This year’s BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival recently finished, and just like last year, it was a virtual festival. But that didn’t stop people from buying tickets to watch the amazing selection of films. Here are a few of the highlights:
The life and loves of celebrated filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder was filmed in the style of a stage show, with the sets stepping in as a separate character, in a film that brings the bare bones of Fassbinder’s short yet volatile life to the forefront. Oliver Masucci turns into Fassbinder – a defining name in the radical German Cinema movement of the 1960’s and 70’s – right before our very eyes. Fassbinder made over 40 feature length films before his untimely death at aged just 37. Director Oskar Roehler paints a volatile portrait of the troubled man behind the camera, including his many loves, his films, and his downward spiral. Roehler does an excellent job painting a portrait of an artist who was a tormented genius, an addict (drugs and sex), and was perhaps ahead of his time.
Poppy Field (Câmp de maci)
This Romanian film places the spotlight on a gay policeman, who while not out at work, gets involved in a tense standoff between a crowd at a gay film festival and a group of religious homophobic protestors. While Cristi (a brilliant Conrad Mericoffer) has a lover who is visiting him for the weekend from Paris, can’t show favor to the LGBT activists, even when one recognizes him. Conflict, and and tension, escalates, and Cristi is forced to act in a way that is against his lifestyle. Based on a true story, Director Eugen Jebeleanu’s excellently captures the life of a closeted police officer who has to make decisions that clash with his personal life. Written by Ioana Moraru
Boy Meets Boy
Johannes (Alexandros Koutsoulis) and Harry (Matthew James Morrison) meet one night on a sweaty dancefloor in Berlin and immediately take a liking to each other, spend the night, and the rest of the next day with each other.
Director Daniel Sánchez López films the two new young men on a warm summers day as they stroll through Berlin after their encounter. Harry, a doctor, has to catch the next day back home to the UK so they have to make the most of the time they have. But as the day goes by, they fall more and more for each other. But eventually the day must end….what will they do?
Sergey (Tom Prior) is a closeted officer in the Soviet Air Force. He meets pilot Roman (Oleg Zagorodnii) during their time in basic training – and it’s instantaneous attraction. Roman’s friend Luisa (Diana Pozharskaya) also falls for the charms of dashing officer Sergey. Director Peter Rebane beautifully captures the conflicted Sergey, who falls in love with Roman, knows that as an officer he needs to marry a woman and start a family. With the backdrop being the war between the Soviet Union and the West, Firebird is based on a true story. This lavish and well-produced drama captures Sergey and Roman’s fleeting time together against all odds.
Kiss Me Before It Blows Up (Kiss Me Kosher)
Israeli Shira (Moran Rosenblatt) takes her new German girlfriend Maria (Luise Wolfram) to meet her parents, and goofy brother, in this delightful first feature by Shirel Peleg. Shira has a reputation around town as a serial dater, but after a whirlwind romance with Maria they move together and it looks like a wedding is on the horizon. Whilst Shira’s family welcomes Maria with open arms, grandmother Berta disapproves, wishing instead for a nice Jewish girlfriend for her favourite granddaughter. And as their cultural differences become apparent, will Shira and Maria’s relationship pass the test, even when Maria’s parents come to visit? Cleverly directed and written by Shirel Peleg.
The Dose (La Dosis)
A long-time nurse becomes suspicious of a new co-worker in this thriller from Argentina. Marcos (Carlos Portaluppi) is the senior nurse in the ICU but when Gabriel (Ignacio Rogers) joins his unit Marcos quickly takes a liking to the young and handsome man, but Gabriel is not who he seems, and neither is Marcos. Martín Kraut’s suspenseful thriller builds up the tension (both sexual and dramatic) in a film that takes twists and turns, unfortunately, twists and turns that are not good for the patients.
In her very last film role, the late, great Cloris Leachman steals this movie as the grandmother to Russell (Thomas Duplessie). Russell shows up on her doorstep and Margaret (Leachman) takes him in. (Leachman was 94 when she made this movie). Russell is at a crossroads about his life but wants to be an actor. But in his hometown he was a drag queen performer so he takes his act to the local gay-friendly bar in his grandmother’s town. Of course Russell and Margaret bond in a way they never did before, and Russell excels. Unfortunately Leachman died earlier this year. Written and directed by Phil Connell.
Young trans activist and Brazilian YouTube star Thiessa Woinbackk leads a superb cast in this impressive debut feature that sees a tough transgender teen demand her rights. Woinbackk plays Valentina. She’s a transgender teen in Brazil, and faces significant social hurdles and bureaucratic barriers. Her steadfast mum will do anything to smooth the path, so together they start over in a new town where nobody knows that Valentina is trans. She becomes goods friends with a gay boy and a pregnant computer nerd at her new school, while maintaining her secret. But will her secret remain a secret? Woinbackk is superb in a film delicately and expertly written directed by Cássio Pereira dos Santos. Highly recommended.
AIDS DIVA: The Legend of Connie Norman
A Los Angeles Act-Up organiser is remembered for her fierce resistance to both transphobia and the AIDS virus. Connie Norman, a local Los Angeles activist who worked tirelessly to make a difference, is profiled in this film. Director Dante Alencastre deftly handles this portrait of a woman who was way before her time who led the way in activism. Directed by Dante Alencastre.
A documentary that explores the campaign by key U.S. activists to remove homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s definition of mental illness. It’s a fascinating look at the fight that not many people are aware of. The story of social and medical injustice carried out by medical boards in the U.S. is shocking, and more so as the victims recount their stories. Directed by Bennett Singer, Patrick Sammon
Mama Gloria is a fierce woman who has become a local hero to younger trans women in Chicago. In this documentary by Luchina Fisher in her debut film, Gloria Allen, who is Mama, is shown as a fixture in her community who, through hardship and turmoil, overcame this to become a role model, and a local celebrity.
P.S. Burn This Letter Please
Decades ago a successful Hollywood agent received dozens and dozens of letters from New York City drag queens. Why? He used to be friends with them in NYC back in the 1950’s. These letters were discovered after he passed away in Los Angeles, and these letters form the basis for this well-crafted and moving documentary. Some of the authors of these letters are alive to recount their lives during this time, recounting their stories as it was just yesterday, with photos used as evidence of their previous lives. A simply beautiful film, directed by Michael Seligman, Jennifer Tiexiera.
By Tim Baros