Queer Media Festival Goes to BFI Flare

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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.

BFI Flare Mike and JamieFresh 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).

We Are UKFlare 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.

BFI Flare 4

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.

BFI Flare 1Of 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.

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To London for the BFI Flare Festival

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We have always had a massive interest in LGBT films and have been for many years avid fans of the BFI Southbank’s wonderful London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival now renamed BFI Flare but not only was the name different but we were lucky enough to be attending this year as delegates. There aren’t so many LGBT films screened in Manchester so our trip down meant we were lucky enough to get to see several films in what is always a sold out event.

This was a great opportunity for us to watch new and archive films and attend the industry seminars to learn from established festival programmers on how they find content, decide what to schedule and how they make choices through the plethora of shorts we could view in the viewing gallery.

We were very keen to see the short films and discover what had been submitted and this year the films had been placed into sub strands of Hearts, Minds or Bodies and it was anyone’s guess which one was going to light our senses the most.

The first set of shorts we saw were the Hearts as there was three sets of compilations in that section that explored close encounters, the heart’s desire and the tangle of relationships and as we watched the passion in the stories we were drawn in to these fantastic films.

After hours of watching all of the shorts submitted to BFI Flare we noted down those that had us captured, taken and had told a story to us which is important for a festival inspired by the TEDx talk by Chocolat writer Joanne Harris, where she described the power of stories and how they have the power to effect incredible changes. Watching all those films wasn’t a chore it truly felt a privilege as we got to travel the world and into different people’s lives and see things they saw and feel how they felt and it was an incredible journey of love, pain, frustration, or new hope and all other emotions too many to detail all in the snap shot that is a short film.

The best compilation of shorts we watched was the You’re The One, Aren’t You? that combined shorts featuring the couple next door that wants to try swinging to the lonely astronaut longing for love, these were funny and tender films that all proved that relationships are never easy.

Photo credit: QueerMediaUK

What’s in a name? Welcome to Queer Media UK…

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Here’s a YouTube clip of our wonderful logo animated into an advert ready for this year’s event.

We hope you enjoyed our inaugural festival in February where we screened a range of 20 short films and our hosts held six in conversations with LGBT media professionals on our sofa on stage and plans are already underway for the 2015 festival to be bigger and better. The fantastic feedback we received as the festival closed was so encouraging to hear and it was a superb opportunity to see just how creative and dynamic the queer community in the North West really is. Photos for the event are available at our Facebook page.

The next big thing we are looking forward to is attending the BFI Flare – the newly renamed London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival which is on 20 – 30 March and we are really happy to hear that the BFI have launched a new collection of some of their LGBT films on the BFI Player, with features, shorts and exclusive content from the festival, plus a special collection of queer classics and rare treasures from the BFI National Archives.

There is an interesting quote on what the BFI thought about renaming the festival queer in one of their blog posts before the new name was announced; “Queer used to really feel like a slap in the face, a hard, harsh word that was like an assault before the trendies took it as a badge of pride. Sexual politics is a febrile, changing territory and badges tell a story about identity too.”

Their blog post explains after the announcement why queer didn’t make the cut; “Although ‘queer’ is used often as a genre term and it’s something a huge number of our audience and wider LGBT community identify with, it was equally clear from audience feedback that a significant number don’t.”

In the North West we found that there is great heritage to naming LGBT events queer such as the Queer Contact theatre festival, the Queer Up North international festival, the bar Queer,  and the Sheffield Doc/Fest with their Queer Screen film strand.  We wanted an identity that would reach out and appeal to everyone as using queer can be a more inclusive word than simply an acronym and the potential ambiguity of what is queer means it can include not just sexuality and gender but also the questioning and unknown without too ridged a label.

Queer can be percieved as either retro, political or aggressive and after working for a theatre production recently commemorating the Peterloo Massacre it seems appropriate to consider the values that this word has as important in the context of a festival based in Manchester, which has a significant history of fighting for social reform such as the Suffragettes and the Section 28 protests in the 1990s.

To view the Storify story of the journey of our hashtag #QMFUK from our first tweet through to the social media generated during and after the festival click here.

A big thank you to all the film makers and here is a list of all the films we screened:

Last Session and Pretty Policeman by VADA theatre group

Polaroid Girl by April Maxey

Journey To The Centre Of Uranus by Gerard Gudgion

Animated showreel from LGYM

Vinegar to Jam by Ben Walters

The Break by Alexis Mitchell

#LoveAlwaysWins and Homecoming by Mike Buonaiuto

Children 404 by Anonymous

Acceptance by Belford Films

Kit by Bruno Collins and Craig Daniel Adams

Silence by Neil Ely

One Shot by Dietrich Brüggemann

What I Love About Being Queer by Vivek Shraya

(A) Typical Couple by Masa Zia Lenardic

10 Men by Graham Clayton-Chance

Recently In The Woods by Daniel van Westen

I’m Yours by Chase Joynt

Sisyfuss by Navid Sinaki

Cake Tin by Clementine Doll