Full programme announced for BFI Flare: London LGBTQ+ Film Festival 2019

We’re also thrilled to announce that the Closing Night Gala is the European premiere of Justin Kelly’s JT Leroy, starring Laura Dern and Kristen Stewart.


JT LeRoy (2018)

JT LeRoy (2018)

The 33rd edition of BFI Flare: London LGBTQ+ Film Festival has unveiled its full programme. One of the world’s most significant and long-standing LGBTQ+ film events, BFI Flare will present over 50 features, more than 80 shorts and a wide range of special events, guest appearances, club nights and much more. Tickets go on sale via bfi.org.uk/flare to BFI Patrons and Champions from 25 February, Members from 26 February and the general public on 28 February.

As previously announced, the Festival will open with Chanya Button’s breathtaking period drama VITA & VIRGINIA, charting the passionate relationship between literary trailblazer Virginia Woolf and enigmatic aristocrat Vita Sackville-West, starring Elizabeth Debicki and Gemma Arterton respectively.

The BFI is also thrilled to announce that the Closing Night Gala is the European premiere of Justin Kelly’s JT LEROY. Powered by superb performances from Laura Dern and Kristen Stewart, the film is adapted from Savannah Knoop’s memoir Girl Boy Girl: How I Became JT LeRoy and tells the captivating real life story of the most compelling literary ‘hoax’ of our generation. With a screenplay written by Justin Kelly and Savannah Knoop, JT LEROY also stars Diane Kruger and Jim Sturgess. Fortitude International is handling international sales.

Justin Kelly, Director, JT LEROY says:

“Having opened 2015’s BFI Flare with my first film, I AM MICHAEL, I am beyond honoured to return to close this year’s festival with my new film, JT LEROY, the fascinating true story about two women whose lives forever change when they bring to life the fictional boy-wunderkind author JT LeRoy.”

Michael Blyth, BFI Flare’s Senior Programmer says:

“With his previous accounts of ex-gay Christian pastor Michael Glatze (I AM MICHAEL) and porn star Brent Corrigan (KING COBRA), director Justin Kelly has proved himself one of contemporary queer cinema’s most fascinating and provocative storytellers. It is an absolute pleasure to continue supporting Kelly’s work by closing this year’s BFI Flare with his latest biopic, the extraordinary JT LEROY. ”

Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life (2018)

Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life (2018)

The Centrepiece Screening of the Festival is the UK premiere of JONATHAN AGASSI SAVED MY LIFE, the latest documentary from acclaimed filmmaker Tomer Heymann, in which he paints an illuminating portrait of one of the world’s most successful gay porn stars, Jonathan Agassi, capturing both his highs and his lows. 

Additional programme highlights include Marco Berger’s sweet and sexy THE BLOND ONE, which sees a tentative friendship between two young men blossom into a beautiful bromance, and MAPPLETHORPE (Dir. Ondi Timoner), which stars Matt Smith as the legendary photographer in a full-frontal homage to the devilish bad boy. TELL IT TO THE BEES (Dir. Annabel Jankel), adapted from Fiona Shaw’s beloved novel, stars Anna Paquin and Holliday Grainger are two women who fall in love in 1950s Scotland, while the classic high school coming-out story gets a smart revision in the sharply perceptive teen drama GIANT LITTLE ONES (Dir. Keith Behrman), featuring supporting turns from Mario Bello and Kyle MacLachlan.

Among the various themes emerging from this year’s programme, we see strong representations of bisexual, intersex and non-binary life. Highlights include:

  • TWO IN THE BUSH: A LOVE STORY (Dir. Laura Madalinski), a charming rom-com in which bisexual Emily discovers the joy of polyamory in a relationship with her boss and her boss’s partner.
  • NO BOX FOR ME: AN INTERSEX STORY (Dir. Floriane Devigne) focuses on a growing network of activists, determined to shift the medical community away from advising parents that a child’s future happiness depends on conforming genitals to binary norms.
  • In TUCKED (Dir. Jamie Patterson), a blossoming friendship between two drag performers born 60 years apart is the subject of this emotionally engaging comedy.
  • Based on an original stage play by Lee-Ann Poole, SPLINTERS (Dir. Thom Fitzgerald) is an affecting Canadian drama about a young bisexual woman facing up to her rural past.

