I’m doing pretty well at hitting all the locations I want to visit in the UK this year. But one event I really wanted to make was the BFI Flare film festival. I would love to watch some films at the big BFI film festival they have in October. But not being a BFI member, I didn’t want to pin my hopes on being able to get tickets to films I wanted to see. I thought the Flare film festival would be a quirky, more intimate alternative.
BFI Flare is an LGBT film festival, which means the films programmed for the event have themes/narratives/characters that explore sexualities that aren’t heterosexual and genders that aren’t cis gender. I do think it’s so important to dedicate festivals to those who are usually under represented on screen to get their voices heard.
BFI Flare Film Festival
I arrived in London after mega-bussing it from Manchester bright and early on the last Friday of the festival. Then, I made my way to the BFI Southbank centre where the entire festival was taking place. It was an absolutely gorgeous spring day, but I was rather looking forward escaping the sun in some dark rooms with heaps of strangers. Not in a weird way. I watched 3 films on the Friday, because I am never attempting 4 again after Berlinale Film Festival. And then I watched one on the Saturday before I took a quick trip up The Shard and got my train back to Manchester.
Here are all the films I watched…
Closet Monster (2015)
This was my most anticipated film. Purely because I’d heard Isabella Rossellini was voicing a hamster. A real life hamster. The film was about a boy called Oscar who witnessed a gay man murdered in an act of hate crime. And, being gay himself, how that event affected him and his everyday struggles as a gay man. The film also included some surreal meta elements. Hence the talking hamster.
In the Q&A, the director was explaining how he got Rossellini on board and that he went to visit her on her farm in upstate New York. Apparently, she has a wall of taxidermy puppy heads that David Lynch gave to her as a present when they were dating. As you do. I don’t know if I could really say I ‘liked’ the film as it was quite unsettling and heartbreaking at some moments. But it was so interesting and the ideas were different to what you would see in any old film. Which, is the point of the festival!
Like You Mean It (2015)
The great thing about small film festivals is that the directors and other crew/actors involved in the project are likely to attend the festival for a Q&A after the film. This was the case with Closet Monster and Like You Mean It too. This film was much more realistic than Closet Monster as it focused on the nuances and small details that led up to a gay couple breaking up. The director was also one half of the couple. It was a very well written and honest script. And they were so fit. That’s not important but, well, it kind of is.
Carmin Tropical (2014)
This was an absolutely beautiful film and the only film I saw which featured a transgender character. Or at least had transgender themes. Technically, Carmin is a ‘Mexican Muxe’ which is a term to describe a person who is physically male but dresses and acts like a woman in certain parts of Mexico. They do not identify as male or female, but as a ‘third gender.’ This was very interesting and educational to me on its own, but then Carmin goes back to her village of Oaxaca to investigate the murder of her friend Daniella.
The thing I loved most about this film was that the narrative didn’t need to include a non-conforming gender character. You could have had someone who was sick of village life, move away, only to come back out of necessity and endure the struggles that come with that. The fact the main character was Mexican muxe just gave the film more credibility.
The Girl King (2015)
My first, and only, lesbian and period film of the festival was this one. As the BFI programmer stated before the screening, ‘I like my period films to have lesbians in them.’ I’m not as picky about my period films. But I will agree that it does make them more interesting. Based on real life Queen Kristina of Sweden, the film follows her rise to power and her relationship with one of her Lady’s maids. It was an entertaining film but I can’t quite work out if it was supposed to be as stylised and melodramatic as it seemed.
I thoroughly recommend attending the BFI Flare Film Festival next year if you get a chance. It’s a fantastic, intimate festival all under one roof and not as busy as some of the others but just as professionally executed. I bought my tickets online as soon as Non-Member booking opened and all of my choices were still available. Although, I didn’t attend any of the parties or events, with plenty of the screenings including Q&As I felt I still got the whole festival experience.
Have you ever been to the BFI Flare film festival before? Have you any other UK film festival recommendations for me?