Friday, 30 March 2018

Flare 5: Stand out from the crowd

The 32nd BFI Flare: London LGBTQ+ Film Festival is entering its final days, and there's a sense of exhaustion among the journalists who have been trying to see as many films as possible, starting each morning with a 10am press screening and usually finishing with a bit of a dance at 11pm in the BFI Southbank cafe. But the weather has taken a wet turn, so where else would you rather be? Here are a few highlights (pictured above are Laverne Cox, Abigail Breslin, Alex Lawther and AnnaSophia Robb)...

Freak Show
dir Trudie Styler; with Alex Lawther, Ian Nelson 17/US ****
While it might be a bit arch, pushing to make its point, this film has such a strong message about identity that it's both powerfully moving and deeply important. Anchored by an offbeat, beautifully textured performance from Alex Lawther, it's a story about a colourful teen who simply refuses to fit in at his high school, which leads to both triumphs and serious challenges. And it's gorgeously shot by Dante Spinotti.

Alaska Is a Drag
dir-scr Shaz Bennett; with Martin L Washington Jr, Maya Washington 17/US ***.
Expanded from a 2012 short, this warm drama centres on three people who feel trapped in the middle of nowhere, trying to make life a bit more colourful than it is. It's a gently involving story, with strongly sympathetic characters who are very well-played by a fresh cast. So it's charming and moving. And even with some rather insistent plot points, it raises important issues without ever preaching about them.

Malila: The Farewell Flower
dir Anucha Boonyawatana; with Sukollawat Kanarot, Anuchit Sapanpong 17/Tha ****
This odyssey from Thailand weaves together themes from religion, politics and sexuality as it follows a young man on a profound voyage of self-discovery. It's not a traditional narrative, instead occupying more in a spiritual space, including a touch of magical realism, and it moves at the pace of a slow-flowing river. But it's beautiful to look at, provocative in its ideas and ultimately moving in what it has to say.

Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex Fashion & Disco 
dir-scr James Crump; with Bill Cunningham, Jessica Lange 17/UK ****
A fast-paced, skilful portrait of an artist who isn't very well-known outside fashion circles, this film is infused with the sensuality of its 1970s period. Through lively, expressive interviews and a wealth of footage and stills, Antonio Lopez springs to life before our eyes, making us wish we had a chance to get to know him, because he seems like someone we'd probably fall in love with, just like everyone else did... FULL REVIEW >

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