The 63rd BFI London Film Festival is coming (October 2nd – 13th 2019) and the programme has a wealth of queer and queer-friendly films from around the world (not to mention some blockbuster presentations). Here are The Queer Review’s LFF 2019 LGBTQ+ highlights.
Matthias & Maxime
Xavier Dolan returns to his roots by writing, directing and starring in this tale of childhood friends. As he prepares to move to Australia, Maxime (Dolan) spends the weekend with his friend Matthias (Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas) at a lakeside retreat.
Dolan’s films excel at bringing emotional truth to the screen through his canny eye for casting, visual sensibility and sharp scripting. While his previous film, The Death & Life of John F Donovan, may be lost in distribution limbo, Matthias & Maxime looks like classic Dolan.
And Then We Danced
A very different type of “dance movie”, And Then We Danced, comes with a lot of buzz from Cannes. Set in the world of traditional dance in the country of Georgia, this love story blends choreography with a repressive society in Tbilisi. Already submitted as Sweden’s entry for Best International Feature Film at next year’s Academy Awards, Levan Akin’s second film looks set to be a hot ticket.
By The Grace of God (Grace á Dieu)
François Ozon’s latest won the Jury Grand Prize from the Berlin International Film Festival and sees the director take on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Exploring the attitudes of different sections of French society, Ozon steps back from his witty and sexual side for a deeply affecting drama looking at a true-life (and current) case of abuse.
Set in 1980s South Africa, Moffie (the Afrikaans word for “faggot”) examines the lives of gay men in the time of Apartheid. As teenagers are conscripted into the military to confront the ‘black danger’, Nicholas (Kai Luke Brummer) must survive the toxic masculine culture and learn to accept his own difference.
Variety described Moffie as “one quite stunning feat of formal and narrative artistry, establishing [director Oliver Hermanus] quite plainly as South Africa’s most vital contemporary filmmaker”.
Award-winning director Jayro Bustamante (who’s other film La Llorona is also playing in competition at the LFF) gives us a look at the complexities of queer life in Guatemala. Word from the film’s premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival pegs this as being a nuanced look at the repercussions of a married man’s coming out, delving into the emotional issues around family, community, faith and sexuality.
Sweet Charity – 50th Anniversary Screening
For those who were energised by FX’s Fosse/Verdon, the BFI are giving you the perfect chance to see his iconic film of Sweet Charity for its 50th Anniversary in a 4K restoration. Translating the Broadway musical to screen, Gwen Verdon was replaced by Shirley Maclain (but let’s be honest, it’s worth watching just to see Chita Rivera in all her glory). Great tunes, amazing choreography – it’s not wonder the BFI have chosen Sweet Charity to simultaneously launch their celebration of musicals!
Walking With Shadows
Returning to the African continent, Jude Dibia’s award-winning novel about queer Nigeria has been adapted to film by writer/director Aoife O’Kelly. Ebele Njoko (Ozzy Agu) grew up longing for the approval of his family. Years later, married with children, he must choose between his own self-acceptance and the family life he has created.
Two of Us / Deux
This tight drama from France looks at the love between two older women and the difficulties of later life. Neighbours and secret lovers for decades Nina and Madeleine must face an uncertain future when Madeleine falls ill. Nina finds herself alone, facing suspicion from Madeleine’s family.
End of the Century
God’s Own Country star Josh O’Connor returns in William Nicholson’s divorce drama. Jamie (O’Connor) returns to his coastal British home to find his parents (played by Annette Benning and Bill Nighy) on the verge of divorce.
Nicholson is best known as a screenwriter (Gladiator, Shadowlands, Les Misérables) and here directs his own drama of a couple examining their time together in this LFF Headline Gala.
Weekend star Tom Cullen writes and directs this inventive look at a relationship told in six scenes over six years (in nonsequential order). Bringing together the diverse talents of actors Tatiana Maslany and Jay Duplass into this experimental, semi-improvised film, Cullen is making a bold filmmaking statement.
Circus of Books
How would you react if you discovered your parents ran a gay adult book store? Circus of Books looks at the eponymous gay book and porn store in Los Angeles, run by a straight couple, through the 70s and 80s. Director Rachel Mason looks at her own family’s history in an enlightening view on censorship, homophobia and the AIDS crisis as seen through a unique pair of eyes. Take a read of James Kleinmann’s Outfest review.
You Don’t Nomi
Before it was a camp classic, Paul Verhoeven‘s Showgirls was a career-damaging flop. Jeffrey McHale has brought together fans, critics and film scholars to reassess the film and try to understand its enduring appeal.
Yves Saint Laurent: The Last Collections
Filmed over three years in the late 1990s, director Olivier Meyrou captured the behind-the-scenes drama of Yves Saint Laurent’s final years – only to have the result shelved for 20 years by Saint Laurent’s lover and business partner Pierre Bergé.
Saint Laurent has been the subject of numerous biopics over the last decade, but The Last Collections allows us to see the man himself and how his atelier operated, along with the power dynamics of his life with Bergé.
Sid & Judy
To mark the 50th anniversary of Judy Garland’s passing, Sid & Judy uses the memoirs of her third husband Sid Luft to tell the story of her later years. Narrated by Jon Hamm and Jennifer Jason Leigh (voicing Garland) and using archival footage, Sid & Judy looks at Garland’s post-MGM years in an intimate way.
See the BFI London Film Festival’s full line-up on the BFI website. Tickets go on sale on 12th September, with BFI members getting priority.
By Chad Armstrong