The 36th edition of BFI Flare: London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival starts today and this year presents 6 World Premieres 56 features and 84 shorts from 42 countries, with tickets going on sale via on the 24th February.

BFI Flare opens up with the UK Premiere of Alli Haapasalo’s award-winning coming-of-age drama GIRL PICTURE, about three girls at the cusp of womanhood, which won Sundance Film Festival’s World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award and has just screened in the Berlinale. The Festival closes on Saturday 26th March with the World Premiere of Kevin Hegge’s feature documentary TRAMPS!, looking at 1980’s London and the unique cross-fertilization of British art, fashion, music and film that culminated in the group known as “The New Romantics”.

Amongst the other World Premiere screenings the Festival will be presenting are Jean Carlomusto’s ESTHER NEWTON MADE ME GAY, exuding wisdom, passionate enquiry and a healthy dose of New York no-nonsense in this celebratory portrait of the pioneering octogenarian American academic whose life work has formed the bedrock of LGBTQIA+ cultural anthropology. Director Matt Carter’s IN FROM THE SIDE explores the lives of a London gay rugby team, both on and off the pitch, revealing the many different games that people play. Two young men learn to navigate the Iranian courts in order to begin their transition in Saeed Gholipour’s documentary THIS IS NOT ME; and Jacquie Lawrence’s GATEWAYS GRIND joins Sandi Toksvig on a journey through lesbian London to uncover the history of the legendary Gateways club, one of the longest running lesbian clubs ever, and the women who drank, danced and loved inside of it.

This year’s BFI Flare programme includes previously untold stories; both imagined and those that explore personal truths and histories, spotlighting the LGBTQIA+ champions of the past.

The Festival sees a fascinating selection of documentaries which uncover lost or hidden queer family histories. The World Premiere of JIMMY IN SAIGON sees filmmaker Peter McDowell go on a heartfelt journey to understand the truth behind his brother’s mysterious death, while Robin Hunzinger’s strikingly poetic film, ULTRAVIOLETTE AND THE BLOOD-SPITTERS GANG, thrillingly brings to life the long-hidden story of his grandmother’s rebellious schoolgirl sweetheart Marcelle in the 1920s. In addition, the International Premiere of IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY tells the richly textured story of a queer filmmaker who discovers that she’s related to a long-forgotten pioneer of Caribbean cinema, Oscar Torres.

The European Premiere of BOULEVARD! A HOLLYWOOD STORY is the latest documentary by BFI Flare favourite Jeffrey Schwarz (I Am Divine, Tab Hunter Confidential), which uncovers a part of Hollywood’s queer hidden history and proves that that life does indeed imitate art.

FRAMING AGNES is Chase Joynt’s anticipated follow up to No Ordinary Man which screened at BFI Flare last year. An intriguing re-enactment of forgotten trans history, co-written with Morgan M Page, and featuring Zackary Drucker, Angelica Ross and Silas Howard.

Also screening is CHARLI XCX: ALONE TOGETHER is a warm-hearted DIY documentary by Bradley & Pablo that follows acclaimed pop star Charli XCX, who teamed up with her legions of queer fans across the globe to create a new album during the 2020 lockdown.

Once again, BFI Flare will be in partnership with the British Council for Five Films for Freedom, which makes five LGBTQIA+ 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.

BFI Flare is divided into three thematic strands: HEARTS, BODIES and MINDS.

BFI Flare will also include a wide range of events, talks and debates, which include:
Over the course of cinema’s history, queer life has both bloomed on screen and been held from view. It’s a topic that writer Adam Zmith covers in his BBC Sounds Audio Lab podcast The Film We Can’t See. In this event, Adam will explore lost treasures from pre-sound era and the early talkies, such as Different from the Others (1919), Pandora’s Box (1929) and Mädchen In Uniform (1932) alongside an imagined queer film that was never made. Adam will be joined by filmmakers, archivists and other special guests.
Join intersex columnist and writer Valentino Vecchietti for an engaging, informative and illustrated overview of intersex culture. From the taboo of intersex existence to creative and empowering representation in film, Valentino guides us on a remarkable journey, introducing key films, activists and activisms.
Queer and transgender people have played a substantial role in every facet of modern music. Yet historically, lesbian, bi, queer and trans women haven’t always been recognised for their contributions. It’s taken a century for LGBTQIA+ women to get their due, though they’ve inspired and helped shape the music industry. Join the Flare team and a panel of special guests to highlight and celebrate their favourite queer women in music across different eras and genres.
Fancy yourself a bit of a queer cinema buff, do you? Well, head on down to the World’s (probably) biggest and (arguably) best test of LGBTQIA+ film knowledge, BFI Flare’s Big Gay Film Quiz, and find out just how deep that passion goes. Covering the full gamut of queer cinema old and new, there will be something in here for everyone.

The popular BFI FLARE CLUB NIGHTS will return (Friday 18th, Saturday 19th, Thursday 24th, Friday 25th, Saturday 26th) at BFI Southbank’s Benugo Bar & Kitchen with our favourite DJ’s including: The Batty Mama, Disco Timmy, Club Kali, and Jo Bunny & Gareth Hackney’s Lavender Nights.

This year’s BFI Flare Shorts programme is split across 12 thematic selections.