LGBT films at LFF 2016: 10 to see

Beyond highly anticipated competition titles Moonlight and A Date for Mad Mary, there’s a wealth of great gay and lesbian cinema at this year’s BFI London Film Festival. Alex Davidson highlights 10 of the hottest tickets.

Alex Davidson

Moonlight (2016)

Moonlight (2016)

Gay melodramas, queer underworlds and lesbian killers – this year’s Festival has plenty of great LGBT cinema on offer.

It’s another bumper year for queer cinema, with Gala and Special Presentation screenings of thrilling lesbian romance The Handmaiden and intense melodrama It’s Only the End of the World taking centre stage on the red carpet. But these are simply the cherries on top of a host of great queer cinema. Moonlight, showing in the Official Competition strand, is already scooping rave reviews, while lesbian-themed Irish hit A Date for Mad Mary competes in this year’s First Feature Competition.

Beyond the competition sections, there are new films from queer favourites François Ozon (Frantz), André Téchiné (Being 17, written by Céline Sciamma) and Alain Guiraudie (Staying Vertical), and there’s a second chance to catch British films that sold out at BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival – The Pass and Who’s Gonna Love Me Now? Plus archive treats in the shape of restorations of Lizzie Borden’s Born in Flames and two programmes of Curt McDowell’s campy shorts.

Here are 10 to get you started.

It’s Only the End of the World

It’s Only the End of the World (2016)

What’s it about?

A terminally ill gay writer returns home to tell his troubled family about his condition, with explosive results.

Who made it?

Xavier Dolan, the 27-year-old Canadian enfant terrible who is now a regular face at major film festivals following Laurence Anyways (2012), Tom at the Farm (2013), and the wonderful Mommy (2014). It’s Only the End of the World was one of the most talked about films at Cannes, where it won the Grand Prix award.

What critics are saying

“A brilliant, stylised and hallucinatory evocation of family dysfunction” – Peter Bradshaw, Guardian

Lovesong

Lovesong (2016)

What’s it about?

Riley Keough and Jena Malone star as two friends whose relationship develops over several years. Unexpectedly, romantic feelings surface.

Who made it?

Korean-American director So Yong Kim, whose previous films include In Between Days (2006), Treeless Mountain (2008) and For Ellen (2012), the last of which starred Paul Dano as a struggling musician fighting for custody of his daughter.

What critics are saying

“Lovesong is a rare film of mature, emotional complexity anchored by two remarkable and beautiful performances” – John Fink, The Film Stage

Taekwondo

Taekwondo (2016)

What’s it about?

Homoeroticism abounds when a gay man joins a boys-only weekend in a suburb of Buenos Aires.

Who made it?

Marco Berger and Martín Farina, a dream team in the world of queer Argentinian cinema. Berger directed Plan B (2009), Absent (2011) and Hawaii (2013), three very different tales of gay longing. Farina made Fulboy, an unashamedly homoerotic peek into soccer’s dressing-room culture.

What critics are saying

“Spontaneous, authentic and devoid of any artificiality… Berger and Farina film their characters always stressing their beauty and their masculinity with an unobtrusive, subtle camera” – Pablo Suárez, The Buenos Aires Herald

Jewel’s Catch One

Jewel’s Catch One (2016)

What’s it about?

This documentary explores the history of LA’s first black LGBT disco, run by the inspiring Jewel Thais-Williams, a poor, black, gay woman who became a legendary figure in the clubbing community. The film boasts talking heads from stars such a Sharon Stone, Sandra Bernhard and Thelma Houston.

Who made it?

C. Fitz, a filmmaker who has directed several queer-filmed works for film and TV.

What critics are saying

“A worthy and necessary slice of history” – Andrew Barker, Variety

The Handmaiden

The Handmaiden (2016)

What’s it about?

This year’s Dare gala offers a Korean take on Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith, in which a female pickpocket is enlisted in an elaborate con involving an heiress – but the plan is threatened when unexpected romantic feelings develop.

Who made it?

Korean master Park Chan-wook, who made the critically acclaimed Sympathy for Mr Vengeance (2002), Oldboy (2003) and Snowpiercer (2013).

What critics are saying

“Exquisitely designed and sexually liberating, this is a hugely entertaining thriller that has shades of Gaslight, Les Diaboliques and last year’s Duke of Burgundy” – Benjamin Lee, The Guardian

Women Who Kill

Women Who Kill (2016)

What’s it about?

In this sharp comedy, a queer Brooklynite begins to suspect that her girlfriend may be a murderer.

Who made it?

It’s written and directed by Ingrid Jungermann, who also stars as the lead. She is best known for her lesbian series F to 7th (2013-14) and The Slope (2010-12) – she created the latter with Desiree Akhavan, who made the marvellous comedy Appropriate Behaviour (2014).

What critics are saying

“A love-bite satire of Park Slope’s lesbian community. Surrounded by a contingent of excellent comic actors, Jungermann balances paranoia with reasonable fear of the dangers of intimacy” – Amy Taubin, Film Comment

The Lives of Thérèse

The Lives of Thérèse (2016)

What’s it about?

As Thérèse Clerc, suffering from an incurable disease, reaches the end of her life, she and her family look back at her extraordinary life, with a focus on her decision to break from a loveless marriage at the age of 40 to embrace activism. The film won this year’s Queer Palm at the Cannes Film Festival.

Who made it?

Sébastien Lifshitz, a major figure in queer cinema, whose work is often shown at BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival. He made Presque rien (2000), Wild Side (2004) and the wonderful documentary Les Invisibles (2012), which also featured Clerc.

What critics are saying

“Recency alone can’t account for just how insightful, witty and profoundly moving The Lives of Thérèse is: for the majority of that the credit goes to Lifshitz and his magnificently compelling, unself-pitying subject” – Jessica Kiang, Variety

Rara

Rara (2016)

What’s it about?

A coming-of-age tale about an adolescent raised by LGBT parents, who faces teenage angst and a custody claim from her father.

Who made it?

Pepa San Martín, who previously made a couple of highly acclaimed shorts, makes her feature debut with Rara. It’s co-written by director Alicia Scherson.

What critics are saying

“Wonderfully light of touch, full of well-observed human detail and even-handedly compassionate, this richly human film is full of the quieter values and is topped off by an assured performance of great maturity by the young Julia Lubbert” – Jonathan Holland, The Hollywood Reporter

Who’s Gonna Love Me Now?

Who’s Gonna Love Me Now? (2016)

What’s it about?

Feeling rejected by his family for his homosexuality 17 years ago, Israeli Saar Maoz left his kibbutz and moved to London. After a failed relationship and an HIV diagnosis, Saar sought refuge in the London Gay Men’s Chorus, where he begins to find acceptance and support.

Who made it?

Brothers Tomer Heymann and Barak Heymann, who have directed and produced many films together, including modern dance documentary Mr. Gaga (2015), which screened at last year’s LFF.

What critics are saying

“An outstanding piece of filmmaking. Saar’s story is moving and relevant, and it should be shared with as many people as possible” – James Fisher, theupcoming.co.uk

La noche

La Noche (2016)

What’s it about?

A man journeys through the sexual underworld of Buenos Aires, taking drugs, sleeping around (including with his trans sex worker friend) and clubbing, in this provocative and potent drama.

Who made it?

First-time director Edgardo Castro, who also stars as the reckless protagonist.

What critics are saying

“Its grungy shooting style matches the graphic material and there is something of Gaspar Noé to La Noche’s provocation” – Kate Taylor, London Film Festival programmer

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