The 20th London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival was launched in the West End last night by former Friends star Lisa Kudrow.

Leicester Square welcomed the comedy actress who played dipsy Phoebe in the sitcom, along with director Don Ross, who wrote Happy Endings, starring Kudrow, which was shown last night.

The event celebrates two decades of the very best in queer cinema with screenings of nearly 200 films and special events at the British Film Institute National Film Theatre. Many of these films have garnered awards at overseas festivals – most recently Sévigné which won the grand jury prize for best feature film at the International Women’s Film Festival in Creteil, France.

Other stars who will appear in films until April 12 include Rula Lenska, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Steve Coogan, Tom Arnold, and not forgetting Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in a showing of award winning gay cowboy movie Brokeback Mountain.

Meanwhile one film has already flushed up its own share of controversy at the extravaganza. A documentary about a Victorian toilet, Brief Engagement, has been barred because it was seen as distasteful, although the British Council has entered it for an award.

Marc Ennals, who was involved in the programme, told the Evening Standard, “It seems bizarre.

“This film features a very fine example of an old-fashioned public loo. These were very important meeting places for some men in the past, when there were no gay clubs and so forth.

“The film is perfectly tasteful and contains a poem. There is nothing remotely sordid about it. It was made with public money.”

The London season is followed by a nationwide tour to more than 40 towns and cities across the UK and Ireland from May to September.