by David Anderson Cutler
The time has come...to raise the roof...it's BFI Flare 2021!!!
All films are available on-line between 17 - 28 March - everything you need to know to watch the films can be found here
And...all 38 short films can be watched for FREE! here
Five Films For Freedom returns!
The world’s largest LGBTIQ+ digital campaign returns for its seventh edition in 2021, reminding audiences that Love is Still a Human Right.
Broadcasting five brand-new LGBTIQ+ films to countries around the world, this year’s programme showcases queer storytelling from India, Spain, Sweden, USA and the UK.
In a continuing creative partnership, the British Council has selected five short films from the BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival which are available to watch for free from 17 to 28 March 2021 on British Council’s global digital networks and on BFI Player...here
Let the festival begin...!
Day 1 - 17 March 2021...
by Phil Connell
Darling...here's a film that will always be neck-deep in sadness, being Cloris Leachman's final film.
Frail, she most certainly is...and, still, sharp as a tack. Drag and dementia, not the usual bed buddies...but, here, hand-in-hand companions. At times, more bitter than sweet...and, on the odd occasion, more sweet than bitter.
Estranged grandson returns...out of [self-imposed] necessity...to steal...from his vulnerable and ailing grandma - he's the perfect, self-centred anti-hero...in drag! And...a rather damn fine performance from Thomas Duplessie it is too! Like, loathe, love...he conjures up all these emotions...while - resiliently - endearing himself.
It is a heady mix of hedonism and humanity...with generational clashes taking centre stage. A difficult balance indeed..and, Phil Connell does a decent job maintaining it. There are a couple of off-piste moments...but, they are forgivable. As good as it is, the d-i-y drag sequence in the closed bar is a bit of an incongruity. The subplot with the closeted bisexual - quite possibly - a bit of an unnecessity. Let's not mention the scene[s] with the owner of Peckers! Rather weird and totally spurious. Thankfully, these 'faux pas' fail to contaminate this film as a whole. They are just mere aberrations...
Because...there's Cloris. She steals the show...with her grit and resolve. Sentimentality would have killed this film stone dead...simply because, both leads have very little in that department - their lives have been/are being led for themselves - it's a powerful statement. There are regrets and there are apologies...and, they are all just too, too late.
With equal amounts of light and shade...Jump, Darling leaves much unsaid...the beauty of the film is that, by the end, everything has been said...without the stress of saying it, by way of a look or a touch. Ultimately, this is about end-of-life and self-discovery...the two are closer than you think!
A gem of a film.
by Luchina Fisher
Here's a woman worth listening to. And, Luchina Fisher lets Mama Gloria talk...against a plain, black background, straight to camera, with no technical trickery...allowing the words to speak for themselves. And...the authenticity speaks for itself too. How refreshing.
Gloria is getting on a bit...once, she had something to say...and, guess what? She still has something to say! The voice of experience. Those who ignore those voices of experience will - undoubtedly - fall foul. Few - if any - tread new ground...but, one of the newest territories [to have been trodden in recent years] is that of transition...well, Gloria has been-and-done-that...a wise, younger person travelling down the same road will do themselves a massive favour by listening to her.
Call it what you will...personal testimony, contemporary social history...no matter, it is vital. To educate the under-educated, to enlighten those who need to call upon a shared experience...to help them through the minefield. Gloria will help...most definitely, some will call her old-fashioned...but, hey...we all become old-fashioned. Give it time...it - most definitely - will happen to you...too! Ouch! Reality hurts!
Few stones are left unturned...even down to Gloria's missing tooth! But...one thing that is so evident...Gloria needs support, her story needs to be preserved. This film accomplishes the preservation...those of the many who love her - those who she helped...it's time to step up!
A dignified lady...and, a film that does her justice.
Day 2 - 18 March 2021...
by Thomas Wilson-White
A grieving family drama that veers from a perceived predictability into some very strange waters indeed. As to its success...well, that is wholly dependent on your own interpretation and acceptance of the events!
We saw this as a portrait of collective grief, pansexual siblings grieve [in different ways] over the loss of one of their mothers...their differences are/is what brings them together. Along with their mother...do they represent the 5 stages of grief? Perhaps, they do...then again...perhaps, they don't. Perplexing to say the least...but, The Greenhouse does, at times, intentionally perplex!
