Festival Focus: BFI Flare 2017 Dispatch

Posted March 27th, 2017 by Annabelle Amato

BFI’s LGBT showcase, Flare concluded its festivities last night, after a busy and exciting ten days that felt like some of the festival’s most active and exciting yet. The festival screened new and intriguing films, as well as hosting events with filmmakers and actors. From their expansive offering, here are some titles that we thought might pique your interest.

Centre of My World is a beautiful and charming coming of age film that focuses on teenage Phil as he struggles with family, friends, and love. When he begins a relationship with a boy from school, things seem to be shaping up. But, when Phil develops serious feelings for this boy, things are suddenly much more complicated than he thought.

Director Jakob M. Erwa adapted this film from the 1998 novel, The Center of the World by Andreas Steinhöfel, and the film was first released in late 2016 in Germany. The stunning cinematography of the film is certainly one of the films alluring features, though its story and actors are not to be overlooked. While Louis Hofmann’s (Phil) captivating performance takes the audience back and allows them to feel young and free, Sabine Timoteo’s (Glass) performance forces the audience to feel trapped by a troubled and anxious mother.

This outstanding and powerful coming-of-age story blends drama with comedy, and certainly succeeds in taking the audience into Phil’s experience with his first love, and heartbreak.

An early highlight, the notably graphic and beautiful feature, Below Her Mouth. The story focuses on Jasmine, an engaged woman, who finds herself forced to make a difficult decision after falling into a passionate affair with a woman named Dallas. In their Q&A following the screening, director April Mullen, and screenwriter Stephanie Fabrizi told that the casting choices for Jasmine and Dallas were easy when they saw the chemistry between Natalie Krill and Erika Linder. The filmmakers then explained that they planned for an entirely female crew for this film, so the actors would be as comfortable as possible while the crew filmed the extremely intimate scenes that make up a large part of the film. Fabrizi later told that her inspiration for this film lied in her desire to to share something that was based in her own personal experiences.

French director, André Téchiné’s most recent feature, Being 17, also screened at Flare this weekend. The film follows Damien, a high school student who is forced to deal with a bully, Thomas, after his mother offers to take him into their home. But when Damien begins to feel more for Thomas than anger, the two must figure out how to deal with their changing relationship. The stunning cinematography of the mountains in southern France is one of the features that sets Being 17 apart at Flare. Also noteworthy is the clear chemistry between actors Kacey Mottet Klein and Corentin Fila, and Sandrine Kiberlain’s performance as Dr. Marianne Delille. 

SP’r and producer, Jennifer Wood’s film Heartland also screened this week. After losing her girlfriend to cancer, protagonist Lauren moves home to Oklahoma to live with her homophobic mother. While there, Lauren starts an affair with her brother’s girlfriend, straining her relationship with her family even further. This cinematic and moving film explores the complications that come with grief and regret, as they are tied with love and lust. A directorial debut from Maura Anderson, Heartland is sure to touch audiences everywhere.

Some more SP’rs appear at FLARE’s shorts programmes. SP’r, Rosie Westhoff makes her directorial debut with her short film, Crush. This charming tale follows our 14-year-old protagonist as she encounters her very first love interest. The light and hopeful nature of the short film brings the audience into the hopeful world of Crush‘s characters.

SP’r Siobhan Schwartzberg‘s newest short, Not the Devil, premiered during FLARE’s Hearts Shorts programme. Set on the estate where Schwartzberg grew up, the film follows a lonely teenager who becomes intrigued by his transgendered neighbour, and risks everything to speak to her. The short, filmed in 1:1 ratio, makes for an intimate relationship between protagonist and audience. Not the Devil is Schwartzberg’s third short.

SP’r and award winning animator, Kate Jessop follows Westhoff with her collaborative short film, Queer Heroes. This short celebrates significant queer figures by combining animations from 14 different artists. Using the perfectly applicable Bowie song, “Heroes,” Jessop further explains the significance of the animations in the short.

Another phenomenal short comes from SP’r and director, Francesca Silveri. Her recent project, Doris, follows an aging drag queen as she prepares for her comeback after a diagnosis years prior. This heartwarming short brings the audience into Doris’ world, and allows them to hear and understand the significance and importance of the stage for her. Doris was completed in January of 2016, though it had been in the works for a few years before then. The effort and clarity of the short truly shows, and is definitely worth checking out.

The closing night gala screening of Signature Move ended the festivities at Flare by telling the complicated love story between Pakistani American and Mexican American, Zaynab and Alma. Fusing romance with parental expectations, director Jennifer Reeder takes on some serious issues in a very clever way in her newest dramedy. The film premiered worldwide at Austin’s SXSW Film Festival last week, arriving at Flare just days later. Actors Fawzia Mirza and Sari Sanchez gracefully and comedically address crucial issues facing LGBT communities around the world. The film’s ability to make its audience laugh and understand is one of the reason’s Signature Move is such a striking film.

If you missed out on the festival, check out the entire programme for the Flare 2017 here, and look out for future screenings of the films highlighted above.

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