The London BFI Flare Film Festival wrapped up at the end of March and was a huge success, and attendees were very happy to attend in person after two years of watching it online; after all absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Besides the parties and talks, the other highlights included the following films:
Boulevard! A Hollywood Story
An incredible and unknown and untold story of two struggling songwriters (and couple) Richard Stapley and Dickson Hughes who were hired by Gloria Swanson’s to turn her iconic 1950’s film ‘Sunset Boulevard’ into a musical. While it sounded like a good idea at the time after the film garnered many awards and praise, it never came to frution (until many decades later) only because of Swanson fell in love with one of the men. Featuring rare archive footage of its subjects, alongside interviews with those who knew them, Director Jeffrey Schwarz expertly weaves the interviews with raw footage of Swanson and the men and charts the journey they’ve took, and how both men never really were as successful as they should’ve been. A must watch for fans of ‘Sunset Boulevard’ – truly fascinating.
A satire, or at least it should be, of a sexually repressed muscular macho Icelandic city cop Bússi (Audunn Blöndal) who, against his wishes, is asked to partner with another muscular macho cop Hördur, (Egill Einarsson) who is proudly out and pansexual/ They are tasked to investigate a series of heists, but they do more than just investigate the heists in this movie is too silly and over the top to be believed. Just sit back and enjoy the hilarity of it all.
Director Peter McDowell was just five years old when his brother Jimmy, a Vietnam veteran, died in Saigon at the age of 24. In the decades that followed Jimmy’s tragic passing, his name was rarely mentioned by his grief-stricken family, nor was his cause of death ever truly determined. Frustrated by the secrecy – and possible shame – of his parents and desperate to uncover the mysteries surrounding both Jimmy’s life and his death, Peter ventures on a quest for the truth in an effort to finally get to know the brother he barely remembers. Piecing together fragments of information from old photographs, letters and interviews with those closest to Jimmy, McDowell’s documentary is just beautiful and heartfelt.
A great Jack Lowden plays an WWI army deserter who is sent to a mental hospital to get treatment for an illness he doesn’t have. He’s gay, and falls into a series of affairs, some serious and some not. Actual scenes of WWI are interspersed throughout the film hitting home the hard facts that millions of soldiers died during the war. Based on the life of poet Siegfried Sassoon, directed by Terence Davies. Peter Capaldi plays the unhappy, bitter Sassoon late in his life who ended up marrying a woman and having a child together.
Talented swimmer Erez (Omer Perelman Striks) earns a spot on an Israeli training camp, and joins an all-male team exploding with good looks, lithe sexy and bodies and loads of testosterone. Erez subsequently forms a bon, and a crush, with handsome Nevo. But this sort of camaraderie is a no no and against the rules – the ethos of the training camp is every man for himself.
Director Adam Kalderon’s stylish tale is fraught with heady drama and smouldering sexual tension – until a silly and very camp ending brings the whole sexy and erotic film to a stunning halt.
An interesting documentary but not about what you think! Three men are profiled and discuss ritual of having to go to a barbershop to get their haircut.
It’s a highly masculine and intimidating environment, but even more so for people who are gay, queer, or non-conforming. Devan Shimoyama is an Afrofuturist painter who focuses on the barbershop as a social space, Jessie Anderson runs a queer barbershop in Vancouver, and Australian Richard Savvy gets his kit off as The Naked Barber. All three speak with warmth and candour about their attempts to make people look and feel good, and how the simple act of getting a cut is so much more than the sum of its parts.
This is Not Me
Iran is the only country in the region to recognise trans people (any other LGBQ+ identity is banned). Both Shervin and Samar offer a glimpse into what life is like for trans youth, who despite loving and supportive parents are forced to live covert lives, shy away from their neighbours and even consider emigration, in order to be who they truly are. One of the many heartrending scenes in this documentary features one of the boys, fully clothed on the beach and yearning to go swimming, while the other shouts at his parents, asking whether his father is also forced to wear a headscarf. This is Not Me is a detailed depiction of the legal and social labyrinth that promises a slim aperture of freedom.
The Law of Love
This compelling documentary follows a group of queer activists in the Czech Republic as they fight for same-sex marriage to be recognised in law. It starts off with a petition. If there are enough signatures in support of same-sex marriage, the Czech parliament will have to debate making it law.
This animated film/documentay tells about the struggles of Afghani Amin, who is about to marry a Danish man, while he struggles with the life he left behind back home – the struggles he endured growing up gay in a volatile and unaccepting society. The animation is amazing, and the story even more so. Winner of the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival. ‘Flee’ was deservedly nominated for three Academy Awards.