Truly...this is an ambitious, genre-bending debut. Thomas Wilson-White manages to create and sustain a viable atmosphere throughout...it's a little spooky, with an ounce of the supernatural and a few grams of sci-fi...all rolled into one. The only hiccup was the Time-Bandits-like entrance into the parallel universe...through a car boot! A bamboozling stretch of the imagination!
There is much to admire...performances, cinematography and score. What it lacks...and, this is just a mere opinion...is the immense well of emotion normally associated with the loss of a parent. Yes...emotions do fly all over the place and when they do all come together, the director preferred to keep them more under control than allow them and the obvious sentimentality to run riot. This was the director's prerogative...the audience...well, this audience member, just wanted to bawl their eyes out...the opportunity was there! It would have left a far more lingering impression.
Anyway...an assured debut nonetheless.
by Oskar Roehler
Why not make a bio-pic about Fassbinder...in the style of Fassbinder himself!?! Brave? Daft? Bold? Delusional? All of them...in abundance!
Look...prior knowledge of the beatified Fassbinder [and his litany of work] will certainly help. Needless to say, Fassbinder occupies - most assuredly - now and forevermore - the love-him-or-loathe-him territory. This film will do nothing but push the general consensus towards the loathing!
It doesn't take a genius to deduct, from this relentlessly scathing portrait, that the director - Oskar Roehler - loathed the man...or, is this some kind of revenge upon the best dead German director of all time [in some people's opinion] by the best living German director of the moment [in some people's opinion]!?! Oooh what a conundrum! But...the question has to be asked: Was Herr Roehler the best director for the job?
Yes! Not a whiff of sycophancy here. Some 'names' have been changed to appease the sycophants...it doesn't take a genius to figure out who they are! The Fassbinder Foundation stills wields an almighty power...in the German film industry...thanks to the formidable Juliane Lorenz [don't mention Ingrid Caven].
Oliver Masucci plays Fassbinder as an absolute grotesque...he really is too old for the part [being 52 at the time of filming, Fassbinder died, aged 37]...but, that doesn't matter, he looks alarmingly like him...that's what excessive drugs and alcohol can do to you! And...he does deliver a performance more volatile than rocket fuel.
Enfant Terrible is a difficult film to watch...not because of how stylised it is...but, because of the cruelty. Fassbinder drove two of his lovers [of whom we know] to suicide. This man - all the time clad in his emperor's clothes - was celebrated, is still [bizarrely] celebrated...well, in light of all the cinematic scandals of recent...his celebration may be over as a result of this film.
The emperor may - at last - be stripped of his new clothes. A most remarkable film...in more ways than one!
Day 3 - 19 March 2021...
My First Summer
by Katie Found
Apart from a few swear words and a bit of sauciness...if Disney were to make a lesbian teen drama...then, this would be it! Replete with two bungling cops!
You will have to suspend your disbelief [totally] for the sake of enjoyment...or, you'll be tearing your hair out [in clumps] because of the sweeping implausibilities. Listing them would take forever...here's an overview...a 16 year old young woman has been raised in rural isolation by her mother [a renowned writer], she well educated, reads poetry...but, has no idea what her fingers are called [mainly the pinky], doesn't know the name for turquoise [as in colour] and the taste of strawberry is totally alien...even though she's been raised on a small homestead with a fabulous market garden! Into her isolated sanctuary walks a worldly wise 16 year old young woman [with terrible dress sense] and - in next to no time - they are at it like sapphic bunnies. Suspend that disbelief!!!
There's nothing like a good twist to revitalise a flailing film...unfortunately, My First Summer's twist was heralded - to anyone with a brain cell - at the very beginning. Enough, too cruel.
Look...for teen lesbian-leaning girls who like to make beady bracelets...this is their perfect film...and, it is beautifully shot. But...adults will find it far too naïve...and [may, as we did] wonder...are all 16 year old young women this immature...perhaps, only in the Australian outback!?!
by Patrick Sammon & Bennett Singer
This is our history. This is the defining moment of our history, not Stonewall...this! This is when we all stopped being a diagnosis, an illness...millions upon millions cured instantaneously...with a mere signature. The American Psychiatric Association was led by religion, not by science...those, alive and dead, ought to be stripped of their bogus credentials...shamed and criminally charged. Any 'doctor' who performed lobotomies, castrations, electro-shock therapies [and other 'treatments'],still alive have to be charged [and, those dead, posthumously so]...without reserve. Historical child abuse...yes, most definitely...imprison the culprits. Historical conversion therapy [and contemporary conversion therapies]...imprison the culprits. The suffering and torture that they administered [and are still administering] was [is] Mengele-ian. Dr [ha] Charl[atan]es W. Socarides...
