FI Flare, Europe’s biggest LGBTQIA+ film festival, is returning with a programme filled to the brim with groundbreaking queer cinema.
Over 12 days in March, the festival will take over BFI Southbank to offer heart-wrenching drama, politically-charged documentaries and likely a lot of lust. We’ve had a peek at the lineup and it’s diverse and exciting – we can’t wait. Here are ten offerings worthy of your attention.
Fresh from winning the World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award at Sundance, Girl Picture shows that Thursday is not the new Friday after all. The film follows three girls over three consecutive Fridays as their lives change in dramatic ways. In Finnish director Alli Haapasalo, the girls navigate friendship, love, queerness and ambitions in an energetic and empowering drama. Coming-of-age films have been done a million times for a reason.
Director Chase Joynt returns to Flare following his breakout documentary No Ordinary Man. Framing Agnes features trans actors recreating recently uncovered stories from the UCLA Gender Clinic in the 1950s and 60s. Though Agnes, a pseudonym for a participant in the trials, gives the film its name, it is ultimately about more than just one person’s experience. A chat show format blends fiction and non-fiction to reform both the understanding and telling of trans history. Zackary Drucker and the formidable Angelica Ross star.
A “remixing of Romeo and Juliet for an Instagram generation”. Besties should feel a bit been there, done that, we’re all on TikTok now anyway. But Marion Desseigne-Ravel’s French-language debut feature promises a moving story of first love across a social divide for young queer girls whose stories are rarely told in cinema.
Gateways walked so that pretty much every establishment on Old Compton Street could run. This Sandi Toksvig-fronted documentary explores the history and legacy of Britain’s longest surviving lesbian bar. While the King’s Road may have moved on, the fascinating story of a club won in a poker game that eventually became lesbian mecca endures.
In From the Side
An injured A-team rugby player must join the B-team as part of his recovery. Out of the ego-fuelled tensions comes electric chemistry and a physical lust that culminates in an affair. Alexandra Lincoln and Alexander King display true vulnerability in a macho sport.
This is Not Me
In what will likely be one of the most significant documentaries to debut at Flare, This Is Not Me follows two young men navigating the Iranian courts to start their transition. Despite Iran being the only country in the region to recognise trans people, Shervin and Samar are still forced to be secretive and covert. It’s a legal and social minefield for two people who are unwavering in who they are.
Hot off the heels of its world premiere in Berlin, Sublime follows Felipe and Manuel, two music-obsessed Argentinian teenagers converting a van to entertain their respective girlfriends. It’s never that simple though. Passions and, quite frankly, hormones swirl in drama full of typical teen angst with a sprinkling of heartache.
Charli XCX: Alone Together
Charli XCX has amassed an incredibly queer following from her work (no, not just from signing poppers at meet and greets). So when she decided to make an album within 40 days in the early days of lockdown, she naturally enlisted fans for help. What follows is a really rather heartwarming DIY documentary that turns into something much larger than just a simple portrait of a pop star.
Fragrance of the First Flower
From director Angel I-Han Teng, Fragrance of the First Flower merges six episodes of a Taiwanese digital series together to screen as a whole. Two old school friends, Yi Ming and Ting Ting, find their lost feelings for each other are reawakened when they reconnect years later. The struggle with tradition and expectations versus love and lust will be familiar to queer people everywhere.
We started at the beginning so we’ll finish at the end. TRAMPS! Is the festival closer and promises a fun frolic back to the 80s. As a deluge of art students revolutionised fashion, film and music in London, together they created the New Romantics – in many ways a gender non-conforming response to the anti-fashion of the 70s. Director Kevin Hegge spotlights lesser-known trailblazers within the movement with LGBT+ stories at the forefront. It would be wrong to premiere anywhere else.
BFI Flare runs from March 16-27