Ahead of this year’s BFI Flare festival, which takes place 17-28 March, we’ve spoken to senior programmer Michael Blyth to get his and his team’s picks of the best films to catch.
The festival celebrates the best in new LGBTIQ+ cinema, and as well as giving access to 38 free-to-watch queer shorts, viewers can also pay to watch full-length films via the official website.
When it came to programming this year, Michael says the curators had fun and escapism at heart.
“We would never shy away from difficult stories from challenging topics - I think that’s part of what Flare needs to do, part of what we’re there for,” he explains.
“But we definitely wanted to make sure that we were putting together a programme that did have that escapist aspect too.”
Speaking about the festival’s potential to transport viewers to fantasy lands away from the pandemic, Michael says: “In some ways I think it’s even that we’ve started to realise the importance of that aspect more than we ever have.”
Here are the Flare team’s top picks from this year’s festival…
The unmissable foreign language one: Enfant Terrible
“We have several films in this year’s festival that detail the real lives of queer historical figures, but this biopic about German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder (Fox and his Friends, The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant), starring Oliver Masucci as the auteur, is definitely the wildest of them all. An absolute must for cinephiles and Fassbinder fans alike, it is absolute proof that truth really can be stranger than fiction.
“Need to swot up on your Fassbinder ahead of BFI Flare? The Rainer Werner Fassbinder collection is available to view on BFI Player, featuring 8 of the director’s films, including his last film Querelle.” Michael Blyth, BFI Flare Senior Programmer
The escapist one: Jump Darling
“This charming Canadian film follows a rookie drag queen (Thomas Duplessie) trying to find his place in the world. Helped along the way by his headstrong grandma (Cloris Leachman -
a stunning performance from the late Hollywood legend in her final starring role), he ends up moving in with her after discovering she has become frailer with age. This intergenerational tale packs in both tears and laughter and is a true delight.” Zorian Clayton, BFI Flare Programmer
The nostalgic one: PS Burn This Letter Please
“A cache of letters sent between friends in the 1950s, uncovered in 2014, sets a filmmaker on the trail of New York drag queens, female impersonators, and trans women who lived on the edge of legality. Now in their 80s and 90s these awesome and fearless survivors have great stories to tell about New York’s drag culture in the 50s and 60s, and paint an evocative portrait of the city nightlife at that time.” Brian Robinson, BFI Flare Programmer
The educational one: Cured
“An inspiring and deeply moving film about what happened in the late 1960s and early 1970s when a group of lesbian and gay activists plotted against the psychiatric establishment to remove homosexuality from the definition of mental illness. Recounted in interviews by many of the original participants and superbly researched archive footage, this David-versus-Goliath story is a fascinating and riveting piece of queer history.” Brian Robinson, BFI Flare Programmer
The best comedy: Sweetheart
“This debut feature signals an exciting new queer British filmmaker in Marley Morrison, and what I love so much about the film is it’s fresh take on the coming-of-age storyline. There is no issue here for AJ being a lesbian, the issues are far more universal: global warming, a crush on a pretty girl and parents who just don’t get what’s it’s like being 17. We’ve all been there!” Emma Smart, BFI Flare Programmer
And one for luck... Boy Meets Boy
“Following in the footsteps of Weekend and Theo & Hugo, proof that love stories don’t always have to come with a sickly sugar-coating, Boy Meets Boy is a fresh and refreshing look at what it really feels like to make a connection. You won’t find any wild romantic gestures or last minute plot-twists here, just real talk and relatable emotions. And it’s all the more affecting for it.” Michael Blyth, BFI Flare Senior Programmer
BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival will be presented online on BFI Player from 17 to 28 March 2021. Click here for tickets and the full festival programme, including events
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.