He wrote that male homosexuality typically develops in the first two years of life, during the pre-Oedipal stage of a boy's personality formation. In his view, it is caused by a controlling mother who prevents her son from separating from her, and a weak or rejecting father who does not serve as a role model for his son or support his efforts to escape from the mother.
Guess what? His son is magnificently gay!
These are the people who paved the way. Here is activism at its most most potent...and, at its most bizarre - the first testimony from a gay psychiatrist...in a mask! It took years, it took patience, tenacity and intellect.
Praise them. They won.
Exceptional film-making. Exceptional people...where would we all be without them?
Beginnings and Endings...short films...just click on the pic...
Day 4 - 20 March 2021...
by Anna Kerrigan
We originally saw this at the Glasgow Film Festival and had a chat with the director. Needless to say, in our humble opinion, it's such a good film that we decided to watch it again!
Take your favourite place and your favourite movie and let the writing process take place...that's what Anna Kerrigan did...and, Cowboys is the result. This might not be your atypical wild western...but, it is wild. The wildnesses of transition and mental health...and, a son and a father trying to keep it altogether [together] when the world around them is imploding, exploding and shattering...Kipling describes perfectly...
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you...
Anna Kerrigan visualises it beautifully. She turned and flipped the table with this tale...the obvious isn't so obvious, everything is just a little unexpected. The backdrop will take your breath away, the tension will have you holding that breath. Ms Kerrigan certainly knows how to play with her audience. But...it's the chemistry between the two leads that really steals the show...their affection for each other is concrete. They care...making you care.
There is always a danger when approaching the trans narrative...of course, each story will always have similarities and the biggest danger is that every film made will turn out to be a mere deviation of the same story. Filmmakers have to think outside of the box...otherwise, trans-themed films will be swept onto the ever-growing we've-seen-and-heard-it-all-before pile. There's no danger of that happening with Cowboys...this is fresh, this is heart-warming and heart-breaking, this has majesty in scenery and in sentiment.
It's just a bloody lovely film.
The Obituary of Tunde Johnson
by Ali LeRoi
Taking risks with your debut feature is [sometimes] a risk worth taking. Ali LeRois has taken a massive risk...with his variation on Groundhog Day! In that...the same story is told over and over again...with tweaks. The danger with this structure is that each new variation can feel like a re-write of the previous scene...and that is exactly the problem with this film. Repetition...each variant is [needlessly] announced, it's almost as if the director has [wildly] under-estimated the audience...it's screamingly obvious when a chapter ends and a new one begins! But, seriously...how many 'coming out' scenes can you take in one film?!?
Tunde's character arc is utterly bamboozling...going from an affable Dr Jekyll to a scurrilous Mr Hyde without rhyme or reason - outing your lover to friends and family ain't gonna win you no fans! Steven Silver [as Tunde] does the best he can with the material...which is akin to being intermittently spoon-fed and preached at...all at the same time.
This obituary needed less chapters and more depth...and, reasoning. Shame...because there really is a good story screaming to be told...coherently.
For the Record...short films...just click on the pic...
Day 5 - 21 March 2021...
by Peeter Rebane
A most handsome film, it certainly is...alas, it's all style with a disappointing amount of substance. It's all just a bit too squeaky clean.
Homosexuality in the military is a subject that has cropped up sporadically throughout the years...most recently, with two rather splendid examples are the South Africa produced: Moffie and Canary. Threat, menace, risk, danger, dread, tension, thrill, joy and excitement - these are the ingredients necessary for a gripping military-based, cat-and-mouse, homo-sex drama.
Tension is a dramatic resource that Firebird failed to tap...the potential was all over the place - but, whenever these two young bucks were on the cusp of getting caught 'bucking'...they hid...behind a rock, behind a bush, in a bath-tub and that would be it...nothing that would get you onto the edge of your seat! For gawd's sake, if they were caught, they'd be shipped off to a secret Siberian gulag in next to no time for an indeterminable amount of time...where was their fear!?! Their hearts should have been in their mouths, chests beating like a frenzied King Kong.
Even the villain is not that villainous - everything seems to be resolved without too much of a fuss! Of course, it going to end in tragedy [how can it not] - instead of watching one character shed tears...wouldn't it have been preferential to have the whole audience bawling their eyes out?
