Flare up: The BFI's LGBT Festival launches its 2015 programme

I am Michael

I am Michael


As one would expect from the biggest LGBT film festival in London, BFI Flare Festival 2015, which launched its programme this evening at BFI Southbank, promises a veritable kaleidoscope of movies across all genres. There will be over fifty features, plus guest appearances, lectures, parties and workshops, in different BFI venues (including the IMAX, Rocky Horror Fans rejoice) playing over the 19th – 29th March 2015 period. The BFIplayer will also feature themed content.

The full line up can be seen here.

The Flare 2015 opening film had been previously announced, with the BFI grabbing a real talking-point film for the star position: the James Franco-starring I am Michael. The based-on-a-true-story drama, directed by Gus Van Sant protégé Justin Kelly, sees James Franco portray Michael Glatze, who went from crusading gay journalist to anti-gay pastor. Zachary Quinto from Star Trek co-stars. I am Michael will be coming direct from premieres at Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals.

Closing out the fest is a film with an undeniably hot-button topic at its heart - director Malcolm Ingram’s doc Out to Win charts the experience of LGBT sportspeople working in the highest echelons of professional sport and boasts contributions from Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, David Kopay, John Amaechi and Jason Collins.

As with the larger London Film Festival, BFI Flare splits its programmes across several themed strands, allowing viewers to be more discerning about their choices. 

HEARTS - films about love, romance and friendship.

BODIES - stories of sex, identity and transformation.

MINDS - reflections on art, politics and community.

A full list of highlights would run to several pages at least, but certainly the following, outside of the opening and closing films, caught this writer's attention:

Do I Sound Gay?- Director David Thorpe delivers the Accenture Gala with this documentary exploring the provocative idea of whether there is a ‘gay voice’ and featuring contributions from performers and comedians including Margaret Cho, David Sedaris, George Takei and Dan Savage.

The Falling - UK director Carol Morley’s tale of girl-school obsessions and hysteria stars Maisie Williams from Game Of Thrones and comes to the festival on the back of a good deal of acclaim.

Tab Hunter ConfidentialJeffrey Schwarz’s doc tells the story of one of the famously closeted Hollywood icons, one who's career was destroyed in order to save Rock Hudson (who himself was secretly gay). The film will be presented by Tab Hunter himself at the Festival.

The full press release is below: 

The full programme of the 2015 edition of BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival was released tonight at a public programme launch at BFI Southbank. The festival will take place 19th – 29th March 2015 at BFI Southbank and is supported by principal sponsor Accenture. BFI Flare is the UK’s leading LGBT film event and one of the world’s longest established with over 50 features, more than one hundred shorts and a wide range of special events, guest appearances, discussions, workshops and more. Tickets go on sale via www.bfi.org.uk/flare on 25th February for BFI members and 2nd March for non members.

Direct from premieres at Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals, we open with the UK Premiere of I AM MICHAEL. A feature directorial debut for Gus Van Sant protégé Justin Kelly, the film stars James Franco and Zachary Quinto in a powerful interrogation of gay identity through the real-life story of Michael Glatze, who went from crusading gay journalist to anti-gay pastor.

As evidence of the strength of documentary work in this year’s Festival, Closing Night will feature the European Premiere of director Malcolm Ingram’s highly topical and rousing OUT TO WIN, charting the experience of LGBT sportspeople working in the highest echelons of professional sport. Featuring contributions from such pioneers as Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, David Kopay, John Amaechi and Jason Collins, Ingram returns to the Festival after previously having screened documentaries SMALL TOWN GAY BAR and CONTINENTAL.

Director David Thorpe delivers the Accenture Gala with the European Premiere of DO I SOUND GAY?, a documentary exploring the provocative idea of whether there is a ‘gay voice’ and featuring humorous, insightful contributions from performers and comedians including Margaret Cho, David Sedaris, George Takei and Dan Savage.

Our Centrepiece Screening, the UK Premiere of STORIES OF OUR LIVES, directed by Jim Chu Chu is a drama adapted from real testimonies of LGBT Kenyans (where the film is banned for promoting homosexuality). Fresh from winning a Teddy Jury Prize at the Berlin Film Festival, this is powerful cinema but also essential viewing for those who are concerned about global human rights.

The festival offers rich cinematic insight into LGBT lives and loves around the world with films from the USA, France, UK, Spain, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Poland, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Australia, Greece and India plus the world’s first LGBT film from Sri Lanka (FRANGIPANI).

Confirmed guests so far  include Justin Kelly (I AM MICHAEL), Malcolm Ingram (OUT TO WIN), Jeffrey Schwarz and Tab Hunter (TAB HUNTER CONFIDENTIAL), Mark Christopher (54: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT), Carol Morley (THE FALLING), Colin Rothbart (DRESSED AS A GIRL),  Jonny Woo and friends. More confirmations expected shortly.

The festival’s films are grouped into themed sections as follows:

HEARTS - films about love, romance and friendship

MATCH stars Patrick Stewart as an eloquent and entertaining dancer-turned-teacher who discovers more than he bargained for when he takes part in an interview about his career. Disco and an infectious beat are at the heart of the UK Premiere of Mark Christopher’s 54: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT, fresh from its world premiere at this year’s Berlin Film Festival and bolder and gayer than ever before.  UK feature film is represented in THE FALLING, Carol Morley’s wonderful tale of girl-school obsessions and hysteria. BROKEN GARDENIAS is a quirky dark comedy where Jenni is forced to confront a series of mishaps which turn into a dream-like quest for her long-lost father in LA. BLACKBIRD brings intense drama to a coming-of-age story set in a Mississippi small town including a stand-out performance by Mo’Nique as a traumatised mother.  FRANGIPANI, the world’s first Sri Lankan LGBT film, features a classic love triangle with two men forced to make difficult decisions. PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL MONOGAMIST is a whip-sharp comedy of 40-something lesbian dating, where commitments never seem to last for long but things of the heart are never simple. GIRLTRASH: ALL NIGHT LONG is that rare thing: a lesbian rock musical, with a healthy disregard for stereotypes and irresistible performances by a bright young cast and some great songs.

