We talk to the programmer for the BFI’s Flare Festival for a lowdown on this year’s must-see movies
2017 has been a remarkable year for queer cinema. We’ve enjoyed multi-Golden Globe nominated, indulgent, Italian reveries in Call Me By Your Name; powerful and insightful documentaries about the struggles of the trans-community in Kiki and The Death And Life Of Marsha P Johnson; breakout hits from the depths of the Yorkshire Dales in God’s Own Country; and acerbic, indie comedies about lesbian podcasters in Women Who Kill and a lifelong love affair with HIV in Pushing Dead.
While there’s still significant work to be done before we can hope to see equal representation for all on the silver screen, 2018 suggests there will be some exciting strides forward. Speaking to Michael Blyth, programmer for the BFI’s Flare Festival, we’ve pulled together a list of witty, dark and touching films to look forward to in 2018 that delve deeper into the trans-experience, explore queerness in the context of strictly religious communities, challenge conversion therapies, focus on the fringes of sexuality and gender, and celebrate LGBT socio-political activism.
A FANTASTIC WOMAN
This is a really extraordinary film about a trans woman who is shut out by the family of her recently deceased partner. It’s about her experience, trying to grieve and mourn and get what’s owed to her. It’s similar to 120 BPM in that it’s a socio-political film, it’s very heavy, but at the same time it’s so alive, celebratory and rousing. It’s one of those films where you leave the cinema and feel inspired and energised, like you want to take on the world. Daniela Vega, who’s the lead in the film, gives a really extraordinary performance – it’s refreshing too to see a trans person on screen, played by a trans actor. That’s a really important dimension for the film.
Starring Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams, this Sebastián Lelio drama is based on the novel by Naomi Alderman. The book is set in an orthodox Jewish community in north London, and it focuses on a woman who stirs up controversy when she reconnects with a childhood friend and their relationship begins to develop into something more. It’s very much an interpersonal relationship drama which depicts these really extraordinary, multi-layered, underrepresented women. The director is interested in presenting convincing and compelling portraits of women that we might not normally see on our screens.
THE SHAPE OF WATER
This one might get lost when people are talking about great queer films to look forward to, but this new Guillermo del Toro film has been getting great reviews. It’s a sci-fi fantasy romance with a great cast. It’s about outsiders finding a place and battling against conservative, destructive powers that try to silence them. It’s almost a queer riff on The Creature From The Black Lagoon, with a bit of whimsy thrown in. I don’t want to say too much about the plot because it’s such a wonderful surprise. It’s quite remarkable that Guillermo Del Toro, who identifies as heterosexual, has been able to paint such a fascinating portrait of characters who live on the fringes of society.
This South African feature from John Trengove won the Sutherland Award for best debut feature. It’s a fascinating, complicated story about closeted sexuality set in the remote mountains of South Africa’s Eastern Cape, and it takes place against the backdrop of an ancient circumcision ritual. It’s a really interesting film, that looks at the customs and practices of the Xhosa community. The director cast people from the community which, much like A Fantastic Woman, speaks to a level of authenticity that’s really necessary. Rather than being voyeristic, it’s a genuine insightful portrayal of a community we don’t often see or hear about.
THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST
It’s a new feature from Desiree Akhavan, she made a film a few years ago called Appropriate Behaviour, which was a really fresh and funny bisexual romcom. This looks like it’s going to be quite different. It’s got Chloë Grace Moretz and Sasha Lane from American Honey. It’s set in the early 90s, it’s about a girl whose caught having sex with another girl and forced into a gay conversion therapy centre. It’s based on a novel by Emily Danforth, which caused a bit of controversy when it was first published, so it’ll be interesting to see the tone and how this one’s received. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen a decent queer film set in a gay conversion therapy centre, and often when we do they’re quite comic like But I’m A Cheerleader, but this one looks to be much darker.
VITA AND VIRGINIA
Created by British film-maker Tanya Button, this biographical romance starring Elizabeth Debicki and Gemma Alderton explores the relationship and love affair between Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf. It’s got a great cast and the director is really on the cusp of becoming a household name. We’ve seen Virginia Woolf presented on screen before, particularly in The Hours, which flirts with Woolf’s sexuality, but this’ll be quite a different depiction of her and how it tackles that same take of female desire and sexuality. It’s a very exciting one.