It's a decent enough film...it just needed more dirt and grit, danger and dread.
Colors of Tobi
by Alexa Bakony
Be warned: A massive amount of hair dye was used in the making of this film.
Tobi changes their mind more times than they change the colour of their hair. Tobi is fortunate, Tobi has absolutely amazing parents. That's enough about Tobi...because Tobi will have you pulling your hair out rather than dying it. How their mother still has a full head of hair is testament to her inexhaustible parenting skills.
Having a lesbian then trans then non-binary child is a challenge...on so many levels. Societal, intellectual and financial are just a few of the inherent issues that have to be considered and, if possible, dealt with. Societal...well, you ain't gonna change everyone's mind, especially not in a small traditional village in Hungary [a country not noted for its homo/trans friendliness]. Intellectual...even the most educated still have 'problems' with trans, gender and non-binary...with a limited education Tobi's mother tries her best to understand...but, never compromises her support. Financial...transition can be costly and the process is time consuming - not just the transition itself but the process to arrange all the components necessary to transition...this cash-strapped, out-of-work mother does everything she can...to make ends meet!
If anything...this is not a film about Tobi, this is about their incredible mother - she deals with everything...all awhile keeping Tobi at the centre of her world - who firmly resides in the centre of their world! What a wonderful woman and mother, many could learn much from her.
Heart’s Desires...short films...just click on the pic...
Day 6 - 22 March 2021...
Boy Meets Boy
by Daniel Sanchez Lopez
When Johannes met Harry...briefly, until sunset.
Well...nothing can bring this young man down. High as a kite with a lost wallet and a stolen bike...oblivious to the real world when there's a bit of totty up for grabs...Johannes is the typical gay young man.
Harry just wants to get his rocks off and to see a bit of Berlin...before he flies home later in the day. This is their foreplay...they wander around and talk incessantly...man, can these two talk?!? There's barely a pause between them, nothing of beautiful Berlin is shown...and, at one point during this erratic conversation, Harry should have seen a great big red warning flag, thrown in his chips, cut his losses and ran towards the Brandenburg Gate...but, no...totty is totty!
Ultimately, is this a brief encounter that will pervade Harry's memory for evermore? Or...is it just one of those hook-ups destined to become a mere notch on the bedpost?
Have you ever been on holiday and you meet the one who could be the one...on the very last night? The 'what ifs' ringing in your ears throughout your return flight home...that's as bitter-sweet as it gets! And this is what this film could have been...a bitter-sweet brief encounter. Sadly, it's just a bedpost notch.
by Harri Shanahan & Siân A. Williams
Sweet, sweet, raunchy nostalgia...this is herstory!
London in the 80s...for those of a certain age [and who lived in London], this is an absolute trip-down-memory-lane, rib-tickling treat. Remember...this is before we all had mobiles with cameras, this is before the Internet...this is when we all went out, searching to find...exactly what we wanted to get into! And...when you found it, there was no going back...other than going back [regularly] to what you had found. Sounds exciting, doesn't it? Club nights used to spring up all over the place [and close just as quickly]...in some of the dodgiest areas, in some seriously dodgy venues...with blacked-out windows and a weird smell of disinfectant.
It is true to say...that women were under-served, in London in the 80s. There was The Black Cap in Camden [20p entrance fee to get through to the back and it always ended with a girl-on-girl fight], there was The Bell in Kings Cross [not the Kings X of now...then, it was notorious, for all the wrong reasons]...and then, there was The Market Tavern - fabulous filth! There were a few more 'posher' places...but, who wants posh when you can have filth!?!
Oh and there was always Greenham Common, 90 minutes away...that is, if you wanted to rough it with like-minded spirits!
Rebel Dykes is a blast...from the past. Where they got some of the footage from is testament to the directors dedication and research. The 'rebels' may have mellowed with the passing years...but, wow, they all still revel in those rebellious memories - once you got it, you never lose it! With this film, those memories have been [rightfully] preserved...this is herstory told by those who made it...happen. Brilliant...just bloody brilliant.
Into the Unknown...short films...just click on the pic...
Day 7 - 23 March 2021...
by Max Currie
Originally, a web series...and, not being a particularly great fan of that genre...and, accompanied by a fair amount of trepidation, we jumped on the bus to Rūrangi - so glad we did!