BODIES - stories of sex, identity and transformation

Our interest in the human form is reflected in a diverse group of films. The World Premiere of DRESSED AS A GIRL is a celebration of an indefatigable group of drag performers, filmed over five years, from London to Glastonbury and back again, up-close and personal with Jonny Woo, Holestar, Scottee, John Sizzle, Ma Butcher, Amber and Pia.  BORN TO FLY: ELIZABETH STREB vs. GRAVITY is a jaw-dropping encounter with the stunning aerial choreography of dancer Elizabeth Streb. DRUNKTOWN’S FINEST follows the lives of three young Native Americans, set against a background of extreme poverty, crime and violence, where coming-of-age presents difficult choices. MIRCO is a playful and thought-provoking documentary about three young people living in Berlin who identify beyond the gender binary, with the film-maker inspired by having spent some time in their early years mistakenly assigned a boy’s name (the Mirco of the title) and male identity. SOMETHING MUST BREAK is a tenderlove story between a shy trans teen and a young straight man, from the director of the acclaimed She Mail Snails. FULBOY is an insightful documentary into the real life of an Argentinian, professional football team, with camerawork which suggests there might be a ‘gay gaze’ or aesthetic, and offeringa surprisingly intimate look at these athletes in their prime.

MINDS - reflections on art, politics and community

Tab Hunter is a legend whose career as a Hollywood leading man was famously sacrificed when he was outed by his agent (to save the reputation of his other client Rock Hudson). Jeffrey Schwarz’s film TAB HUNTER CONFIDENTIAL, in its European Premiere, reveals the utterly compelling Tab Hunter and his extraordinary life at the movies and beyond, and will be presented by Tab Hunter at the Festival; Jenni Olson’s thoughtful essay film THE ROYAL ROAD (also here a European Premiere, fresh from its Sundance debut) is a meditation on life and art and the politics of landscape, wrapped up in a dizzyingly beautiful range of images, with musings on Hitchcock’s Vertigo and being a butch dyke. WE CAME TO SWEAT celebrates the Starlite, one of New York’s pre-Stonewall gay bars, a black-owned and operated influential dance club where some of the disco sound originated, and now in danger as the threat of redevelopment looms. EVERLASTING LOVE is a haunting tale of a teacher and student, and a group of friends caught up in illicit sexual encounters. The film’s languid camerawork belies the intensity of vision. THE LAST ONE: UNFOLDING THE AIDS MEMORIAL QUILT is an affecting account of the final episode in the rich history of what is now the largest folk art project in the world, celebrating the lives of those taken too soon by HIV.  Céline Sciamma’s GIRLHOOD, a powerful, truthful story of young black girls growing up in Paris, subtly examines female friendship and gender dynamics. The ravishingly beautiful DIOR AND I celebrates the arrival of new designer Raf Simons at the house of Dior as he assembles his first couture collection in a film which truly gets under the skin of the fashion industry.

Special events:

This year is the 40th anniversary of the film THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW which launched a thousand devotional dress-ups, and we’re having a special anniversary screening at the BFI IMAX followed by a Blue Room party; dressing up is definitely encouraged. In our regular lecture series We Love… this year’s subject is Xena Warrior Princess which will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Xena and other glorious female role models, followed by a suitably themed Warrior Women after party. The pioneering archive classic from Germany, Different from the Others (1919) will screen at the V&A.

And for book lovers, a special Flare bookclub ‘Reading Between the Lines: Queer Books on Film’ will allow a chance for discussion through screenings of key LGBT literary adaptations: ORLANDO, THE COLOR PURPLE, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN and FRIED GREEN TOMATOES AT THE WHISTLE STOP CAFE.

We’ll reprise some of the year’s most thrilling, previously released LGBT films in our BEST OF YEAR programme:  APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR, a delicious Persian-American bisexual comedy; THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY, a coolly modern take on a stylish 70s, European porn; and PRIDE, the beloved Brit hit. Pride will be followed by a talk with some of the people on whom the film’s characters were based who will share memories and experiences..

The 2014 edition of the festival took place over 11 days at the BFI Southbank with over 22,000 attendances across 140 programmes of screenings and events.

Led by BFI Head of Cinemas and Festivals, Clare Stewart, and BFI Deputy Head of Festivals Tricia Tuttle, the festival is programmed by a team of five programmers Brian Robinson, Emma Smart, Jason Barker, Jay Bernard and Michael Blyth. This year’s festival will have an increased industry programme for registered delegates and the launch of a new mentorship programme, in association with Creative Skillset, for five emerging LGBT filmmakers.

Following its introduction last year the BFI’s VOD platform will again feature a selection of related titles under the Flare banner so wherever you are in the UK you can get a flavour of the festival. www.bfi.org.uk/player

 


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Owen Van Spall

Greetings. I am a Film History MA graduate from Birkbeck University of London and a trained NCTJ qualified journalist. Apart from a long history of film and news writing for this site and various other publications, I am also a trained photographer with my own camera kit. I write mostly every day. Along the way I have picked up work experience at Sight & Sound, The Guardian, The Independent, The FT, The New Statesman, and more. I have written hard news stories, features, arranged and conducted interviews with celebrities, film directors and other major cultural figures, arranged photo shoots, and covered film festivals, conferences and events in the UK and abroad. If you wish to commission me or enquire about full-time opportunities please find my CV and contact details below. A physical portfolio of print only cuttings can also be provided.