Monday, 20 March 2017

31st Flare: Get ready to jump

The British Film Institute's 31st Flare: London LGBT Film Festival charged through its first weekend with a flurry of screenings, events, seminars and parties. This is a very lively season on the Southbank, with a colourful crowd and strong discussions. It's great to be able to interact with filmmakers, actors, journalists and festival programmers in this kind of relaxed setting. Here are some highlights from the weekend, including Heartstone (above), the film to which my jury awarded the Queer Lion at the Venice Film Festival last September...

dir-scr Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson; with Baldur Einarsson, Blaer Hinriksson 16/Ice ****
Dark and sometimes very grim, this Icelandic teen drama tackles a serious topic in an intensely personal way. Set in a rural area, the small community ramps up the emotions to the breaking point, pulling the audience into the story with serious force. The film's loose editing may weaken its balance and pace, but it's an involving and deeply moving filmmaking debut... FULL REVIEW >

Dear Dad 
dir Tanuj Bhramar; with Arvind Swamy, Himanshu Sharma 16/Ind ***.
For Western audiences, the mix of cheerful silliness and earthier realism in this Indian drama will feel somewhat jarring. But there are sharp insights along the way, as the cast and crew invert the usual coming out formula. It's an engaging road movie with a few corny sidetrips, but it grapples with some very big issues with a level of honesty that Western filmmakers should take note of.

dir-scr Yan England; with Antoine Olivier Pilon, Lou-Pascal Tremblay 16/Can ***.
There's a driving momentum to this dark drama that makes it difficult to watch. But the acting and filmmaking are compelling, holding the attention with vivid emotions and topical resonance. This is a story about bullying that refuses to play out the way we hope it will, pushing its characters in increasingly painful directions. It's somewhat overwrought, but also important.

Centre of My World
dir-scr Jakob M Erwa; with Louis Hofmann, Sabine Timoteo 16/Ger ***
Sunny and colourful, this inventively written and directed German coming-of-age drama has a light touch that's thoroughly engaging. But there's also an offbeat dark undercurrent that gurgles up as the story continues, sending the characters down into rather disturbing situations. It's a bold, complex film that turns far too heavy but carries a strong punch.

Last Men Standing 
dir-scr Erin Brethauer, Tim Hussin; with Peter Greene, Jesus Guillen 16/US ***
As an exploration of the lives of long-term survivors of the Aids epidemic in San Francisco, this film has plenty of archival value. It recounts the stories of eight people with an unusual honesty, adding an emotional kick along the way. But the filmmakers focus on the past, which makes the film feel morose and relentlessly gloomy. It's as if these people are unable to look forward.

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