What a surprise...a refreshing deviation away from the commonplace trans narrative. Not a mention of binders, nothing about genitalia, surgery doesn't get a look in and the 'T' word isn't even mentioned...this is just an off-the-beaten-track, home-coming-out tale...with a wee bit of a difference.
Reconnection with your past, reconciliation with friends and family and the regrets that you have carried around for 10 years...are what Caz has got to face. Some are handled with comparative ease...some, a little more difficult...and, one which becomes the highlight of the film...really, due to Arlo Green delivering a fantastically measured performance as the awkward, endearing, befuddled, clumsy [utterly adorable] Jem - Caz's once-upon-a-school-time boyfriend...when things were just a wee bit different.
In truth, this story-line should have been the mainstay of the film...because, it does tend veer off-piste with some other unnecessary issues...thankfully, not for too long. Rūrangi is, indeed, a most welcome addition to the ever-growing canon of trans-themed films...in its own way, it has broken the familiar trans mold - this is post-transition - and, it should be duly admired and celebrated for doing so. The same has to be said for cast and crew...they have made a credible film from a web series...well, they have certainly put this web series cynic [rightfully] in his place!
by Jonathan Wysocki
Let us not beat about the bush with this one...without quibble, indefatigably, most assuredly, with hand pressed solidly against my heart...absolutely loved it.
A maelstrom of words and emotions...heralding the end of juvenility, the indoctrination and brainwashing [courtoisie des parents et de la religion]. The last hurrah...to security, [probably] to friendships too! Remember leaving school? This film will bring it all back...mine was a plainly-dressed anti-climax, this is anything but!
Ensemble, dialogue-driven...the potential to completely mess it all up was kept at bay...because of Jonathan Wysocki's nifty direction and nimble writing. The cast don't hold back...throwing themselves into melodrama, dancing with camp...upstaging whenever there's an opportunity. There's light, there's shade, there's forbidden love, unrequited love...the truths are outed and the 'outed' stay in - grudges, secrets and envies...that's what friendships are made of and that's how all friendships end. It's all here...all wrapped up in a murder mystery...neatly, tied up with lies, loves and loathing.
Dramarama will not only entertain...it will make you reflect, reminisce...and, it will expand your vocabulary exponentially.
Queer as in Question Everything...short films...just click on the pic...
Day 8 - 24 March 2021...
by Eugen Jebeleanu
It's one of those films you'll either 'get' - or, you won't. What it will most certainly do is to make many a person's blood boil...for quite a few reasons.
If you can feel empathy and sympathy for a gay, closeted [rather toxic] policeman who attacks a former lover to save face in front of his colleagues...then, you will get this film. Internalised homophobia is as complex as it is reprehensible. Poppy Field is less complex and more reprehensible...if Cristi [the gay-bashing homo] had been portrayed with a sliver of compassion, regret, shame...then, maybe, you could feel something other than fury and disgust towards him. But no...this man is toxic, difficult...an obdurate thug.
Some may say he's 'wresting' with his sexuality...what a load of bollocks. The film opens with him quite happily wrestling with his boyfriend's bollocks [figuratively speaking], that boyfriend disappears entirely from the film soon after...why? It was a perfect way to frame the film...happy homo, bad homo...and, back to being the happy, hypocritical homo!
Not only does this film lack structure, the constantly moving hand-held camera distracts more than it informs. Then, slap, bang in the middle of the mayhem everything stops with a ludicrously long conversation about a lost dog - it makes no sense whatsoever. Padding for a threadbare script.
So...what is Eugen Jebeleanu & [writer] Ioana Moraru trying to say? Nothing subtle nor complex...Romanian police are homophobic, religious nutcases are homophobic...Romania is homophobic...no surprises there. Keep your head down and become a noxious chameleon...remember 'don't ask, don't tell' - this is exactly why that policy was so dangerous.
This film does a massive disservice to all those people who are fighting for equality in Romania. If Cristi cannot stand up and be the man that he is...then, what good is he? The same can be asked of this film...without even a glimmer of hope, what good is it?
I am Samuel
by Peter Murimi
The most weirdly framed documentary seen in recent times!
The film opens with graphic, gut-wrenching and horrific footage...of a public, ultra-violent, homophobic attack. Seemingly, these kind of attacks are a common occurrence in Nigeria. Peter Murimi certainly sets the tone of his film, from the off...this is not going to be pleasant. However, it ends with two, gay, grown men [joyfully] playing Hide & Seek...
