The 35th edition of the BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival will take place online with films available U.K.-wide via the BFI Player.
The 2020 physical edition of the festival was dramatically canceled at the last minute due to the rapid onset of coronavirus and forced to go online. A year down the line, the pandemic is still very much around, and cinemas are unlikely to open before May 17, necessitating another digital edition.
The 2021 edition will include 26 features and 38 free shorts from 23 countries. There isn’t an opening or closing film this year and all films will be available March 17-28, the duration of the festival.
BFI Flare is divided into three thematic strands: Hearts, Bodies and Minds. Highlights include Phil Connell’s “Jump, Darling,” a family drama about a drag queen reconnecting with his ageing grandmother, featuring the late Hollywood legend Cloris Leachman in her final starring role; Peeter Rebane’s “Firebird,” a forbidden love triangle set during the Cold War; and Harri Shanahan and Sian A. Williams’ feature documentary “Rebel Dykes,” a history of post-punk dyke culture in the U.K.
Elsewhere, in Katie Found’s “My First Summer,” a sheltered teen finds first love; in Anna Kerrigan’s thriller “Cowboys,” a father and son attempt to escape a mother who is unwilling to accept her child’s gender dysphoria; and in Cássio Pereira dos Santos’ “Valentina,” a tough transgender teen demands her rights.
This year’s program celebrates individuals and communities whose lives and work have had an impact on queer history and the ongoing fight for change and equality, including Gloria Allen, Connie Norman, Billy Tipton, Dr. Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings. Queer icons including ground-breaking German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Moomins creator Tove Jansson are also featured.
Michael Blyth, BFI Flare senior programmer, said: “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.”
Now in its seventh year, the BFI Flare and BAFTA Crew mentoring program, in partnership with BFI Network, offers a group of emerging LGBTIQ+ filmmakers an opportunity to develop their industry connections. This year’s BFI Flare industry program moves online and will focus on delegate networking with dedicated events and a new industry networking platform supported by the High Commission of Canada in the U.K.
The festival’s partnership with the British Council for ‘Five Films For Freedom’ sees five LGBTIQ+ themed short films available for the world to watch online for free.
Tricia Tuttle, BFI Festivals director, said: “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 U.K.”