BFI Flare 2021: 10 films to stream
James R | On 18, Mar 2021
BFI Flare is back on our screens this week for its 35th year. Going online for the second year in a row, the 2021 festival is a bigger celebration of LGBTIQ+ cinema than last year’s event, which was remarkably re-arranged at the last minute. With 26 feature films lined up – plus 38 short films streaming for free – the festival runs until 28th March with two world premieres and a keen focus on individuals and communities that have been key influences over the year.
From queer icons to fighting against transphobia, we round up 10 films to stream this year’s festival – you can see our guide to the whole line-up and how it works here.
Not sure where to start with the line-up? We’ve picked out 10 films to stream:
Think you know Moomins? Think again. Alma Pöysti stars in this lyrical, romantic biopic of their creative, Tove Jansson. Zaida Bergroth directs the drama, which is set in the 1940s, as Jansson’s work tries to find recognition among the art establishment and she finds herself in love with theatre director Vivica Bandler, at a time when homosexuality was still considered a crime.
From Fox and His Friends to The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant, Rainer Werner Fassbinder was a groundbreaking filmmaker in New German Cinema. Oskar Roehler chronicles his life with this unflinching biopic, starring Oliver Masucci as the director, who died at the age of just 37.
Aids Diva: The Legend of Connie Norman
Director Dante Alencastre shines a spotlight on a key figure that many won’t know about in this documentary profiling Connie Norman. A Los Angeles Act-Up organiser, her resistance and determination were fuelled by a HIV diagnosis, frustration with complacency in society and a desire for equality, making her both a fierce figure trying to make a difference and an early spokesperson for trans rights.
Marley Morrison’s smart and funny debut feature follows AJ (Nell Barlow), who discovers it’s not so bad being on a family holiday when she meets flirtatious lifeguard Isla (Ella-Rae Smith). If you missed it at Glasgow Film Festival, this is one to catch.
Another film fresh from Glasgow Film Festival, Anna Kerrigan’s neo-Western brings something new to the frontier of the America/Canada border, as a father (Steve Zahn) and son attempt to escape a mother who doesn’t accept her child’s gender dysphoria by hiking over the mountain ranges of Montana.
After a preview in 2016 that teased the project, Harri Shanahan and Sian A. Williams’ rousing documentary returns for its world premiere. From animation and archive footage to interviews, it charts the history of post-punk dyke culture in the UK, a story of squatters and nighclubs and anti-Thatcher rallies told by the people who lived it.
BFI Flare’s second world premiere comes from Peeter Rebane’s Firebird, a love story set at the height of the Cold War. It follows ace pilot Roman and junior officer Sergey and a love that flourishes in dangerous territory, combining intense performances with lavish period production.
This five-part New Zealand web series is recut as a feature film in this stirring drama about a trans man returning home to his small rural community years after he left without coming out to his family. The result is a hit drama about someone reconnecting with their Māori roots and their identity, with almost half the roles played by a gender diverse cast.
Director Thomas Wilson-White comes up with an innovative piece of fantasy with this time-travel drama, which sees Beth, grieving the loss of her mother, find a time portal that lets her revisit happier times from the past – including the early steps of a relationship with her best friend. Not bad for a debut feature. (For more genre-tinged entertainment, check out psychological thriller The Dose.)
The late, great Cloris Leachman stars in this offbeat drama from debut director Phil Connell. She plays the 94-year-old wise-cracking grandma of Russell, an aspiring drag queen who takes time out to reconnect with her and care for her. Their double-act chemistry marks this international premiere out as one to watch. (See also the documentary PS Burn This Letter Please, which brings us a rare piece of perspective from 1950s New York by unearthing a group of letters written by drag queens.)