What lies in between the harrowing start and the happy ending is...more bizarre than uninteresting. This is NOT about that poor man so brutally attacked and humiliated. This is not about that poor man's recovery. This is about Samuel...who was not brutally attacked...but, as he says himself, it could have been him! But...it wasn't.
Samuel's story is nothing surprising, it's the same-old same-old...tradition and religion doing their very best to screw up people's lives. Only, they actually don't screw up his life...after a bumpy moment, when his parents 'see the light' and cast him out...a couple of weeks later, after a phone-call, they are reunited and all is hunk dory. He even takes his partner to meet them and they end up playing hide and seek. The end.
Mr Murimi missed the boat with this one. Why he chose Samuel's story to tell is a question only he can answer. There was a roomful of young gay men, living in Lagos, living in fear...their stories sounded far more interesting than the one told. It really was a case of: Choose your [main] subject more wisely!
Shapes We Make, Spaces We Take...short films...just click on the pic...
Day 9 - 25 March 2021...
Well, as expected, Mr Fox does not disappoint...with his dignified portrait of how our differences can bring us together. Here, different worlds, generations and outlooks...come together, briefly.
Being gay and Jewish are these two men's common denominators...besides those, they are chalk and cheese. But...what middle-aged gay man doesn't appreciate [the company of] a charismatic younger gay man...and, what younger gay man doesn't flirt and flounce with all that appreciation?
This could have been just one of those mid-life crisis catastrophes [it's not]...Michael is stuck in a comfortable rut...but, hey, that's not to say that he's not perfectly happy to be stuck in that rut. It happens to us all...it will, young man, happen to you too! Occasionally, it feeds the soul to re-live, to glimpse back...to what once was...Michael's young accomplice - Tomer - becomes his conduit. Michael's boundaries are set in stone...and, Tomer has no idea what boundaries are...aaah, that sweet smell of irresponsible youth!
Sublet demonstrates - perfectly - those things that divide us, unites us...and, conversely, the things that unite us, can and do divide us...let's not forget [although many do] youth is for the young. And, for many of us, a comfortable rut is exactly where we want to be...kept company by memories, regrets and all the experiences that made you who you are, got you to where you are.
Perfectly written, perfectly performed...those of a certain age will certainly resonate with this film...from their comfortable ruts! Lovely.
by Zaida Bergroth
Who would have 'thunk' it!?! Tove Jansson - the celebrated children's author - was a bit of a wild one! She liked the booze, she liked the ladies [and the men] and smoked like an industrial chimney.
Oooh sweet Bohemia, where marriage is just a mere convenience and - so it would seem - a hall pass to unbridled bed-hopping...where else would a struggling artist live? Bloomsbury perhaps!?!
Poor loves...so many struggles the artist has to face...whether it be finances, inspiration...or even their success...or, lack of it. Tove struggled in all these aspects, not quite content with her own success, never content with her art [or, more so, with its lacklustre reception]...and, although merely hinted at, discontented with [and compromised in] love. She was a true malcontent who ended up - in her eyes - with all the second bests!
Decadent in both production design and flavour...Tove is a rich tapestry of a life that had more intricacy than what appears...saying that is in no way a detriment to the film. Artists show what they want...through their work...like this film does.
Tove gave the world the Moomins...her tragedy is...she wanted to give so much more. Tove is a completely satisfying and lush film...about an unsatisfied success story.
Striving to Be Seen...short films...just click on the pic...
Day 10 - 26 March 2021...
AIDS Diva: The Legend of Connie Norman
by Dante Alencastre
No-one intimidated her, nothing could faze her...not even AIDS.
Connie Norman was an activist...in the truest sense of the word. As a transwoman, she was the David to the institutional Goliaths...pulled no punches, put herself on the line, got arrested, helped many, rattled many more...and, made a difference before succumbing [like so many others] to AIDS...she fought on until the end. What a woman.
Listening to one her last television appearances is gut-wrenching and - ironically - life affirming. There she sat, knowing full well that her time was rapidly coming to an end...she speaks with warmth, with kindness...and, thanks the savage disease that will kill her. The potency of her words are amplified even further with a simple and powerful message: Be yourself.
This is our history, why it has taken so long to tell it, to share it with the world? Well...better late than never. So, thank you Dante Alencastre...for giving Connie the respect and recognition she most deservedly deserves. Again...thank you. And...thank you Connie, for being yourself.
