Monday, 26 March 2018

Flare 3: Spill your guts

I always enjoy attending public screenings as part of the British Film Institute's annual Flare: London LGBTQ+ Film Festival, because audiences tend to be far more open and curious than those in most cinemas. Watching a movie in this atmosphere is an experience in itself, a collective series of sighs, gasps, laughter and tears. I saw two collections of short films over the weekend with public audiences, and all of them were terrific (more on those later). And I've enjoyed being able to chat with filmmakers about their work, including the directors of three of the films below. Here are some more highlights - a mainstream comedy (that's Nick Robison and Katherine Langford, above) and three docs...

Love, Simon
dir Greg Berlanti; with Nick Robinson, Katherine Langford 18/US ****
A fresh take on the teen rom-com, this film harks back to vintage John Hughes movies with its smart, self-aware characters and realistic situations that are both amusing and thoughtful. Based on Becky Albertalli's novel (cleverly titled Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda), the story also breaks ground by taking the central character's homosexuality in stride. So aside from being hugely engaging and very funny, it also carries a powerful kick.

A Deal With the Universe
dir-scr Jason Barker; with Jason Barker, Tracey 18/UK ***
Tracing some 15 years in the life of a couple, this autobiographical documentary is sometimes startlingly raw, as filmmaker (and former Flare programmer) Jason Barker and his partner Tracey chronicle their yearning to have a child, which led to extraordinary decisions along the way. Assembled as a collection of home movies and video diary entries, the film never embellishes the story. And the honesty speaks to several big issues.

Sidney & Friends
dir Tristan Aitchison; with Sidney, Guillit, Ben, Maria 18/UK ****
Shot over several years, this documentary explores a segment of Kenyan society that's virtually invisible, mainly because it wouldn't be safe for these people to come out in the open. Scottish filmmaker Tristan Aitchison gets sometimes startling access to this community, revealing the day-to-day issues in their lives. The film is beautifully assembled in an introspective way that draws the audience in and challenges our perceptions.

Conversations With Gay Elders
dir David Weissman; with Kerby Lauderdale, David Weissman 17/US ****
Part of a series, this doc is simply a conversation between two men. And it's utterly riveting. Honest and revelatory, it features filmmaker David Weissman (We Were Here) encouraging Kerby Lauderdale to recount his relatively normal story. It's a telling look at the thoughts and feelings of a man who grappled with his sexuality throughout his life. And what he has to say is vitally important in the wider conversation about the topic.

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