So­phie Ward se­lects the best of the film fest

Diva (UK) - - Welcome | Contents - 16-26 March at the BFI South­bank

For 10 days in March BFI Flare, the LGBT film fes­ti­val will be the best place in Lon­don. Only a year ago, such a fes­ti­val of queer­ness might have seemed a lux­ury item, an amuse bouche in a menu of de­lec­ta­ble cel­e­bra­tions, a crou­ton in the sap­phic soup of splen­did­ness that we were all en­joy­ing as our mar­riages, chil­dren, lovers and gen­eral civil rights rose upon the crème fraîche of suc­cess.

This year, things look a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. This year we are tee­ter­ing atop a gruel of strangely-shaped veg­eta­bles, won­der­ing whether we are all just about to slide back into the abyss of ined­i­ble ho­mo­pho­bia, while a mourn­ful band of un­der­paid wait­ers dis­tracts the crowd with ren­di­tions of White Cliffs Of Dover on Union Jack ac­cor­dions. This year we are march­ing for civil­i­sa­tion. This year we need the fes­ti­val.


To help you nav­i­gate the ex­ten­sive pro­gramme of films on of­fer, the fes­ti­val is di­vided into three strands: Hearts, Minds and Bod­ies. First up, in Hearts, is A Date For Mad Mary, a poignant com- edy from Ire­land which won Best Ir­ish Film at the Gal­way Fleadh and fea­tures two hon­est cen­tral per­for­mances from Seána Ker­slake and Charleigh Bai­ley as friends whose re­la­tion­ship is tested. Hearts is also home to the bril­liant Moon­light, which may be in re­ceipt of sev­eral Os­cars by the time it screens at Flare, in­clud­ing one for Naomie Har­ris as the trou­bled mother of a gay African Amer­i­can boy grow­ing up in Miami.

Teenage pas­sion is just as con­fus­ing in Aus­tria’s Siebzehn (Seven­teen). Set one sum­mer in a con­tem­po­rary, post­card-pretty town, the school­girls seem more Mäd­chen In Uni­form than mod­ern women as they strug­gle through mis­placed pas­sions and re­pressed de­sires. It’s only the sec­ond fea­ture from di­rec­tor Monja Art, whose other work also cen­tres on queer iden­ti­ties, friend­ships and teenage anx­i­ety. With a hand­some and nat­u­ral cast, the film cap­tures well the tor­tu­ous emo­tions of thwarted de­sire that threaten to darken the most cloud­less skies.

I haven’t seen South Korea’s Yeon-ae- Dam (Our Love Story) but I will def­i­nitely try to get to both this and Ja­pan’s Sei­hoku­sei ( West North West), two fea­ture films that deal with con­flicts in les­bian re­la­tion­ships once the fan­tasy of a ro­mance be­comes an un­wieldy re­al­ity.

An­other strong con­tender in the Hearts sec­tion is Heart­land, the di­rec­to­rial de­but from Maura An­der­son. Set in ru­ral Ok­la­homa (the “heart­land”), the film cen­tres on Lau­ren ( Velinda God­frey) who has to go back to live with her ho­mo­pho­bic mother af­ter Lau­ren’s girl­friend dies. The im­pos­si­bil­ity of griev­ing in a house where your re­la­tion­ship has never been ac­knowl­edged, let alone re­spected, adds to Lau­ren’s sense of claus­tro­pho­bia and dis­place­ment. And any­one who has had to lead a dou­ble life at home will feel the fa­mil­iar ache of the pre­tence, and the ex­cru­ci­at­ing em­bar­rass­ment of the bur­geon­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween Lau­ren and her brother’s new girl­friend. Oh, and there’s one scene in a river that pro­voked dis­tinct me­mories for me of my role in 90s TV drama A Vil­lage Af­fair, though with more cloth­ing.

Hearts also fea­tures Lovesong star­ring the won­der­ful Ri­ley Keough

Teenage pas­sion con­fuses in Aus­trian fea­ture, Seven­teen

from Amer­i­can Honey, di­rected and writ­ten by So Yong Kim (For Ellen). Not the only film in the fes­ti­val to visit les­bian love on the eve of a woman’s het­ero­sex­ual mar­riage, Lovesong looks as though it makes the most of the ten­sion. And Rosanna Ar­quette is in it, so the film has a head start.


