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BFI Flare 2024 Programme Released

BFI Flare 2024
Layla (2024); image courtesy of Getty / BFI Flare: LGBTQIA+ Film Festival

BFI Flare Film Festival returns for its 38th year, with a programme dedicated to films by LGBTQIA+ creatives about their experience of the community and its implications in wider society. The festival is bookended by Amrou Al-Kadhi’s Layla, the opening night gala film about a Palestinian-British drag performer’s experiences of gender presentation across communities and cultures, and Lady Like, Luke Willis’ documentary about RuPaul’s Drag Race finalist Rex Wheeler a.k.a Lady Camden. The prevalence of queerness encapsulated in these films, as a theoretical site for discussing a vast range of issues relating to identity and difference, while preserving a sense of pride in celebrating creatives from within the community itself, permeates throughout the programme. As a safe, energetic platform for self-expression and celebration, the festival’s ethos of showing off the individual “flare” of previously unheard voices is as strong as ever.

Of course, with all this talk of self-expression and theories of pride, one might lose sight of the core of what queerness means, something BFI Flare keenly reminds us of with the festival’s three categories, loosely separating films into “hearts”, “bodies” and “minds”. More than anything else this feels like a warming reminder that queerness is something much deeper than the bright, often dazzling colours of the flag. As such, it is something that crosses cultural borders; the opening and closing night galas may be home-grown but weaved into the three categories are manifestations of queerness from Greece with Aligned (Apollo Bakopoulos) to Thailand in Solids by the Seashore (Patiparn Boontarig), then all the way to Canada The Queen of My Dreams (Fawzia Mirza), with many more stops in between. What’s important in these categories is that identity, the power we have to feel and think how we want to feel and think is the drive behind this celebration of queer pride that we can all connect to as human beings.

BFI Flare 2024
Lady Like (2024); image courtesy of Getty / BFI Flare: LGBTQIA+ Film Festival

This celebration, then, is no escape from reality. Indeed, while there are several major releases in the programme—run-offs from BFI London Film Festival like All Of Us Strangers (Andrew Haigh) and new releases such as the hotly anticipated Love Lies Bleeding (Rose Glass)—the majority provides an opportunity to hear voices that we hadn’t previously, but that have always been there. There is a connection here that is deeper than most other BFI festivals, facilitated by in-person talks such as a Screen Talk with Elliot Page, the actor, producer, writer and director whose latest film Close to You (Dominic Savage) features in a special presentation at the festival, as well as a screening of three shorts by pioneering lesbian African-American filmmaker Michelle Parkinson, followed by a Q&A with the director. BFI Flare is not just a celebration of queer film, or of queer creativity, but of a community itself; one whose strength is in the reciprocal self-love and self-affirmation between creator and audience. 

Film is and has always been a site on which people can come together and find common ground, but it hasn’t been for very many years that the LGBTQIA+ community has been included in this. BFI Flare Film Festival seeks to console this, with the 38th programme being no exception, while also providing an exciting opportunity for people outside the community to understand and enjoy a space full of self-love and expressivity. As the programmers point out in their opening address, ‘no two opals are exactly alike, we hope that this year’s Festival offers something new and refreshing.’ It seems they are set to achieve this with flying colours…literally.

BFI Flare 2024 will run from the 13th to the 24th of March. To find out more and book tickets, head to their website.