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The British Film Institute is hosting its annual celebration of Queer Cinema. Formerly called the “London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival” we are now delighted by “Flare”, its newly anointed name.

I spoke to Ollie Charles from Peccadillo Pictures to peruse their offerings to the festival this year.

GBF, Dir. Darren Stein

Meet Tanner and Brent. They are two gay best friends. Brent longs for the spotlight and believes that coming out will make him instantly popular as North Gateway High’s very first G.B.F. (or Gay Best Friend). Tanner on the other hand, would rather fly under the radar and finish high school without ever being noticed.

When things don’t go according to plan and Tanner is outed instead of Brent, the two boys go from B.F.Fs to instant frenemies. Enter the three most popular girls in school — queen-of-mean bombshell Fawcett, drama club diva Caprice, and sweet, Mormon good-girl ‘Shley, who launch an all-out social war to win Tanner’s friendship.

Featuring an all-star cast including Desperate Housewives’ Andrea Bowen, Will & Grace’s Megan Mullally, Orange Is The New Black’s Natasha Lyonne and Harry Potter’s Evanna Lynch. From the director of cult 90s teen movie JAWBREAKER comes this comic satire of American high school clique culture in the vein of MEAN GIRLS and AMERICAN PIE.

Test, Dir. Chris Mason Johnson

Frankie is the newest, skinniest and most mocked member of an up-and-coming modern dance company in San Francisco. The year is 1985. As six muscular male dancers tumble their way through athletic choreography, the choreographer stops the music and yells at Frankie to “dance like a man!” On the sidelines, Todd watches. Todd is an established dancer in the same company and the bad boy to Frankie’s innocent. They quickly become friends – opposites attract.

For Frankie, the city offers no relief from the bullying at work: a newspaper headline asks “Should Gays Be Quarantined?” while fresh graffiti screams “AIDS Faggot Die!” Frankie turns away and, with his bright yellow Walkman clipped to his belt, retreats into a music-filled trance.

When one of the male dancers is injured Frankie must perform in his place. It’s the classic test of skill and character, and Todd helps Frankie prepare. Outside of work, as Frankie and Todd’s friendship deepens, they each face a different kind of test: the newly-named disease is spreading fast and no one seems to know anything about it, except who it targets. Together the friends navigate a world full of risk that is also, now and then, full of hope.

Reaching for the Moon, Dir. Bruno Barreto

Set at the height of 1950s glamour, this audience award winning drama recounts the extraordinary relationship between Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Elizabeth Bishop (played by Miranda Otto, Lord of the Rings) and Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares (the beautifully handsome Gloria Pires). In search of inspiration, Bishop leaves America having accepted the invitation of an old college friend to stay with her on her sprawling country estate in Brazil. But she never counted on meeting the love of her life – her friend’s partner.

At first, the fiery personalities of the two women collide and lead to passion-fuelled debates, but animosity quickly turns to attraction, then desire. From Oscar nominated director Bruno Barreto, REACHING FOR THE MOON is an intimate portrait of two remarkable artists as they discover the most incredible love.

Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf, Dir. Anna Margarita Albelo

The day after her 40th birthday, Anna comes to the conclusion that it’s time for the madness to stop. She lives in her friend’s garage; her career as a filmmaker isn’t paying the bills and worst of all it’s been ten years since she’s had a girlfriend. A hardscrabble life that seemed charming and adventurous in her twenties seems desperate and dire in middle age. Most move on from such a lifestyle before they hit 40. But not Anna. That’s why something has to change.

Anna devises a plan to make all her dreams finally come true: make a film and win over her leading actress and art school wunderkind; Katia. Borrowing a storyline from her most beloved film ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ she recruits her friend Penelope (Guinevere Turner) and Chloe (Carrie Preston) to start production of her feature film debut ‘Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf?’

As with all great feats, there were several obstacles standing in her way, first, there’s no money. Second, she will have to give up her role opposite Katia if she wants the much-desired Penelope to even consider taking the roll. Third, her Cuban mother has never been thrilled about her making lesbian films, let alone, her being lesbian. She’d much prefer Anna pack up her shed and move home to Miami.

For full details see: http://www.bfi.org.uk/flare

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Christabel Samuel is a writer, director and editor. Having graduated from University College London with a BA in English Literature and an MA in Film Studies she is now a self-taught filmmaker, writer and perpetual learner. She won funding in 2011 for Lust in Translation and has gone on to judge at the London Film Festival, been appointed Head of Film for The Book Magazine and is currently editor-in-chief for The Spread.

Posted on Mar 4, 2014

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