature is The Pearl of Africa which follows the life of the Ugandan transgender woman Cleopatra Kambugo. Kambugo made headlines in 2014 after the passing of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality bill.


Familiar faces

As we mourn the recent loss of two screen icons, the late Debbie Reynolds features in the documentary The Slippers. A more contemporary figurehead of the LGBT movement -Laverne Cox - will also return to the silver screen in Free Cece. For the golden-age cinema lovers out there, A Romp through Classic Comp satisfies the camp queen in all of us, reminiscing on the work of Fellini, Almodovar and Noel Coward amongst others. For more vintage fun, Flare are reviving the queer classics Mommie Dearest, Barbarella and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes starring screen sirens Faye Dunaway, Jane Fonda and Marylin Monroe. On the topic of celebrity, prepare to indulge your inner Kardashian as Caitlyn Jenner makes an appearance in Can’t stop the Music, written and produced by comedian Alan Carr.

Colours Andy Warhol Never Thought Of

Getting involved

There are plenty of talks, quizzes and interactive events taking place this month and throughout the summer season. Following Flare festival, BFI’s Gross Indecency season looks at the on-screen depiction of LGBT culture during the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. This will be taking place in July and August, but in the mean-time there is an exciting opportunity to Meet the Filmmakers of the Flare 2017 shorts on March 18th. This is a free event aimed at 18-25 year olds in connection with BFI Future Film and Metro Youth. If you’re a young person who is interested in exploring sexual health and identity further, Metro Youth organises wellbeing support and general services for LGBT youth in South-East London. Alongside the film festival, The Big Gay Film Quiz will be returning to the BFI following last year’s success. Other events include the web series The Queer Frontier and a collaboration with the theatre company Clay and Diamonds for Orlando entitled The Queer Element. The oh so punny talk Sexit: What the fuck is happening with the UK Porn Laws is another topical and probing event to get involved with.

Apart From Everything

The BFI Flare Film Festival runs 16-26 March at BFI Southbank. For more information, visit their website.