Wednesday, 23 March 2016

30th Flare: Holding on

The British Film Institute's 30th Flare event continues apace all week with a lineup of far above-average films that have an LGBT angle. And along with the superb movies, it's been great to be able to hang out with the filmmakers. I've interviewed a few of them, and just had drinks with others from all over the world, sharing the issues they face in getting these stories told. Here are more highlights...

Holding the Man
dir Neil Armfield; with Ryan Corr, Craig Stott 15/Aus ****
Based on a true story, this Australian drama is evocatively shot and edited, and it's thankfully focussed on its engaging characters rather than the plot or themes. Director Neil Armfield stirs in a sweet, complex mix of emotions as Tommy Murphy's script addresses some very important issues. But the 1970s-1990s setting makes it feel oddly past its time, sometimes overstating the message. Even so, it's honest and powerfully moving. [Pictured above: Stott and Corr with Sarah Snook.]

dir Andrew Steggall; with Juliet Stevenson, Alex Lawther 15/UK ****
Dark and introspective, this drama isn't always easy to watch, especially with its sometimes overpowering sense of impending doom. But the performances are so astute that it's impossible to look away. And with his first feature writer-director Andrew Steggall shows remarkable skill at bringing universal experiences to vivid emotional life.

Closet Monster 
dir Stephen Dunn; with Connor Jessup, Aaron Abrams 15/Can ***. 
Filmmaker Stephen Dunn takes a strikingly introspective look into the life of a young boy who feels like his life is spiralling out of control. Beautifully shot and edited, the film mixes artfully stylised flights of fancy with earthy themes that cut to the heart of big issues like bullying and self-loathing. But more than that, this is a thoughtful exploration of someone learning to accept his sexuality... FULL REVIEW >

Ka Bodyscapes 
dir Jayan Cherian; with Jason Chacko, Kannan Rajesh 16/Ind **** 
With a deceptively gentle, observant style, this is a seriously pointed depiction of young people bristling against the harshly extremist culture in Kerala. The film openly challenges the accepted misogyny and homophobia in both Islam and Hinduism. But this is much more than a political film, as the bold writer-director Jayan Cherian keeps the focus on the resonant personal drama.

Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story 
dir-scr Michael Stabile; with John Waters, Chi Chi LaRue 15/US **. 
The fascinating life of iconic Falcon Studios founder Chuck Holmes is recounted in this rather lacklustre documentary. The problem is that filmmaker Michael Stabile seems more interested in Holmes' groundbreaking porn movies than in the man himself. But he's also too timid to show proper clips, instead editing them almost comically to get an R rating. Which means that the documentary, while educational, misses the point it might have made.

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C R I T I C A L   W E E K

As for regular releases screened to the press this week, I caught up with Nia Vardalos' sequel My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, which is the same warm-silly culture-clash comedy as the 2002 original; Zootropolis (aka Zootopia) is lively and entertaining, and also the usual Disney franchise-launching concoction; Idris Elba stars in the energetic anti-terrorism thriller Bastille Day; the French teen-sex drama Bang Gang: A Modern Love Story is too mopey to be as provocative as it wants to be; and Mark Cousins' I Am Belfast is a lyrical but deeply quirky look at the Northern Irish capital.

This coming week I have a very late press screening (tonight) of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice plus Natalie Portman in the Western Jane Got a Gun, but most of my time will be spent at Flare.

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