The BFI's 23rd London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival continues on the Southbank, with packed cinemas and lively bar discussions after the films finish. It's a great atmosphere, and there are some superb films scattered in there as well. The photo is from Lion's Den (Leonera), one of my favourites from the festival (see below). Here are a few from the last couple of days...
The Lost Coast ***
Oozing in moody emotion, this artful drama follows four friends over a fateful Halloween night in San Francisco as they reminsce about a trip up the coast and the momentous events of high school, which seem to have heavy implications for a couple of them. It's vague and indistinct, gorgeously photographed like a dream flickering between the city, woods and shoreline. It takes awhile to find out what all the fuss is about, and in the end it's rather a lot of angst about nothing. But even this is a realistic and palpable emotion, and with acting and directing this strong, it's still worth seeing.
Born in 68 ****
The latest film from Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau (Cockles and Muscles) is another shift of genre, this time a 40-year multi-generational epic tracing the fall-out of the 1968 Paris student riots. It's a fascinating film, packed with amazing characters and situations, and loaded with huge themes and provocative issues. It also feels like it should really be at least six hours long in order to properly tell the story of all of these people. This film is three hours long, and apparently there's also a four-hour version out there that was shown on French TV. But this is so well written, directed and played that it leaves us wanting to fill in all the gaps and actually spend more time with these fascinating people.
Sex Positive ****
This is a relatively straightforward documentary, but it opens the book on a fascinating chapter of HIV/Aids in North America, telling the story of Richard Berkowitz, an ex-hustler who became one of the most outspoken people in the gay community and was harshly criticised for suggesting that gay men needed to deal with the issue of promiscuity. He was also one of the first propoments of safer sex, which no one wanted to hear. Yet despite being under constant attack, Berkowitz continued to speak out, and the film is a remarkable story of a man who tenaciously refused to give in to outside pressure. It also features a fascinating collection of witnesses to tell the story, including writers Larry Kramer and Edmund White.
Lion's Den ****
This riveting, harrowing film from Argentina is so realistic that it's often hard to watch. It tells of a young woman (Martina Gusman) who can barely remember the violent events of one fateful night, but she's convicted and sent to prison. Since she's pregnant, she's assigned to a maternal cellblock, and the film is the story of her friendship with a fellow inmate as she gives birth to the child and then battles her mother for custody. The film has everything you would expect from a gritty prison drama, but it's also infused with hope and love. It's also beautifully well-directed by Pablo Trapero, and packed with performances that make the characters spring remarkably to life.