Michael Blyth, BFI Flare’s Senior Programmer says:

“At the heart of BFI Flare is a commitment to telling as wide a range of stories as possible, stories which speak to all members of the LGBTQ+ community. One of the many things which makes this year’s programme so exciting, and so vital, is an increased number of films addressing subjects so often overlooked in cinema – such as bisexuality, asexuality or intersex representation – making the 2019 edition one of our most diverse and inclusive yet.”

For the second consecutive year, the BFI is very pleased to be presenting the Festival in partnership with its Main Supporter – Pureland Foundation.

Bruno Wang, Founder of Pureland Foundation says:

“We were delighted to support BFI Flare: London LGBTQ+ Film Festival for the first time last year and to be back as the Main Supporter for this year’s events. The Festival mirrors Pureland Foundation’s belief in the power of the arts and culture to promote inclusion and social well-being and to celebrate diversity in our communities. As ever the programmers have done an incredible job in bringing together an exciting, ambitious and thought provoking schedule of films and we look forward to seeing audiences reactions to these great films.” 

2019 sees the welcome return of BFI NETWORK @ Flare Mentorships in partnership with BAFTA. The programme offers UK-based LGBTQ+-identified emerging filmmakers strong professional networks and better understanding of the market. Now in their fifth year, the Mentorships have connected filmmakers to the heart of the industry – with 2018 Mentors including BAFTA and Oscar-winning director James Marsh, BAFTA-nominated director Lucy Cohen and writer-director John Cameron Mitchell. The 2019 participants will be announced at this year’s Festival.

The Festival’s Industry Programme returns this year with a series of panels and masterclasses that explore contemporary LGBTQ+ filmmaking practice. Events will examine a range of topics, from the recent boom of film and television for and about queer young adults, to the growing call for representation and inclusion in casting.

BFI Flare: London LGBTQ+ Film Festival 2019 full programme

From 21st – 31st March at BFI Southbank, the Festival will showcase the best in contemporary global LGBTQ+ features and short films. The Festival is divided into three thematic strands: HEARTS, BODIES and MINDS. Following are highlights from this year’s programme:

From Zero to I Love You (2018)

From Zero to I Love You (2018)

HEARTS include films about love, romance and friendship. In heart-warming drama FROM ZERO TO I LOVE YOU (Dir. Doug Spearman), a married man must face up to his true desires. A history of abuse is uncovered in MEN OF HARD SKIN (Dir. José Celestino), a provocative and challenging coming-of-age drama from Argentina. Supported by the Interbank LGBT Forum Members, the delightful PAPI CHULO (Dir. John Butler) stars Matt Bomer as a heartbroken gay TV weatherman who forms an unlikely friendship with an older straight migrant worker. Mishcon de Reya are supporting RAFIKI (Dir. Wanuri Kahiu), in which two young Kenyan women attempt a relationship, despite the illegality of their love. A 17-year-old girl’s sexual and political awakening upsets her devoutly religious father in the impressive coming of age film RED COW (Dir. Tsivia Barkai). A teenage orphan is forced to grow up quickly in SOCRATES (Dir. Alex Moratto), a captivating story of resilience in the face of hardship, while old tensions resurface between four friends in the sizzling psychological drama SUNBURN (Dir. Vicente Alves de O).

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

BODIES include stories of sex, identity and transformation. A varied selection of films includes the fabulous 25th anniversary screening of the Oscar-winning classic THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT (Dir. Stephan Elliott). In the taut Austrian thriller THE GROUND BENEATH MY FEET (Dir. Marie Kreutzer) ghosts from the past threaten to engulf a young woman’s tightly controlled present. Winner of the Queer Lion at the Venice Film Festival, JOSE (Dir. Li Cheng) is a rare portrait of gay life in contemporary Guatemala. The uplifting and revelatory debut documentary, MAN MADE (Dir. T Cooper) follows four bronzed and buffed contestants at the Trans FitCon. In NEVRLAND (Dir. Gregor Schmidinger), a teenager is on a journey to discover himself in an unforgettable film not for the faint-hearted. After being released from prison, a young African-American woman goes in search of her father in NIGHT COMES ON (Dir. Jordana Spiro). A dream vacation to Fire Island turns into a waking nightmare in LAST FERRY (Dir. Jaki Bradley), a nail-biting thriller. Delightful documentary LITTLE MISS WESTIE (Dir. Joy E Reed, Dan Hunt) charts the progress of a somewhat alternative, trans-inclusive New England family with two trans kids.

