XX + XY directed by Soh-Yoon Lee

The 37th edition of BFI Flare: London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival revealed its full program of 58 features and 90 shorts from 41 countries, divided into three thematic strands: Hearts, Bodies and Minds.

World Premiere screenings the Festival will be presenting include John Hay’s illuminating documentary
Willem & Frieda, where Stephen Fry investigates the inspiring and moving story of a gay man and a lesbian who led anti-Nazi resistance in Holland. Timothy Harris’ timely documentary Kenyatta: Do Not Wait Your Turn follows 31-year-old Pennsylvania State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta who takes us along on his race to become the first openly gay person of colour with a seat in the United States Senate. Corin Sherman’s hilarious and heart-warming Big Boys is a coming-of-age comedy about a teenage boy experiencing a sexual awakening when he falls for his cousin’s boyfriend on a camping trip. Acclaimed filmmaker Shamim Sarif’s visually arresting feature Polarized explores the unavoidable attraction that develops between two women as they navigate the barriers of race, religion and class that have kept them apart. Two new mums navigate questions of intimacy and shifting power-dynamics in this heartfelt exploration of queer parenthood in Emily Railsback’s American Parent. Mandy Fabian’s lively and laugh-out-loud romantic comedy Jess Plus None follows Jess who is at an off-the-grid wedding and must find a way to deal with her ex, her friends and even herself.

The BFI Flare program features trans filmmakers telling their own stories, with The Stroll and also fresh from Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award and NEXT Innovator Award, D. Smith’s bold documentary Kokomo City, about Black trans sex workers, that buzzes with passion, energy and intelligence. D. Smith knows what it means to come out as a Black trans woman and lose everything. After a successful career in the music industry ended, she turned to filmmaking, and, in the face of considerable odds, shot this punchy debut that looks into the lives of four sex workers. This is documentary filmmaking that pulls no punches and has no time for politeness.

This year’s program also features a number of films which showcase a progressive evolution of queer
narratives, and trans narratives in particular. Something You Said Last Night, is a refreshingly authentic family drama. Director Luis De Filippis’s stunning debut mined her own experiences as a transgender woman of Italian heritage to tease out extraordinary depth in the everyday relationships between twentysomething trans woman Renata and her family on vacation. Trace Lysette (Transparent, Hustlers) is captivating in Monica, a beautifully understated family drama, playing a woman belatedly seeking to rekindle a relationship with her estranged mother, magnificently played by Patricia Clarkson. The screening is supported by the Interbank LGBT+ Forum members.

Alongside Who I Am Not Soh-Yoon Lee’s XX + XY follows an intersex teen and their friends navigating the complex feelings and urges that come with adolescence, in this unique comingof-age comedy. The film is a fresh, funny and sex-positive spin on the high-school comedy, giving a voice to those whose stories are all too often overlooked by this genre.

Before I Change My Mind, BFI Flare shorts alumni Trevor Anderson’s feature debut, is a hilarious and nailbiting rollercoaster ride through teen angst, crushes and friendships, following Robin, an androgynous newcomer at high school who refuses to join the binary world of single sex sports teams. A delightful road movie about connecting with your heritage, self-acceptance and finding love in unexpected places, Egghead and Twinkie is a sweet coming-of-age comedy featuring a young Asian American girl and her hapless best friend who hit the road to meet her online crush.

The festival sees a fascinating selection of features and documentaries which tell the story of queer elders including Aseneth Suárez Ruiz’s Clara that follows a filmmaker who returns home to Colombia to find out about her mother’s past love and encounters unexpected twists along the way. Jieun Banpark’s Life Unrehearsed is a captivating and witty portrayal of two retired Korean nurses living their best lives in Berlin. Roberta Torre’s The Fabulous Ones follows a group of older trans women, who reunite following the discovery of a lost letter containing the last wishes of a dearly departed friend. In addition, Ageing With (Out) You is a strand of shorts that features queer elders of various ethnicities and orientations experiencing the unique challenges – and blessings – of ageing, with or without a partner.

Following the well-received World Premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, Lisa Cortes’ Little Richard: I Am Everything is a fierce, fun and glitter-flecked documentary exploring the real and complex story about the life of the architect of rock and roll, with contributions from a host of famous faces including John Waters, Billy Porter and Elton John who try to find the man behind the self-created myth. A pioneer for Blackness and queerness in music who never got his dues, Little Richard was also someone who was at war with his sexuality and religion throughout his life. Also at Sundance, It’s Only Life After All recounts the story of the classic lesbian singer-songwriter duo the Indigo Girls, told with humour and heart, through a blend of archival material and camcorder footage over the last three decades, shot by Indigo Girl Emily Saliers herself. Country music at its queerest: big hair, big heart and a truck load of guitar.

