2021’s BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival will run online from Wednesday 17 to Sunday 28 March. UK audiences will have access on BFI Player to 26 ticketed feature films across the festival’s three themed strands – Hearts, Bodies, Minds – as well as 38 free short films, divided across seven programmes; all titles are available to screen across the festival’s 12 days.

Worldwide audiences will be able to screen the festival’s annual commission Five Films for Freedom, a collaboration with the British Council, as well as the festival’s screen talks, all free on YouTube.

This year’s festival also boasts extensive accessibility, with closed captions and audio descriptions available on every title.

We’re still previewing titles, but can already recommend the following five. 

Valentina

Cássio Pereira dos Santos, Brazil

In this tender story set in Brazil, 17-year-old Valentina (trans YouTuber Thiessa Woinbackk) moves to rural Minas Gerais with her mother to start anew, but faces hostility from transphobic residents. The film moves away from monochromatic, tragic characterisations of transgender lives to dwell on the intricacies of consent and the complexities of gender transition, even with supportive family and friends. The classical opposition between town and country is treated with nuance, as the countryside becomes a space of possibility.

Tove

Zaida Bergroth, Finland/Sweden

An electrifying portrait of the Finnish writer and artist Tove Jansson, famous for her mythical creatures, the Moomins. The movie explores her early career, marked by financial precarity, self-doubts made worse by her father’s contempt, a passionless relationship with a married man and a devouring, unreciprocated love for a woman, Vivica Bandler. Linda Wassberg’s delicate cinematography artfully recreates a mid-century atmosphere. Tove (Alma Pöysti, pictured above) is often framed, back to the audience, against stunning Finnish landscapes, the remoteness of the horizon evoking the immensity of her as yet unrealised potential.

Jump, Darling

Phil Connell, Canada

A spin on the coming-of-age narrative, with fledgling drag queen Russell (Thomas Duplessie) escaping from Toronto to the countryside after a break-up, only to find his elderly grandmother Margaret (the late Cloris Leachman) in a deteriorating state. Jump, Darling is charming, witty, full of acerbic wit and touching moments, while diving into profound questions around ageing and end-of-life care as well as the trials of the drag world. Margaret and Russell feel complex, larger than life, even if the movie at times falls into easy tropes for the sake of humour, especially with the supporting roles.

Rebel Dykes

Harri Shanahan & Sian A. Williams, UK

This fascinating documentary began as an oral history project about the 1980s dyke community that set London’s underground scene on fire with their politics, sex and art. They fought nuclear weapons, the poverty of the Thatcher years, racism, institutionalised homophobia and anti-pornography laws, negotiating frictions between SM lesbians, trans lesbians, radical feminists, separatist lesbians, in a context that intimately understood everything is political. The film’s form, blending fictive and real archives, photographs, zines and posters, talking heads and animation, mirrors the anarchist, libertarian spirit of this queer underworld.

Transitions II: Movement in Isolation

Tobi Adebajo, Nigeria/UK

Transitions II: Movement in Isolation (2020)

A short meditation on queerness and disability in pandemic times through footage of water and other natural elements, graphic art, shadow play, dancing and spoken word. The sense of disorientation induced by chronic disease is mirrored by incessant layerings in which frames and sounds collide and mask each other rather than accumulating. If, as the voiceover claims, “illness is a story that can never be told”, the film suggests – through its spatiality and repetitions – that incantation might yet be a way of telling it.

Further reading

How to play Rainer Werner Fassbinder: “An absolute monster who lived his art”

By Ben Walters

How to play Rainer Werner Fassbinder: “An absolute monster who lived his art”

It’s a Sin is a love letter to 1980s gay culture – and hate mail to the era’s homophobic hegemony

By Alex Davidson

It’s a Sin is a love letter to 1980s gay culture – and hate mail to the era’s homophobic hegemony

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