Cassandro, the Exotico! (2018)

Cassandro, the Exotico! (2018)

MINDS feature reflections on art, politics and community. A beautiful 16mm portrait of a queer lucha libre wrestler is captured in CASSANDRO, THE EXOTICO! (Dir. Marie Losier), whilst UNITED WE FAN (Dir. Michael Sparaga) tells a story of ordinary people determined to save the television shows they love. Mx Justin Vivian Bond narrates THE GOSPEL OF EUREKA (Dir. Michael Palmieri, Donal Mosher), an enlightening portrait of a Bible Belt town in Arkansas. The documentary HALSTON (Dir. Frédéric Tcheng) is the lavish portrait of American fashion legend Halston, complete with astonishing rare archive footage. MAKING MONTGOMERY CLIFT (Dir. Robert Clift, Hillary Demmon) trawls through the Hollywood star’s archives in search of the real Monty. The work of legendary black gay filmmaker Marlon Riggs is celebrated with archive screenings of TONGUES UNTIED (Dir. Marlon T Riggs) and a selection of his short films. TRANSMILITARY (Dir. Gabriel Silverman, Fiona Dawson) follows four soldiers risking dismissal to fight for transgender rights in the US armed forces.

BFI Flare also includes a wide range of events, talks and debates:

TRANS CREATIVE AT THE MOVIES: Historically starved of content at the cinema, this panel event will ‘trans up’ film history by repositioning mainstream movie moments. With a series of clips to flip perspectives, we seek to close the gap between the ‘us and them’ narrative and reclaim some space in cis-led cinematic history.

The queer female of the species is far deadlier than the male in this talk about the screen’s most ruthless lesbians and bisexuals. At LETHAL LESBIANS, Festival programmer Emma Smart takes a not-entirely-serious look at these deadly onscreen stereotypes and asks the ever important question: Why do we love them so much?

In OPERATION SPANNER: THEN AND NOW the infamous Spanner trial, in which 16 men were prosecuted in the late 1980s for their participation in consensual SM sex sessions, is explored in two short films, LASTING MARKS (Dir. Charlie Lyne) and BLUE BOYS (Dir. Stuart Marshall), and an in-depth discussion – then carried on with a free talk in the BFI Rueben Library, further unpacking the reality of the infamous trial.

Another free talk in the BFI Rueben Library on TRANS REPRESENTATION ON SCREEN will follow a special Best of Year screening of GIRL on the 31st March.

For the fourth year running, BFI Flare is delighted to present the BIG GAY FILM QUIZ, inviting you to put your queer knowledge to the test, whether you’re a film buff or a novice – everyone is welcome.

The Festival fun continues at our popular BFI FLARE CLUB NIGHTS (Fri 22nd, Sat 23rd, Fri 29th, Sat 30th and Sun 31st) at BFI Southbank’s Benugo Bar & Kitchen with our favourite DJ’s including: The Batty Mama, Debbie Does BFI Flare, Club Kali, Tony Dunne and joining us again for the BFI Flare Closing Night Party, Unskinny Bop.

The BFI Southbank will also host the popular press and industry (P&I) screenings for all those with accreditation.

For further details about Press and Industry accreditation and the full programme see www.bfi.org.uk/flare 

BFI Flare: London LGBTQ+ Film Festival is programmed by Jay Bernard, Michael Blyth, Zorian Clayton, Brian Robinson and Emma Smart, led by Tricia Tuttle, Director, BFI Festivals.

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  • BFI Flare

    BFI Flare

    Browse the full line-up for BFI Flare: London LGBTQ+ Film Festival, which runs 21-31 March and opens with Vita & Virginia.

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