This year’s BFI Flare program takes a closer look at two iconic queer literary women: Madeleine Lim’s sensitive documentary Jewelle: A Just Vision is a celebration of the achievements of Jewelle Gomez, whose vampire stories and engagement with Black and Indigenous histories were well ahead of their time. Eva Vitija ’s Loving Highsmith is a beautifully textured study revealing the rich and troubled private life of the woman behind Strangers on a Train, The Talented Mr. Ripley and Carol. Loving Highsmith reveals some disturbing truths about the much- loved writer.

From the archives, Prejudice & Pride: Swedish Film Queer is a fascinating history of LGBTQIA+ representation on Swedish cinema screens. Doing for Sweden what The Celluloid Closet did for Hollywood, Eva Beling’s hugely enjoyable, whip smart documentary explores the rich legacy of queer cinema from her home country.

Shaun Dunne and Anna Rogers’s profoundly moving and inspiring documentary How To Tell A Secret explores the stigma of living with HIV in Ireland. The film is cleverly constructed around Dunne’s stage play, Rapids. Actors speak the words of people who can’t acknowledge their HIV status in public, contrasting with activists – young and old – determined to break down the need for the secrecy around HIV. The lack of education around the topic, the terror of first diagnosis and the search for community support, are themes explored by this cast of performers, friends, ex-lovers and healthcare professionals. Courage, friendship and a passionate engagement with history are all on display in this moving and compelling film.

Co-presented with the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, Silent Love, Marek Kozakiewicz’s intimate
documentary debut, is an insight into what it takes to build a new type of family. The film follows Aga, who moves back home to Poland to care for her brother after their mother’s death whilst hiding her relationship with her girlfriend from the authorities.


BFI Flare is divided into three thematic strands: HEARTS, BODIES and MINDS.


HEARTS includes films about love, romance and friendship. The films screening in HEARTS are:

CHRISSY JUDY (Dir. Todd Flaherty) – An exploration of what happens when you break up with your (platonic) soulmate.

THE DREAM SONGS (Dir. CHO Hyun-chul– Teenage longing, emotional immaturity and a lesbian love triangle combine to produce this hazy South Korean fever dream.

EGGHEAD AND TWINKIE (Dir. Sarah Kambe Holland) – A young Asian American girl and her hapless best friend hit the road to meet her online crush in this delightful road movie.

GOLDEN DELICIOUS (Dir. Jason Karman) – An Asian Canadian teenager grapples with his identity when he falls for the boy next door. But what will his family think? And how will he tell his girlfriend?

HORSEPLAY (Dir. Marco Berger) – A group of young men test each other’s boundaries in this provocative chamber piece.

LIE WITH ME (Dir. Olivier Peyon) – A captivating drama finds an author experiencing powerful emotions as he looks back to his first, youthful love affair.

MAYBE SOMEDAY (Dir. Michelle Ehlen) – Caught in the painful process of separating from her wife, non-binary photographer Jay embarks on a trip to reconnect with the past and find a fresh start.

SILENT LOVE (Dir. Marek Kozakiewicz) – The intimate documentary follows Aga, who moves back home to Poland to care for her brother whilst hiding her relationship from the authorities.

THREE NIGHTS A WEEK (Dir. Florent Gouëlou) – A young photographer meets outrageous drag queen Cookie Kunty and nothing will ever be quite the same again.

UNINDENTIFIED OBJECTS (Dir. Juan Felipe Zuleta– A little person and a sex worker embark on a mission to find aliens in an utterly compelling road movie like no other.

Also screening in HEARTS are American Parent, The Blue Caftan, Clara, The Fabulous Ones, Jess Plus None, Life Unrehearsed, A Place of Our Own, Polarized.


BODIES includes stories of sex, identity and transformation. The films screening in BODIES are:

BEFORE I CHANGE MY MIND (Dir. Trevor Anderson) – This hilarious and nail-biting rollercoaster ride through teen angst, crushes and friendships in this 1980s high-school comedy-drama.

BREAD AND SALT (Dir. Damian Kocur)– A young Polish pianist returns to his small hometown for the summer, where he witnesses the mounting conflict between his friends and the town’s newcomers

FIERCE: A PORN REVOLUTION (Dir. Patrick Muroni) – A group of young women and non-binary people start a porn company with the intention of creating new images of themselves. The result is Oil, a porn collective that aims to educate as much as titillate.

THE FIVE DEVILS (Dir. Léa Mysius) – Adèle Exarchopoulos stars in this magical queer French thriller about a young girl with special powers whose world is upended with the arrival of a mysterious relative.

HOW TO TELL A SECRET (Dirs. Anna Rodgers, Shaun Dunne) – Confronting the stigma of living with HIV in Ireland, the film explores the experiences of a generation who are fighting back.

LE BEAU MEC (Dir. Wallace Potts) – Rudolf Nureyev’s last lover Wallace Potts directed hot hunk Karl Forest in this Parisian porno – featuring choreography by the Russian legend – that included camerawork by legendary cinematographer Néstor Almendros (Days of Heaven, Sophie’s Choice). Until very recently an almost-lost film, surviving only in decaying VHS tapes, collector Gerry Herman’s lengthy search finally uncovered this lost masterpiece.

