35th BFI Flare London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival unveils full lineup available digitally UK-wide

Tickets are now on sale at bfi.org.uk/flare for the 35th edition of BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival which runs March 17th – 28th 2021. With 26 features and 38 free shorts from 23 countries, the UK’s longest running queer film event will deliver virtual premieres via BFI Player to audiences nationwide, making it the most accessible version of the festival yet, with closed captioning and audio description on English-language films.

“From snappy shorts to sprawling features, BFI Flare is a true celebration of the best in contemporary queer cinema, here to showcase extraordinary filmmaking talent, and to entertain and inspire audiences. In amongst the many stories on offer, this year’s programme shines an essential spotlight on a host of pioneering LGBTIQ+ icons that have come before, reminding us all that we must understand our past if we are to change our future”, says BFI Flare’s Senior Programmer Michael Blyth.

Rev. Magora Kennedy (right) from Cured, directed by Patrick Sammon and Bennett Singer. Photo courtesy of the Historic Films Archive.

One of the key themes emerging from this year’s programme is strong representation of significant individuals and communities whose lives and work have had an impact on queer history and the ongoing fight for change and equality. The lineup celebrates and elevates individuals whose lives and accomplishments are perhaps less well known but who deserve to be championed, such as Gloria Allen, Connie Norman and Billy Tipton. Activists and campaigners Dr. Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings are also featured, as well as queer icons including ground breaking German Director Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Moomin’s creator Tove Jansson.

Highlights that celebrate the legacy of these trailblazers include: A Los Angeles Act-Up organiser is remembered for her fierce resistance to both transphobia and the AIDS virus in AIDS DIVA: THE LEGEND OF CONNIE NORMAN (Dir. Dante Alencastre). CURED (Dirs. Patrick Sammon, Bennett Singer) – This astonishingly rich documentary explores the campaign by key U.S. activists to remove homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s definition of mental illness. MAMA GLORIA, Director Luchina Fisher’s endearing documentary portrait shows how fighter, organiser and survivor Gloria Allen has become a local hero to younger Chicagoan trans women. The fascinating story of pioneering trans jazz musician Billy Tipton is brought thrillingly to life in NO ORDINARY MAN (Dirs. Aisling Chin-Yee, Chase Joynt), a celebratory documentary portrait.

“Facing the first lockdown last Spring, and with days until launch, we moved BFI Flare online – one of the first Festivals around the world to do so.  Now, a year on, we are launching our second digital edition and Flare’s spirit of community, solidarity, defiance and celebration is more precious than ever, and we’re excited to be able to share that with audiences everywhere in the UK”, says Tricia Tuttle, BFI Festivals Director.

Firebird. Courtesy of BFI Flare.

BFI Flare will screen the International premiere of Phil Connell’s directorial debut Jump, Darling featuring the late Hollywood legend Cloris Leachman in her final starring role. UK feature, Peeter Rebane’s lavishly told debut Firebird, will world premiere. It’s a touching love story set at the height of the Cold War, where a troubled soldier (Tom Prior) forms a forbidden love triangle with a daring fighter pilot (Oleg Zagorodnii) and his female comrade (Diana Pozharskaya) amid the dangerous surroundings of a Soviet Air Force Base. Harri Shanahan and Sian A. Williams’ rousing feature documentary Rebel Dykes is another UK film set to world premiere at Flare. It’s a joyful and colourful history of post-punk dyke culture in the UK which harnesses the anarchic energy and creativity of London in the early 1980s. Rebel Dykes mixes first person testimonies, animation and unseen archive to tell the stories of those artists, performers, musicians, sex workers and activists who lived it, and together, found their chosen family. Also from the UK is Marley Morrison’s smart and funny debut feature Sweetheart.

Once again, BFI Flare will be in partnership with the British Council for Five Films For Freedom, which makes five LGBTIQ+ themed short films available for the world to watch online for free for the duration of the festival. Available internationally via the British Council’s YouTube channel, Five Films For Freedom has been running since 2015 and the programme has seen nearly 15 million people viewing the films in more than 200 countries and principalities, including many parts of the world where homosexuality is criminalised, and in some cases, punishable by the death penalty. 

My First Summer. Courtesy of BFI Flare.


