Following 2015's blockbuster year for queer cinema, we round up the best of the bunch at 2016's BFI London Film Festival
We can probably all agree that 2015 gifted us with a bumper crop of queer cinema. There was the stunning Carol, of course, adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s iconic novel, starring Hollywood heavyweights Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. Then there was the searing Tangerine, shot entirely on iPhones, a snapshot of the lives of black trans sex workers in LA told unflinchingly and with a biting wit. Lily Tomlin’s Grandma was an underrated gem, and even Ellen Page’s passion project Freeheld – though slightly too earnest for its own good – had its heart firmly in the right place. To be honest, next to all that, 2016 has been somewhat lacklustre. Until now.
As part of the BFI London Film Festival, a plethora of LGBT-related films will be getting their UK debut over the next few weeks, from Park Chan-wook’s Sarah Waters adaptation The Handmaiden to Ingrid Jungermann’s comedy-thriller (yep, that’s a genre) Women Who Kill. Here’s five to look out for.
If you’re already familiar with Park Chan-wook’s work – including the twisted revenge thriller Oldboy, and the quietly unsettling psychological horror Stoker – the source material for his latest film might come as a surprise: The Handmaiden is adapted from Welsh writer Sarah Waters’ 2002 novel Fingersmith. Set in Victorian Britain, the book takes the Dickensian-style narrative of poverty and crime and weaves it around two women’s love and mutual deception. Chan-wook’s adaptation transposes Waters’ original setting to early 20th century Korea, but keeps the intoxicating exploration of female sexuality intact.
In a year where African American men are being gunned down by white police, and queer people of colour have fallen victim to one of the deadliest mass shootings in US history, Moonlight’s exploration of black gay masculinity is a timely piece indeed. Set in the United States and based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, Moonlight’s story hums with pervasive violence - both implicit and explicit, both internalised and externalised – as it follows a young black man struggling with his sexuality. Dazed writer Patrik Sandberg said, “Jenkins has delivered an eclipse of a film. By toying with notions of time, Moonlight, with its boundless gravity, transcends it.” Look out for Janelle Monae in one of her first feature film roles too.
JEWEL'S CATCH ONE
Another film to take on an increased potency following this year’s Orlando nightclub shooting, Jewel’s Catch One is the story of Jewel Thais Williams, who set up America’s first black-owned disco. As the documentary highlights (with a little help from Madonna, Sharon Stone and Sandra Bernhard), Catch One served as a safe space for both the LGBT and black communities during a time when both were treated with hostility. In the words of Thais Williams herself, “It didn’t matter who you were, or who you did or didn’t do, all were welcome.”
WOMEN WHO KILL
For those who’ve seen the brilliant Iranian vampire film A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (if you haven’t, you should probably rectify that immediately), the chance to see its star Sheila Vand take on another major role should be reason enough to see Women Who Kill. The fact that the trailer for this comedy thriller - about a true crime podcaster who starts to suspect her new girlfriend might be hiding something - has more laughs in one and a half minutes than most mainstream comedies have in their entire running time, is just an added bonus.
Kristen Stewart, queer icon and queen of YFIP (thanks in part to her attempt to justify working with Woody Allen), is getting plenty of acclaim for her upcoming role in Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper. Unsurprisingly so, given that the pair’s previous collaboration, Clouds Of Sils Maria, was one of the best films of 2014 – but don’t let that overshadow her other offering, Certain Women. Stewart stars alongside Laura Dern, Michelle Williams and newcomer Lily Gladstone, who plays a quiet ranch hand romantically drawn to Stewart’s law school graduate Elizabeth. The middle America drama echoes the unshowy, melancholic tone of director Kelly Reichardt’s earlier work, Wendy & Lucy and Old Joy.
The BFI London Film Festival is running from 5-16 October. Find out more at http://www.bfi.org.uk/lff.