The festival came to an end on Sunday 26th March with the Closing Night Gala, the International Premiere of Signature Move with director Jennifer Reeder and producer, screenwriter and lead actress Fawzia Mirza in attendance. The cross-cultural romance about a Pakistani Muslim lesbian living in Chicago with her recently widowed mother delighted audiences. Over the ten-days of the Festival, BFI Flare screened 58 features and 80 short films and reached UK audiences of over 27,000 at BFI Southbank and through BFI Player.
Highlights of BFI Flare in 2017 included the Opening Night World Premiere of Against the Law, directed by Fergus O’Brien. Lead actors Daniel Mays, Mark Gatiss and Charlie Creed-Miles and the real-life contributors to the film were present on the night. The BBC Two film production is a sensitive adaptation of Peter Wildeblood’s bestselling memoir, telling the story of his affair with a handsome serviceman, and the subsequent court case which led to his imprisonment and eventually influenced the 1967 Sexual Reforms Act.
Special Presentations at BFI Flare included Clyde Peterson’s return to the festival with the European premiere of their captivating semi-autobiographical animated road trip Torrey Pines, featuring a live score on the night. Director Vincent Gagliostro and lead actor Zachary Booth visited the festival for the World Premiere of the passionate and inspirational After Louie, which also stars Alan Cumming. BFI Flare also screened the World Premiere of Different for Girls (directed by Campbell X), a sassy, sexy lesbian web series set in West London, with principle cast in attendance, including Rachel Shelley (The L Word) and Guinevere Turner (American Psycho and Go Fish).
BFI Flare 2017 also saw a substantial increase in accreditation, including 187 Visiting Filmmakers and 381 Press and Industry delegates. The Festival offered an expanded industry programme alongside talks with an LGBT focus on development, production and distribution with speakers including author Sarah Waters (The Handmaiden, based on her novel Fingersmith), film and TV director Jamie Babbit (The L Word, But I’m a Cheerleader) and BFI Film Fund Director Ben Roberts. There was a 12% increase in industry and student delegates from 2016.
Tricia Tuttle, Deputy Head of Festivals, BFI said: “BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival offered quality international film programming with an extremely strong edition in 2017, including a number of key World, International and European Premieres in our Special Presentation section. We also continued to identify and develop UK LGBT filmmaking talent with our BFINETWORK@FLARE Mentorships in partnership with BAFTA. That we had 24 impressive UK short films in the Festival is also an indicator of strength in depth and a truly thrilling emerging generation of new talent”.
187 filmmakers represented 13 countries, covering global LGBT cultures including Iraq, India, France, Austria, Indonesia, Ireland, UK, Brazil, Canada. Among the many other filmmakers in attendance were: Jakob M. Erwa (Centre of the World), John Butler (Handsome Devil), Maura Anderson (Heartland), Chris McKim (Out of Iraq), Marco Berger (Taekwondo), Stephanie Fabrizi (Below Her Mouth), Marcelo Caetano (Body Electric), Nathan Adloff (Miles), Tom E. Brown (Pushing Dead), Dante Alencastre (Raising Zoey), Ashley Joiner (Pride?), Morgan White (The Slippers), Mark Kenneth Woods and Mike Yerxa (Two Soft Things, Two Hard Things), Deva Smith (Seat in Shadow) and Katharina Lampert, Cordula Thym (FTWTF: Female to What the Fuck) and Hyun-ju Lee (Our Love Story).
For the third time, BFI Flare and the British Council made five short films available to audiences worldwide as part of the ground-breaking #FiveFilms4Freedom initiative. The films were free to watch online during the Festival period and were promoted under the banner, ‘Love is a Human Right’ in solidarity with LGBT across the globe. As the world’s first – and widest reaching – digital celebration of LGBT film, this year’s #FiveFilms4Freedom were viewed in 202 countries, principalities and protectorates including Yemen, Uganda, Afghanistan, Iraq, Russia, China. Overall, there were more than 1,700,000 views of the film around the world. For the first time – and in commemoration of the fact that 2017 marks 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK – all five of the selected films were British. The collaboration was launched with a high-profile reception at the Houses of Parliament with Flare filmmakers and delegates in attendance.
Also marking the 50th anniversary of 1967 Sexual Offences Act, the Festival hosted a day of free presentations and discussions on Fifty Years of Queer History through the Moving Image and Beyond, a unique afternoon of illustrated talks, screenings and storytelling from a wide range of historians, archivists and individuals who had lived through the period.