Kiss Me Before It Blows Up
by Shirel Peleg
A rom-com...which relies entirely on cultural differences for its comedy...oops. These [extreme] differences are perhaps a step too far for the given material...with anti-semitism, anti-gentilism and racism being the driving forces behind the supposed [and, at times, bizzare] slapstick comedy...no surprises, there is very little in the way of laughs. Some lines will - indeed - leave you with a blank and befuddled facial expression.
Needless to say, it is jam-packed full of stereotypes...unconvincing performances and scenarios...and, the gay brother with the camera is just a bloody nuisance. Perhaps Shirel Peleg ought to have watched 1967's double Oscar-winning Guess Who's Coming to Dinner before she put pen to paper and - most definitely - before the cameras started to roll.
A head-scratchingly, peculiar film.
Five Films For Freedom...short films...just click on the pic...
Day 11 - 27 March 2021...
No Ordinary Man
by Aisling Chin-Yee & Chase Joynt
Who has ever heard of Billy Tipton?!?
You may have, if you're a fan of obscure jazz. And, it would seem, according to this film, if you are trans...he's a bit of icon. Although...when I asked some trans friends [in Europe]...none of them had ever heard of him either.
Well...they have now, courtesy of this film...Billy Tipton is now on the map...and, an inductee into the Trans World's Hall of Fame.
Upon his death, in 1989, his secret was 'outed' - now, what this film fails to ask: how did this incredible invasion of privacy actually happen? Who leaked [i.e. sold] this information to the tabloids?
His adopted son and estranged wife [they parted in 1977] did round-upon-round of talk shows, newspaper and magazine interviews, radio shows...were they forced to do so? No.
Even...a posthumous [and, it would seem, partially unauthorised] book was written about him in 1998...the story still had legs then...and, in 2020, the story still has legs. Even though that book and this film are about Billy...both seem to have forgotten who he actually was...
The book was mere sensation and can be [dis]regarded as such. The film, on the other hand, is an exercise in subjectivity, creativity and revisionism [ouch]. Billy's experience was not the contemporary trans experience of today, although the filmmakers seem to think so...a major failing of the film. That was then, this is now...the 'then' is not the 'now' and never will be.
Due credit and applause must be given...trans stories being told by trans filmmakers...but, tell those stories as they are and not what you want them to be!
The truth of the matter...and, there are very few truths in this film [but, an abundance of trans-inferences]...Billy Tipton would have wanted to be remembered for his music and as a jazz musician...not as a trans-man...if, indeed, he was actually trans. Whatever...this was his secret and a secret he wanted to take to the grave...but, was denied...by those headlines, that book and this film.
P.S. Burn This Letter Please
by Michael Seligman & Jennifer Tiexiera
This has absolutely everything...and, more.
What a journey! What a find...a treasure trove of letters...curated, constructed and presented with a sense of the times, with swathes of obvious affection and wave-upon-wave of hilarity and emotion.
This is a one-way conversation...to a mystery man, a confidant and a dear, dear friend...named Reno. Who is he...and, who is Daphne [a most prolific letter writer]? Patience, dear hearts...rewards [in an ideal world]...and, all will be revealed!!!
Few films can boast the grand larceny of wigs...well, hence the title, this does...with a rather incriminating letter! Crime, whether it be petty or grand, is a recurring source of joy...but, stop, think about it, if you [yourself] are considered criminal by law enforcement...simply because of your sexuality, because you want to step out in a fabulous frock...well, it's a fair assumption that...if Mr Law Enforcement doesn't respect me...then, why the f&*k should you respect him!?!
The Mafia owned The Stonewall Inn...it would seem, they owned every establishment that exploited and promenaded the queens of the time...but, hey, they did supply safe spaces and incomes...hooray for the Mafia!
This isn't a political film...this is high jinx and higher camp with razor-sharp edges gleaming all over the place...and then, WHACK, AIDS! Few survive, those who do - and, we salute you - tell their stories with threads of joy, anger, and tears...not to mention, a great big dollops of fantastic, fabulous, phenomenal camp.
As for the great reveal!?! It is as jaw-dropping as this film is...it's been an absolute privilege. Thank you. X
by Marley Morrison
An angst-ridden teen reluctantly goes on holiday with her family! What could possibly go wrong? Or, right?
Recently, there was Make Up - a lesbian-coming-of-age horror, set in a holiday camp. Now this, a lesbian-coming-of-age rom-com story...set in a holiday camp.
