Lo and behold, it’s that time of the year again. The BFI Flare: London LGBTQ+ festival is around the corner and it’s time to be celebrating the best queer cinema from around the globe. It’s always exciting to make the yearly return to Southbank. As a festival Flare has always been a home for exciting queer cinema that has made a name for itself around the world at larger, more established festivals. But, personally, what I think the festival is best for is uncovering those hidden gems. Sitting in on one of many of the festival’s short film programmes and catching a film from an exciting new voice. This year, for instance, sees prolific, young filmmaker Charlie Lyne debut a film for the first time at Flare. Lyne is a filmmaker who we’ve spoken to previously, and he’s presenting Lasting Marks a short documentary about Operation Spanner, a trial involving 16 men convicted of sadomasochistic behaviour. The short doc was a favourite of ours from LFF last year and won Best Short Film at the festival. It’s scheduled to be followed at Flare by a discussion about how Lyne extensively sourced the information around the trial. As a filmmaker, Lyne tends to avoid telling his stories through generic means, instead he cleverly uses the form as a narrative component in itself. Lasting Marks will be a sure-fire talking point of the festival.

From the small to the large, they’ll be some serious star power at the festival’s Special Presentations with Kirsten Stewart and Laura Dern featured in returning Flare favourite Justin Kelly’s JT Leroy, a queer biopic following author Laura Albert, portrayed by Dean, and her rise to fame through the use of the titular pseudonym and the media’s desire to uncover the so-called man behind such daring written works. The two other features in the special presentations are Chanya Button’s Vita & Virginia, a period drama about the passionate affair between Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Wolf, and Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life, Tomer Heymann’s documentary portrait of the pornographic film actor and his transition into one of the most popular adult superstars in the business.

Other features that we won’t be missing at Flare this year are Sunburn, a Portuguese psychological drama centred around a group of friends and the fraught, bubbling tensions that are set to divide them. Director Vicente Alves do Ó’s chamber piece is featured in the ‘Hearts’ strand of Flare is sure to be one of the most uncomfortable and rewarding watches of the festival. Nevrland Austrian Director Gregor Schmidinger’s debut feature, is said to be a twisted concoction of coming-of-age and thriller, following the night and day cycle of a young pig factory worker and his descent into webcam obsession. It’s featured in the ‘Bodies’ strand and comes with a warning that it features scenes of a discomforting nature. So, let’s just say, you’ve been warned here first. Finally, Robert Clift and Hillary Demmon’s Making Montgomery Clift arrives at the Flare in the ‘Minds’ strand with plenty of anticipation. It’s a documentary following the life of the Hollywood actor and is packed full of clips and audio recordings from Clift’s family, friend and colleagues, telling a side of his story that has long been overdue.

Elsewhere in short form work is Ellie Rogers who we spoke to at the festival last year, she returns with They Found Her in a Field, a deeply poetic drama about the cyclical nature of trauma which sees a young girl revisiting the history of a previous relationship. Rogers’ work is imbued with a sense of melancholic optimism. It’s featured in the ‘Calm Inside The Storm’ short film programme which boasts an impressive selection and should definitely be high up on your list of what to see this year. Finally, the ‘Dancing with a Stranger’ programme is imbued with plenty of upbeat shorts full of fun and heartfelt stories to pick you up. The collection features shorts from exciting, young directors from all over the globe and it’s high up on our watchlist.

We’re excited to hit the ground running on this Friday (21st March), so stay tuned to all our socials for festival updates, hot tips, and interviews with the best filmmakers of the festival. Tickets are selling out quickly so be sure to get them as soon as possible, come say hello, and join in the antics.

The BFI Flare Festival 2019 takes place between the 21st March and 31st March, all information on ticketing and the full programme can be found here.

You can also follow all of DN’s coverage from this year’s festival here

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