BFI Flare, London’s LGBT+ Film Festival, had a successful 33rd year with over 50 features and more than 80 shorts, with special events, guest appearances, club nights – it was a very busy 9 days!
It is hard to compile a ‘best of’ list as myself, and everyone I know, did not actually watch ALL the films – but herewith are the best films that I saw at Flare, some of which will soon be at a theatre near you.
‘Mapplethorpe’ – the controversial American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe’s life is given a dramatic re-telling, and it’s just as sensational as it’s subject matter. Matt Smith gives it his all, and then some, for a movie that is just about perfect – a film that was lucky enough to get permission to use all of the sexy and dirty images that Mapplethorpe created in his lifetime. This film is already in limited release in the U.S., however, no UK release date has been announced, but this is a must see film for THE GAY UK readers.
Also a must for GAY UK readers is ‘Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life’ – a documentary about sexy Israeli gay porn star of the same name. We are taken on a ride, and whatta a ride it is, in a documentary that’s emotional (we loved his mother), sexy (lots of gay sex is shown) and hard-hitting (drugs). Directed by Tomer Heyman, the man who brought us the excellent ‘Whose Gonna Love Me Now’ in 2016, ‘Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life’ is both erotic yet car crash cinema.
‘Consequences,’ starring the very sexy Matej Zemljič, who plays a teenager with behavorial problems. When his parents send him to a juvenile correctional facility, he bonds with a group of men who are violent yet fluid in their sexuality. He falls for the ring leader, who instructs Matej’ character to rob and steal, but consequences ensue until one final incident that changes everyone’s lives.
I am really glad that I saw ‘Transmilitary,’ a documentary about the lives of four soldiers who risk dismissal or demotion to fight for Transgender rights in the U.S. Armed Forces. Very very current – this documentary takes us up to early 2018 – it’s also very timely in light of President 45’s ruling to ban certain Transgender people from the military. And I guarantee you will fall for Senior Airman Logan Ireland; he’s sexy, muscular and with the most amazing smile and eyes. And he used to be a woman.
Another military-based documentary that also deals with discrimination – The Fruit Machine – is an historical account which exposes decades of governmental criminalisation of LGBTQ+ members of the Canadian Armed Forces. Yet many many years later, many of these members say that after being kicked out, disgraced, and, according to the Canadian Government at that time, criminalistic, they all agreed that they would proudly go back and serve their country.
‘Jose’ is a cute and light story of a young Guatemalan man who lives with his struggling mother all the while looking for love in, literally, all the wrong places. Kudos go to filmmakers Li Cheng and George F. Roberson for immersing themselves in Guatemalan culture and hiring locals for the film, which was all shot in Guatemala.
Another great documentary was ‘Light in the Water,’ a look at the West Hollywood Swim Team. Of course we get to see many men and women in tight swimming costumes, but it’s the people in the swimming costumes that we really get to know and bond with, including a man in his late 40’s who was previously married with kids, then divorced, came out as gay, joined the swim team and met friends for life. Footage of previous Gay Games, as well as lots of shots in the California Sunshine, are an extra bonus. An overall feel good film.
‘Papi Chulo,’ starring Matt Bomer, is a sentimental film about a television weatherman who has a breakdown after the end of a relationship with an older Latino boyfriend. He instantly falls in love with the older migrant worker he hires to paint his deck. It’s a bit silly and sentimental, but the migrant worker, played by Alejandro Patino, is excellent.
‘The Heiresses’ was just delicious. An older Lesbian couple are separated due to the actions of one of them, which gives the other one time to explore new experiences and venture into new territory, and this includes meeting a younger attractive woman who lights a spark in her. Both leads Ana Brun and Margarita Irun are superb.
This is just a small taste of what was on offer at Flare this year. And now only 6 more weeks until the Cannes Film Festival!
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.