The similarities don't end there...these are the debut features by their filmmakers...and, both films really do paint a fairly gloomy lesbian picture. Where Make Up continues with the gloom...Sweetheart, thankfully, makes a permanent detour into and onto a more-sweet-than-bitter terrain. Having said that...Sweetheart's AJ is an absolute moaning horror...if anyone was in need of a happy pill...it's her!
AJ's sexuality is not an issue for her family...which - it would seem - pisses her off even more than how pissed off she already is...c'mon, she's 16 and never been...kissed. She's undeniably and absolutely sexually frustrated! Remember those mad masturbatory days?!? Some of us haven't waved them goodbye!
In walks the 'woman' of her dreams...the stage is all set...for what could have been a familiar, reminiscent comedy about embarrassing [teen] sex, bad [teen] manners and messy, premature orgasms [they happen to all of us]! Alas, no! This has more sand and less grit.
Marley Morrison has played it a little too safe [and sweet]...with predictability taking centre-stage rather than red-cheeked embarrassment...if the intention was to make a family-foible-friendly film...then, hat's off...success.
But...to make your mark in this industry, you have to ruffle a few feathers...rather than preen them...otherwise, you'll end up directing daytime soaps!
And...no trailer, no poster...for a film festival premiere. Fire the PR!!!
Day 12 - 28 March 2021...
by Martin Kraut
As understated as it gets...as it should be...because, 'angels of death' want neither attention nor praise.
This is not a hospital ward you will ever want to be in...with two murdering nurses plying more than they were trained for...
Euthanasia is - in the eyes of the law - murder. Here...two nurses, inflicted with and deluded by their respective god complexes...take lives. One regards his actions as a final act of mercy...the other, well, he just does it because he can.
They soon discover what the other is up to...and, with the mounting number of deaths, the hospital launches an investigation...both being guilty and both not willing to be caught. This is more cobra-and-mongoose than cat-and-mouse...the stakes are incredibly high...who [of the two] can play the better mind-game!?! And...there are mind-games aplenty.
This is Martin Kraut's debut feature...it is as impressive as it is complex. This is not about taking sides...this is the lesser of two evils...and, it does make you fantastically uncomfortable when you realise you are actually rooting for a murderer! Manipulation is everything...and, with The Dose this director certainly knows how to manipulate his characters and his audience!
Not a pleasant film...but, it's effect is admirable.
by Shana Myara
Big gay ladies talk about being big and gay!
Unless you are a big gay lady yourself, you're really not going to get much out of this. Talking heads recount shared experiences and absolute horror stories...and, unsurprisingly, there are a few [slimmer] pseudo-intellectuals who discuss contemporary society's perception of being rather large...it is as interesting as it sounds!
Body-shaming is a bad. Body positivity is good. Being happy in your own skin can be nothing but good for your mental health...so, well done ladies for being so positive and happy.
But...and, this is where the film falls apart, next to nothing is mentioned about the health benefits of losing weight, practically nothing is mentioned about the life-shortening risks associated with obesity. When body positivity ignores medical truths...well, that's just irresponsible. And, what you see on screen really does veer precariously close towards the superficial...smile, be happy, be upbeat...you're on camera!
A film with substance but no depth.
by Cássio Pereira dos Santos
The statistics make for harsh reading...around 80% of transgender youth drop out of school in Brazil, the average life expectancy of trans-women is 35 years old.
Valentina's mother will doing anything and everything for her daughter not to become one of those statistics. This is all about sacrifice rather than compromise which is a most welcome approach when addressing the current trans narrative.
Our only quibble with the film is...the opening scene. It really does give a false [first] impression of the film as a whole. It's that old familiar...trans-girl kisses a boy who later finds out she's trans and he goes - unsurprisingly - berserk! Many will be appalled at his reaction and - no doubt - some will find him justified.
This is the centrifugal point [and force] of the trans narrative...which Valentina - unnecessarily - straddles before moving on...into pastures new. A new start, a new identity, new friends and all the same problems and attitudes.
The message delivered is unequivocally clear and bold...you can't run and hide for eternity. There's always a time [sometimes not of your choosing] when we all have to stand up, stand still and tall...and tell the world exactly how it is, who you are...they may accept reject, deny and decry...no matter...just be your happier self.
Valentina does this admirably.
That's it...every film watched and reviewed...
Massive great big thank you to all @BFIFlare - for a great festival x