MEL (Dir. Inna Sahakyan, Paul Cohen– One of Armenia’s most decorated athletes is faced with leaving his country and career behind when his transition unexpectedly hits the headlines.

MONICA (Dir. Andrea Pallaoro– Trace Lysette is captivating in this beautifully understated drama, playing a woman belatedly seeking to rekindle a relationship with her estranged mother (Patricia Clarkson) in her Midwestern hometown.

NARCISSISM – THE AUTO EROTIC IMAGES (Dir. Toni Karat) – Intimate and intense, this is a deep exploration of autoeroticism and self-love, featuring many of the famous faces from Berlin’s radical porn and sex-positive scene, this is a subtle and thoughtful film that interrogates who gets to be visible, who gets to be beautiful and who gets to control their own image.

PEAFOWL (Dir. BYUN Sung-bin) – Steely Shin Myung is a fierce trans queen on the Seoul nightclub scene who reconnects with her Buddhist heritage, in this defiant dance debut.

RULE 34 (Dir. Júlia Murat) – A Brazilian woman explores the vastness of her erotic desires at home, while during the day works on sexual violence cases

SOMETHING YOU SAID LAST NIGHT (Dir. Luis De Filippis) – Fresh from winning Toronto International Film Festival’s Changemaker Award, the film follows twentysomething trans woman Renata in this refreshingly authentic family drama.

SWALLOWED (Dir. Carter Smith) – It’s drugs, bugs and unrequited hugs in this deliciously grotesque queer body horror set in the bright lights of LA’s porn scene.

WINTER BOY (Dir. Christophe Honoré) – Paul Kircher, Vincent Lacoste and Juliette Binoche star in Christophe Honoré’s (Sorry Angel) richly textured, semi-autobiographical teen drama, which tells the story of a young man in emotional freefall, who embarks on a journey of sex and self-discovery.

WOLF AND DOG (Dir. Cláudia Varejão.) – Young queer best friends Ana and Luís attempt to traverse life on a small Portuguese island in this intimate, stunningly shot drama.

Also screening in BODIES are the previously mentioned Big Boys, Kokomo City and XX + XY


MINDS features reflections on art, politics and community. The films screening in MINDS are:

100 WAYS TO CROSS THE BORDER (Dir. Amber Bay Bemak) – A fantastic odyssey through the world of radical artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña, reflecting on 40 years of performance art and border activism.

1946: THE MISTRANSLATION THAT SHIFTED CULTURE (Dir. Sharon Roggio) – This moving documentary explores the personal stories of LGBTQIA+ people and their allies who have used sophisticated Bible scholarship and translation to uncover the revelation that the first time the word homosexual was included in the Bible was 1946.

AFEMINADAS (Dir. Wesley Gondim)– Five Brazilian performers represent a dazzling encounter with variations of masculine femininity.

THE EMPRESS OF VANCOUVER (Dir. David Rodden-Shortt) – A treasure trove of never-seenbefore archives illuminate queer Canadian history through the extraordinary life of a local legend, Oliv Howe

IT’S ONLY LIFE AFTER ALL (Dir. Alexandria Bombach)- The story of the classic lesbian duo The Indigo Girlsis told with humour and heart, through a blend of archival material and camcorder footage shot by Emily Saliers herself.

LOTUS SPORTS CLUB (Dirs. Vanna Hem, Tommaso Colognese) – A trans football coach becomes a father figure to LGBTQIA+ homeless youth, building a team that flourishes into a family.

MY NAME IS ANDREA (Dir. Pratibha Parmar) – The life of Andrea Dworkin, a controversial figure in the feminist sex wars, is presented through her own writing and speeches.

Also screening in MINDS are the previously mentioned: Jewelle: A Just Vision, Kenyatta: Do Not Wait Your Turn, Little Richard: I Am Everything, Loving Highsmith, Prejudice And Pride: Swedish Film Queer, Strip Jack Naked: Nighthawks II and Willem & Frieda

Flare will also screen four of the best queer films to hit cinemas over the past 12 months including: Laura Poitras’ Academy and BAFTA nominated documentary All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, an epic, deeply personal emotional story about internationally renowned artist and activist Nan Goldin and her fight to hold the Sackler family accountable for the overdose crisis. Elegance Bratton’s profoundly personal feature The Inspection brings a fresh, queer edge to the military BootCamp movie and the U.S’ notorious ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. Halina Reijn’s enjoyable millennial whodunnit horror stars Bodies Bodies Bodies stars Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Rachel Sennott. Georgia Oakley’s BAFTA Nominated debut Blue Jean tells the story of Jean, a PE teacher living in the north-east of England, at a time when the Conservative government fostered renewed aggression against queer people.

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