Preview: BFI Flare LGBT Film Festival

Posted: March 19, 2014


The British Film Institute at Southbank has been holding a festival celebrating LGBT cinema for the past 28 years and as a result of recent re-branding it is now the Flare festival. Taking place through 20th-30th March, it is going to be an all-star showcase of relentless cinema pushing the boundaries of sexuality in the modern world. Exposing gaping holes in our understanding of the subject matter, it is sure to open up society’s perception to perspectives lesser heard.

It is integral that such celebrations expose further the misguidedness of anti-gay laws that are still being created in countries around the world and help the cause in upholding the freedom of all the individuals within our human planet.

The immensely diverse portfolio of films has been lovingly categorised into Hearts, Bodies and Minds by the BFI. All visitors, be rest assured that there is a movie waiting for you.

One such movie that also won the award for Best Cinematography at Sundance is director Hong Khaou’s Lilting, starring Ben Whishaw (Q from Skyfall) and Pei-Pei Cheng (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon). The European Premiere of the film will be opening the festival.

There is no surprise that it has been recognized for its seamless surreal portrayal of grief and loss and the acting is outstanding by the entire cast. It tells the tale of a relatively conservative Cambodian-Chinese woman who doesn’t speak a word of English and her dead son’s mourning lover. The latter cannot help himself from looking after her, in spite of the fact that he knows that her son, perhaps the love of his life, had not told his mother that he was gay.

It is a very brave attempt at addressing issues like integration, sexuality, love and tragedy. It is not all darkness, and there is a very charming romantic sub-plot between the mother and a Casanova from the retirement home she is living at. Lilting is an incredible triumph of a movie that will surely leave your heart full.

On the closing night, the festival offers up the Best Director winner at Sundance- 52 Tuesdays directed by Sophie Hyde. The story is that of a teenage girl and her mother who, after having put it off silently for years, is now going through the transition from Jane to James. The daughter Billie is sent to live with her father and can only visit her mother every Tuesday, as she starts her journey on the long and sometimes arduous road to gender change.

The film was shot over a year with a non-professional cast who were not given their scripts beforehand and met just once a week. Such experimentation with the script leads to a very interesting narrative, presented by Billie on screen almost as part of an art project.

Del Herbert-Jane playing the transitioning mother is sincerely convincing and dedicated. The script of the movie is not shy and confronts many issues without the folly of conviction, which is much quicker to judge.

The troubling impact of the isolated transgender parent on the developing sexuality of a teenage girl. The many trials and tribulations within full gender change. The continuing isolation of people displaying a non-conformist sexuality. Values of the family in the 21st century. For these reasons and more, you should watch this movie. Its inventive structure feels new and does not allow the audience to ignore it.

Another cinematic gem on display at the BFI and this is a festival you should not miss.

The BFI Flare LGBT Film Festival starts tomorrow and our writers will be covering all the highlights.