HEARTS includes films about love, romance and friendship. Two young men fall for each other over the course of a single day in BOY MEETS BOY, a disarmingly tender debut from director Daniel Sánchez López.  Jonathan Wysocki’s 90s-set teen dramedy DRAMARAMA is a delightful throwback to those most awkward of years, while in Thomas Wilson-White’s THE GREENHOUSE, a woman discovers that traveling back in time may help her come to terms with her present. Cultures clash and family secrets are revealed when Shira brings home her new girlfriend in the delightful first feature KISS ME BEFORE IT BLOWS UP, from director Shirel Peleg; and amidst the grief of losing her mother, sheltered teen Claudia discovers friendship and love for the first time in Katie Found’s beautiful and sublime debut, MY FIRST SUMMERRŪRANGI, the hit New Zealand episodic drama from Max Currie is a moving and entertaining account of a trans man’s attempts to reconnect with his Māori roots and to rebuild the relationships he had left behind; BFI Flare favourite Eytan Fox returns with SUBLET, an entertaining and heart-warming film about the encounter of a middle-aged gay man (The Normal Heart’s John Benjamin Hickey)  with a young, aspiring filmmaker (stunning newcomer Niv Nissim); and AJ discovers it’s not so bad being on a family holiday when she meets flirtatious lifeguard Isla in SWEETHEART, a smart and funny first feature from director Marley Morrison. Peeter Rebane’s FIREBIRD will also screen in the HEARTS strand.

Cowboys. Courtesy of BFI Flare.

BODIES includes stories of sex, identity and transformation.  A mesmerising portrait of a family grappling with teenage gender dysphoria, Alexa Bakony’s COLORS OF TOBI is an uplifting documentary that exudes the defiant message that love is all you need; in Anna Kerrigan’s gripping thriller COWBOYS, a father (Steve Zahn) and son attempt to escape a mother who is unwilling to accept her child’s gender dysphoria; while a nurse questions the intentions of his handsome new colleague in THE DOSE, a taut and chilling psychological thriller from Martín Kraut. Having screened to great success at last year’s BFI London Film Festival, I AM SAMUEL, Pete Murimi’s moving documentary portrait of a Kenyan gay couple facing danger and hardship, will be co-presented with the Human Rights Watch Film Festival. A young African-American man is forced to repeatedly endure the fatal day of his shooting in Ali LeRoi’s riveting drama, THE OBITUARY OF TUNDE JOHNSON; young trans activist and Brazilian YouTube star Thiessa Woinbackk leads a superb cast in VALENTINA, the impressive debut feature from Cássio Pereira dos Santos that sees a tough transgender teen demand her rights; and body positivity, race, activism and queerness harmonise with full fat ferocity in Shana Myara’s documentary WELL ROUNDED.  Phil Connell’s JUMP, DARLING and Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt’s NO ORDINARY MAN will also screen in the BODIES strand.

P.S. Burn This Latter Please. Courtesy of BFI Flare.

MINDS features reflections on art, politics and community.  The life and loves of celebrated filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder are laid bare in Oskar Roehler’s ENFANT TERRIBLE, an engrossing, unconventional biopic starring Oliver Masucci (Look Who’s Back). Recommended viewing, the Rainer Werner Fassbinder collection is available to subscribers on BFI Player featuring eight films including the recent inclusion of his final film Querelle.  Based on a true story, POPPY FIELD, Eugen Jebeleanu’s probing Bucharest-set drama, weighs up the professional demands on a closeted police officer when his work clashes with his personal life.  When a cache of letters written by 1950s New York drag queens was discovered in 2014, filmmakers Michael Seligman and Jennifer Tiexiera tracked down the authors to hear their story in P.S. BURN THIS LETTER PLEASE, while TOVE is a lyrical and romantic biopic of beloved Moomins creator Tove Jansson, directed by Zaida Bergroth and featuring an incredible central performance by Alma Pöysti. Dante Alencastre’s AIDS DIVA: THE LEGEND OF CONNIE NORMAN, Patrick Sammon and Bennett Singer’s CURED, Luchina Fisher’s MAMA GLORIA and Harri Shanahan and Sian A. Williams’ REBEL DYKES will also screen in the MINDS strand.

Exclusive Q&As and introductions with the filmmaking teams will be presented for each of the features. This year’s BFI Flare will also include Screen Talks via BFI YouTube and a discursive events programme, the details of which will be announced in the coming weeks. Plus a special online edition of the legendary BFI Flare BIG GAY FILM QUIZ will be back to test your queer film knowledge!

This year’s BFI Flare Shorts programme is split across 7 thematic selections, for full details head to the shorts section of the festival website.

BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival runs March 17th – 28th 2021. Tickets are now on sale at bfi.org.uk/flare.

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