BFI Flare 2019: 10 must-see LGBT films from London film festival
Wondering which LGBT+ films to watch from the BFI Flare 2019? We’ve got you covered.
No longer pushed out to the fringes, queer cinema is more popular than ever in the mainstream. LGBT+ movies like Call Me by Your Name and Love, Simon are making the leap from arthouse theatres to the multiplex while winning a few awards along the way too.
However, these films only represent a small fraction of the LGBT+ community and ‘success stories’ like Bohemian Rhapsody fail to even do a good job of that.
Fortunately, there’s still plenty of quality queer cinema to be found if you know where to look and the best place to start is at BFI Flare. Every year, the UK’s longest running LGBT+ film festival strives to give a voice to more diverse stories that are rarely seen on screen.
Covering sexuality in all of its forms, BFI Flare plays host to a mix of festival favourites and underrated gems that all demand your attention, but which LGBT+ movie should you see first?
From literary hoaxes and Guatemalan lovers to transgender troops and drag queen pensioners, here are 10 quality LGBT+ films we wholeheartedly recommend you go see at BFI Flare 2019.
We The Animals
Based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Justin Torres, We The Animals revolves around a young boy called Jonah who’s forced to navigate an abusive home and the surprising feelings he starts to develop for one of his neighbours. Jeremiah Zagar’s narrative feature debut might sound like a conventional coming-of-age story, but We The Animals is far more intelligent than that. This lucid dream of a movie explores the protagonist’s nascent sexuality with an impressionistic and yet somehow authentic tone that’ll keep you thinking long after you leave the cinema.
Tucked isn’t the first film to star an odd couple who look past their differences to form a special bond, but there’s a reason why this story of two drag performers 60 years apart won the audience award at Outfest. Jordan Stephens brings a natural charisma to the role of Faith, a 21-year-old gay performer new to the club scene, but it’s 83-year-old Derren Nesbitt (who plays Jackie) who truly commands the screen here in a stunning career highlight.
Giant Little Ones
High school coming out stories are now a staple of LGBT+ cinema, but writer-director Keith Behrman smartly avoids the tropes of this mini-genre here with emotional honesty and authenticity. With the help of sumptuous visuals and a winning soundtrack, the friendship shared between Franky and Ballas transcends both societal norms and generic cliches while elevating Giant Little Ones to instant classic status. Expect to hear lots more about this one in the coming months.
The Silk And The Flame
Looking for a LGBT+ documentary film? The Silk and the Flame is the one for you. In this rather insightful documentary, director Jordan Schiele trains his camera on a closeted gay man called Yao who travels back to his family’s village near Beijing so that they can celebrate the Chinese New Year together. Despite his impressive professional achievements, Yao is still a disappointment to both parents because of his supposed bachelor status. The complex bonds of guilt, duty and love that tie families together weigh down on Yao, yet his strength and commitment remain admirable throughout, complimented by Schiele’s gorgeous black and white photography.
The Gospel of Eureka
Religion and queerness are unlikely bedfellows at the best of times, but this documentary by Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher dismantles such notions with a heartfelt look at the Bible Belt in Arkansas. Within the 2000 strong population of Eureka Springs, a thriving LGBT+ community exists alongside religious fundamentalists and together, they all live alongside each other in miraculous harmony. The gospel drag shows alone will have you screaming amen.
Out of both loneliness and desperate financial need, Chela finds a driving job below her station after her partner Chiquita is sent to prison. As she begins working with her friend’s much younger daughter, Angy, new worlds open up to Chela as issues of class, privilege and sex collide around her. In case you need more persuading, know also that Paraguayan star Ana Brun won the award for Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival last year, making this a must-see entry from the growing LGBT+ scene of Latin America.
Leitis In Waiting
Many societies that occupy the Polynesian islands acknowledge and celebrate the existence of a third gender that incorporates identities similar to trans and non-binary people in the West. Leitis In Waiting tells the story of native transgender women from this area who are fighting against the incursion of homophobic and transphobic attitudes from the West. There’s a real danger here that colonial-era laws could be resurrected and potentially destroy their way of life. Like the very best documentaries, Leitis In Waiting tackles a subject rarely discussed on our side of the Pacific while also helping to fight for real change and social justice.
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The phrase “Truth is stranger than fiction” takes on a whole new meaning in this utterly insane retelling of Laura Albert’s now infamous literary hoax. The American writer published three supposedly autobiographical novels about a teenage boy under the pseudonym JT LeRoy. When this fictitious character is invited to appear in public, Kristen Stewart’s character offers to pose as Albert’s male alter ego and the result is a wild mix of gender and identity politics. Such an off-kilter story isn’t easy to adapt, but everyone involved brings their A game, including Stewart and Laura Dern in a scene-stealing role.
Despite living in the deeply religious society of Guatemala City, 19-year-old José strives to stay true to himself through promiscuous encounters with other men. Everything changes though when he meets Luis, a gay construction worker who shows him that there’s more to the queer experience than just sex. José is understated and tender, but don’t underestimate the power of this Queer Lion winner which took home the top LGBT+ prize at the Venice film festival last year.
The American military is the largest employer of trans people in the USA right now and Trump’s push-back against trans officers could have devastating consequences for an entire community. Because of this, the documentary TransMilitary is more important now than ever, exploring the lives of four trans officers on the job with respect and dignity. You probably won’t see a more important documentary all year.
BFI Flare runs from March 21 – 31, 2019, at London Southbank.