Every year in March those working in the creative field of film head to London for the BFI’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender film festival: Flare. It is an event we regularly look forward to with the fantastic stories told on screen and the inter-generational creative energy from the LGBT and filmmaking community. Last year we were lucky enough to attend just four weeks after the ending of the first ever Queer Media Festival, which included in-conversations, short film screenings and performances held at MediaCityUK, Salford.
Fresh from February’s finale of the Queer Media Festival’s second year, this year held at the Contact theatre, Manchester, we headed down to London’s South Bank to join our friends, make new contacts and most importantly watch films at Flare. Last year the name Flare was adopted instead of the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival after it was felt the old name was not representative and inclusive enough of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community (LGBT).
Flare has thoughtfully created a wonderful delegate area for people in the industry, press and filmmakers. Featuring a café area, reception desks for attendees, and a viewing area to watch films, it is the perfect place to join in the many talks and round table events held daily. We were honoured to be invited to speak about the Queer Media Festival on the We Are UK panel, the first weekend of Flare, alongside other festival organisers from across the country including Liverpool Pride, Eyes Wide Shut from Brighton, Scottish Queer International Film Festival, London’s Fringe! Film Fest, BFI Flare and the Iris Prize from Cardiff.
This year Flare’s online platform Cinando was a new and welcome addition to the delegate experience, that negated the need to sit through and watch all the films we wanted at the delegate’s viewing gallery. We were now free to enjoy the many networking events, talks, see films not listed on Cinando featuring filmmaker Q&A, and then watch the short films at home as the platform remained available for a few weeks after Flare ended.
All the films at Flare are divided into three streams; Hearts, Bodies, Minds and Cinando featured not just the majority of these but also featured a special Industry Selection of short films only for delegates to view online. We watched the vast array of films that were available online, and it is fantastic to see so many amazing short films being made especially documentaries. It was a shame more short documentary films were not screened for the public to see, as this would have helped us programme them into our next festival based on the audience reaction to them.
Of all the feature length documentaries the outstanding ones for us were The Amina Profile, Dressed As A Girl, Save The Tavern and Do I Sound Gay? They all unwrapped the main character featured in the film and explored their story; whether it was Sandra trying to find out the truth about her girlfriend Amina, Jonny Woo nostalgic about his drag past, the former owners of the Royal Vauxhall Tavern reminiscing about the pub’s heyday, or David taking speech classes to sound more masculine.
Watching the characters portrayed it brings home why screening LGBT films is important as for that moment you are drawn into their world, see, hear, feel and understand what it is like for them and for a moment you loose yourself in the silver screen. Viewers may identify with the characters portrayed and it may be helpful to see on screen emotional situations that they have lived through, which gives them great comfort to know that they are not alone in the way they feel, and so no longer isolated and can happily go forward into the world.