There are sev­eral pro­grammes of short films in all the sec­tions and in Bod­ies, a chance to see The Hand­maiden on the big screen, if you haven’t al­ready. I re­viewed this stun­ning Korean adap­ta­tion of Sarah Wa­ters’ Finger­smith for DIVA back in Jan­uary and still think it was one of my favourite films of the last year, though not the eas­i­est of watches.

The Bod­ies sec­tion of the fes­ti­val fea­tures many dif­fer­ent as­pects of trans ex­pe­ri­ence with The Trans List, Fe­male To What the Fuck, Rais­ing Zoey and Măe Só Há Uma. And plenty of les­bian and queer erot­ica with Be­low Her Mouth, Snap­shot and “queer vam­pire porn movie” En­ac­tone. You can catch dis­cus­sions af­ter some of these screen­ings as well as Sexit: What The Fuck Is Hap­pen­ing With UK Porn Laws?, a panel event that tack­les ques­tions of cen­sor­ship in the UK, with par­tic­u­lar ref­er­ence to the un­equal treat­ment of queer and fem­i­nist sex­u­al­i­ties.


The Minds sec­tion fields a strong doc­u­men­tary show­ing with di­rec­tor Jac­que­line Gares look­ing at the in­car­cer­a­tion of Cece Mcdon­ald af­ter she was found guilty of mur­der­ing her racist, ho­mo­pho­bic at­tacker, in Free Cece. In South­west Of Salem: The Story Of The San An­to­nio Four, Deb­o­rah S Esque­nazi fol­lows the per­se­cu­tion of hun­dreds of LGBTQ peo­ple who were wrong­fully jailed for sex­u­ally abus­ing chil­dren in the 1980s, and four women in par­tic­u­lar who spent up to 16 years in prison be­fore they were ex­on­er­ated of abus­ing the chil­dren in their care.

Also in Minds, if you’re feel­ing knowl­edge­able or want to join a team of know-it-alls, you can get tick­ets to The Big Gay Film Quiz, which looks an aw­ful lot more fun than your av­er­age pub spec­tac­u­lar.


The fes­ti­val opens with the world pre­miere of Against The Law, in which Daniel Mays plays Peter Wilde­blood who was im­pris­oned in the 1950s un­der the same Bri­tish leg­is­la­tion that saw Os­car Wilde’s in­car­cer­a­tion in Read­ing gaol over 50 years ear­lier. Com­ing in the year that fi­nally saw the par­don­ing by Royal As­sent of 49,000 gay men who had been con­victed of now-abol­ished crimes in con­sen­sual re­la­tion­ships, the film shows the pub­lic sham­ing and of­fi­cial cru­elty that was suf­fered un­der pre­vi­ous laws.

Of spe­cial in­ter­est to DIVA view­ers will be the pre­miere of the much-an­tic­i­pated les­bian web-se­ries Dif­fer­ent For Girls. Pro­duced by Jac­quie Lawrence from her book of the same name, DFG is di­rected by Camp­bell X and stars Guin­e­vere Turner, Rachel Shel­ley, Vic­to­ria Broom, Tuyen Do, So­phie Ot­t­ley, He­len Oak­leigh, Nimmy March, Sarah Soetaert, Char­lie Hard­wick and Caro­line Whit­ney Smith – ev­ery one of whom must be a real-life les­bian or bi woman by now, if they weren’t be­fore. Af­ter all, isn’t that what hap­pened to all in­volved in Orange Is The New Black?

The clos­ing night gala film is Sig­na­ture Move, a touch­ing and funny por­trait of how Zaynab, a quiet Pak­istani Mus­lim in Chicago, man­ages to cope with her com­mu­nity and her mother when she falls in love with pas­sion­ate Mex­i­can Alma. Stuck in a re­spectable com­mu­nity with the weight of so­ci­etal ex­pec­ta­tion heavy upon your breast, when an ex­u­ber­ant rebel re­vives your frozen heart? I can’t re­late to that at all.

A panel tack­les cen­sor­ship and the un­equal treat­ment of queer and fem­i­nist sex­u­al­i­ties

Di­rec­tor Maura An­der­son ex­plores fa­mil­ial ho­mo­pho­bia in her de­but fea­ture, Heart­land SO­PHIE WARD SE­LECTS HER DON’T-MISS MOVIES FROM THE AN­NUAL LGBT FILM FEST’S PACKED PRO­GRAMME

Re­mem­ber the tor­tu­ous emo­tions of your teens with Aus­trian fea­ture Siebzehn ( Seven­teen)

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