The BFI Flare London LGBT Film Festival has unfortunately come to a close after a highly successful nine days of films and events. It was perhaps the best festival in a long time. Tim Baros takes us through the highlights:
– Dior and I: An exquisite (and nail biting) documentary of Raf Simon’s first eight weeks as artistic director of Christian Dior, in which time he has to put together a collection. Director Frederic Tcheng uniquely blends voiceovers of an actor speaking excepts from Dior’s memoir intertwined with the pressure Simons and his staff are under. Dior and I is one of the better fashion documentaries ever made. It is now in wide release.
Read our review of Dior And I
– Portrait of a Serial Monogamist: Canadian Directors Christina Zeidler and John Mitchell’s tale of 40-something year old Lesbian Elsie (a perfectly cast Diane Flacks) who breaks up with her girlfriend but is not so sure that she’s done the right thing, especially after meeting another woman right away who appears to be ‘the perfect one.’ Portrait is funny and clever and will leave you laughing out loud of its portrayal of Lesbian relationships amongst friends.
– Drunktown’s Finest: 34-year old Native American Director Sydney Freeland’s well done portrait of three Navajo Indian characters all coming of age and exploring not only their identities but also their relationships with their families and their culture. An amazing job by Freeland, who also wrote the script.
– 54: The Director’s Cut: A highlight of the festival – this is the film that gay director Mark Christopher shot and intended to release in 1998 but was not able to due to pressure from the studio to ‘degay’ it. Literal cutting room floor and lost footage has been incorporated into the original version of this story of a young man (Ryan Phillippe) being accepted into the historic NYC club’s inner circle, and includes the gay scenes originally taken out. This film still takes us back to a time when it was all about the music and the dancing.
Read our review of 54
– Tiger Orange: A sweet tale of two gay brothers, one – Chet (Mark Strano) who looks after the family hardware store in a small town in California while younger brother rebel Todd (porn star Johnny Hazard – real name Frank Valenti) comes back home because nothing’s happening for him in Los Angeles. Chet and Todd are opposites in every way – Chet is very subdued and simple and plain looking, while Todd is hot and sexy with a body to die for and a naughty personality to match. Valenti is the true star of this film – not only does he light up the screen when he’s one, but he can act as well.
– Match: Sir Patrick Stewart is an older dance teacher (Toby Powell) whose life is shaken up when a straight couple show up one day on his doorstep to supposedly interview him about his life as a dance teacher. But what they really want from his is to find out if he’s the father of the husband. Stewart has never been better in a film that’s stretched a bit too long and with a cast that can’t quite match Stewart in the acting department.
– The Last One: Unfolding the AIDS Memorial Quilt: A film, half about the AIDS quilt and the other half about statistics and other AID’s organisations, it would’ve worked better if it stuck to its main subject – the quilt. We’ve seen so many documentaries about AIDS and statistics, as well as the quilt, and this documentary gives us nothing new.
– The Golden Age of the American Male: This film is just a series of images and videos from the archives of the Athletic Model’s Guild, which was created by Bob Mizer. The Golden Age is pretty much 65 minutes of soft porn, if that’s your thing.
– Frangipani: The first LGBT Sri Lankan film, it tells the tale of two men (very good Dasun Pathirana and Jehan Sri Kanth) who fall in love with each other in spite of one of them getting married to a woman. Beautifully shot and easy to identify with – Director, Writer and Producer Visakesa Chandrasekaram) has made a lush film that is highly recommended.
– Everlasting Love: A strange, eerie Spanish film that can be best described as Stranger on a Lake (without the Lake) meets Twilight. Throw in some flesh eating and many boring moments and what you have is a film that should be missed.
– Fulboy: A documentary about the unseen world of football, Director Martin Farina was given full access to a professional Argentinean football team. He speaks to them in their hotel rooms and in their locker room, when, lucky for us, they are not shy about displaying their athletic bodies, from head to toe, for the camera. Not much a narrative on this one, but it’s worth watching as you feel like a fly on the wall in a very straight male environment.
There was an excellent selection of shorts, and a few stand out:
– Hole: Gay disabled actor Ken Harrower plays a man who frequents video booths but gets frustrated when he’s unable to receive sexual pleasure, so he enlists the help of his male carer to get it.
– Limanakia: The strangest yet sexiest short film I have ever seen. Gay men frolic on the rocks of a beach somewhere in Greece, all naked and all having sex, shot in motion-moving imagery with the sun providing a hint of gold on the bodies and on the rocks.
– been too long at the FAIR: Who would’ve guessed that there is a gay cinema in Queens, New York? This short documentary exposes the FAIR Theater in Jackson Heights as one of the oldest continuing running gay establishments in New York City.
All in all, it was a great festival and we’re looking forward to next year. Well done FLARE gang!
Tim Baros writes film and theatre articles/ reviews for Pride Life and The American magazines and websites, as well as for Hereisthecity.com, Blu-RayDefinition.com and TheGayUK.com. He has also written for In Touch and TNT Magazines, SquareMile.com and LatinoLife.co.uk. He is a voting member for the UK Regional Critics Circle and the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA – of which he is the UK representative). In addition, he has produced and directed two films: The Shirt and Rex Melville Desire: The Musical.