The overall theme of BFI Flare 2022 is rediscovery of suppressed queer history and appreciation of its bold pioneers. This British Film Industry event is screening six world premieres, 56 feature films, and 84 shorties over the course of eleven days, having started on Wednesday the 16th of March. It takes place at the BFI Southbank venue in London as well as online via BFI Player for viewers in the United Kingdom and on Five Films for Freedom, where five short films from the programme will be available to international audiences for free. The selection is traditionally split into three main topics: Hearts (stories of love and friendship), Bodies (stories of identity and transformation), and Minds (delving into art and politics).

Michael Blyth, the festival’s senior programmer, describes the event:

“In reflecting on the past, we can better understand the present, appreciating how far we have come while acknowledging how much is still left to do. At the heart of this year’s festival is a glorious celebration of a collective queer history we cannot take for granted.”

Now, let’s take a look at what all BFI Flare 2022 has to offer!

The Twin Peaks of Trans Experience

Cop Secret Movie

The festival has opened with awarded Finnish coming-of-age drama Girl Picture about a group of friends exploring their womanhood and sexuality. The Argentinian drama The Perfect David represents the programme’s full-length film highlights. It focuses on a young bodybuilder and his obsession with training as he plunges into an identity crisis. In the film A Distant Place, the seemingly friendly villagers in rural South Korea show their true colors once they find out about a secret romance between two young men. The German film Nico is about an Iranian woman who devotes herself to karate training after falling victim to a violent xenophobic attack.

Related: Explained: How Twin Peaks Changed Television

Cop Secret, the Icelandic action-comedy about two male police partners falling for each other amid a heist investigation, is listed in the Best of Fest selection. In From The Side takes us into a dangerous love affair between two players competing for English gay rugby teams, which puts their relationship and entire club at risk. Meanwhile, Death and Bowling is a visually compelling surreal drama, where a death of a lesbian bowling team leader triggers a process of spiritual enlightenment for one of the team players. It features a predominantly trans cast and is dubbed “The Twin Peaks of trans experience.”

Moneyboys Movie
Cola Films

In a French political satire, The Divide, two lesbian partners facing relationship problems get caught up in the midst of a large demonstration that turns a hospital into a battleground. Moneyboys is an explicit Taiwanese drama that takes us into a merciless reality of two Chinese rent boys who form a deeper bond hustling the streets together. The Novice follows Alex, a college student who pushes herself to self-destruction as she strives to stand out in a demanding rowing team at her top-tier school, leaving her girlfriend behind.

Award-Winners & Trailblazers

Boulevard A Hollywood Story
Automat Pictures

Jeffrey Schwarz’s Boulevard! A Hollywood Story shows us the fascinating story of Gloria Swanson’s unfinished musical adaptation of the Billy Wilder classic, Sunset Boulevard. It sees her fall desperately in love with one of the two gay men she hired to write the screenplay. I Am the Tigress follows a female bodybuilder’s quest to the championship as she experiences transphobia despite not being trans. Invisible: Gay Women In Southern Music pays tribute to the women behind country music’s biggest icons, while Gateways Grind takes us on tour through the London streets, illustrating the history of lesbian nightlife. Sirens brings a unique view into the career of Lebanon’s all-female queer metal band.

Among this year’s documentaries is also Being BeBe, which gives a closer look into the life of the first crowned queen of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Cameroon-born drag artist BeBe Zahara Benet. Pop musician Charli XCX takes us through her ambitious album-making process during the first Coronovirus lockdown in her homemade film Alone Together. Canadian film The End of Wonderland follows transgender adult performer Tara Emory on her quest to finish her trans sci-fi adult film epic called Up Uranus.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Documentary
Work and Serve Productions

Featured short film anthology Family Affairs observes the parenthood journey of a trans couple in “Pink & Blue.” The fairly self-explanatory Coming Out With The Help Of A Time Machine is about a young man trying to take back time to come out to his parents repeatedly. Out Here Livin’ is a collection of shorties about Black queer people, in which “For Love” shines a light on the real-life consequences of the UK’s strict immigration law.

Related: These Queer Films Have Helped Change the Mainstream

The much-anticipated world premiere pieces include Esther Newton Made Me Gay, a documentary by Jean Carlomusto about an American lesbian anthropologist best known for her trailblazing studies of drag culture and gay communities in the United States. The Closing Night Gala will introduce Kevin Hegge’s TRAMPS!, a documentary about the London punk movement New Romantics.

The festival will conclude on 27th March with a foursome of highly acclaimed queer films in its Best of Year category, tickets for all of which have been sold out. The list comprises the animated documentary Flee, which is scoring an entire array of various film prizes and nominations across the globe. The Cannes-winning Austrian prison drama Great Freedom, Almodóvar’s latest film Parallel Mothers featuring Penélope Cruz in her Oscar-nominated performance, and lauded American lesbian period romance The World To Come, winner of Queer Lion award.

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