The British Film Institute's 31st Flare came to a festive conclusion last night with the international premiere of the closing film Signature Move (above) and the expected energetic party afterwards, with dancing long into the night. This is how all film festivals should be: great movies with audiences, journalists and filmmakers all mixing together at a series of enjoyable parties and special events. There are also of course ongoing discussions about whether there is still the need for LGBT-themed film festivals at all, but as long as bigotry and division exist even in supposedly accepting societies, they're vital. And it's nice to see that the films themselves are beginning to reflect a change - most of these are just movies about people getting on with their lives, and the fact that they may be gay or trans is a side note. I still have a bit of catching up to do, but here are some final highlights...
dir Jennifer Reeder; with Fawzia Mirza, Sari Sanchez 17/US ***.
With a sharp sense of humour and a gentle pace, this comedy is set in a multi-cultural corner of Chicago. Expanded from a short, the narrative is rather slight, but the characters are strong enough to hold the attention. And refreshingly, director Jennifer Reeder keeps the deeper themes gurgling strongly under the surface and resists preaching to the audience.
dir Jennifer M Kroot; with Armistead Maupin, Laura Linney 17/US ****
A lively and revealing documentary, this film weaves together details from the life and writings of the beloved storyteller who crushed stereotypes and taboos in 70s-80s San Francisco. Armistead Maupin's journey from the conservative South to perhaps overconfident gay icon is fascinating, and it's moving to see how his writings have inspired millions to stand up for themselves and live a more positive life.
I managed to catch up with only 10 shorts this year. The programmes are increasingly popular with the public, making it tricky to get a ticket. Highlights for me were: The Hares (dir Martin Rodriguez Redondo, 16/Por) is a subtly moving story about a young boy pushed by his father into going on a nighttime hunting trip; An Evening (dir Soren Green, 16/Den) is a beautifully shot, lightly observant exploration of the different reactions two teens have to a sexual encounter; Pria (dir Yudho Aditya, 16/Ina) is a bold look at Indonesia's entrenched culture, as a 16-year-old guy reluctantly prepares for his wedding; and Jamie (dir Christopher Manning, 16/UK) is a sharply well-played, understated odyssey about a young man who opens up to his inner feelings for the first time.