A Lesbian Rock Musical And The First LGBT Sri Lankan Film Ever. Here’s Why You Need To Get On Board With BFI Flare

'LGBT films used to be just coming out stories, now they're the stories of our lives'

A Lesbian Rock Musical And The First LGBT Sri Lankan Film Ever; Why You Need To Get On Board WIth BFI:Flare

by Jess Commons |
Published on

This week sees the opening of BFI Flare; the UK's leading LGBT film festival. Emma Smart has been programming much of the festival; and while, watching loads of films and choosing the best might sound like a dream of the job, it’s not been easy. 'I think I’ve seen about 150 films leading up to this year’s festival. That’s an awful lot of films to watch!' She says.

Appropriate Behaviour
Appropriate Behaviour

On the line up this year is Appropriate Behaviour, ‘I mean it was a no brainer; it’s already on release and we’ve included it in our best of year section – which are bascially films that we really love but that we think our audience will enjoy the opportunity to watch with a queer audience.' Also on the programme? Carol Morley’s The Falling; the coming-of-age film about schoolgirls coming to terms with their sexuality that stars Game of Thrones Maisie Williams. ‘We were really pleased to get that. It’s a really important film. Carol Morley (the director) is a really big supporter of what we do so it’s great to bring her back.’ Also on offer? Girltrash: All Night Long, the self-described 'lesbian rock muscial'. ‘ I love it. We’ve never seen anything quite like it in our LGBT cinema world! It’s a bit rough around the edges – mainly because there's not the most amazing budget out there for LGBT films but it’s really good, very tongue in cheek.’ Says Emma.

The Falling

As well as the more mainstream British and American films, BFI Flare is also playing host to a whole bunch of global stories from places where being gay is still illegal. From Frangipani, the first ever Sri Lankan LGBT film to * Stories Of Our Lives*; the film showcasing the lives of gay men and women in Kenya (it was banned in it’s home country), Emma thinks the festival’s got an obligation to show off these films, ‘It’s really important for us to celebrate our lives and recognise that we can do so without prejudice while highlighting the places that still don’t allow it. Having films like Frangipani and Stories Of Our Lives in the festival gets them to a prominent position and helps for these stories to be told internationally. Hopefully it can only add to the pressure for countries to change their laws and wake up and realise they’re living in the dark ages. Also, they’re really good films too! We’re about entertainment and love of film but we also recognise that we have a voice and it can be used for good and not frivolous things.’

Stories of our Lives

Emma’s been programming for the festival since 2009, in that time she's noticed a more divesre representation of the LGBT community on our screens. ‘There are definitely more queer characters in mainstream films. On television queer characters pop up all over the place and they’re just there; their storyline isn’t just that the person’s got to come out. I feel like our lives are being more accurately reflected. I think there is still a long way to go though; we make up a large proportion of the world and there’s not as many of us on screen as there is in real life.' In terms of the storylines gay characters are given though, there's been a huge improvement, 'It used to be stories of coming to terms with our sexuality, now it’s just the stories of our lives, proving that we’re just like everyone else – except with perhaps more fabulous clothes!'

So what’s the main thing standing in the way of more LGBT films being made? ‘Funding is always going to be an issue, although there are a lot of good initiatives now with the BFI trying to make a change in what they fund especially. It’s amazing what people can do when they don’t have the funds, so I can’t even imagine what amazing films would happen if they were given a proper budget! That’s where I’d like to see it go.’

BFI Flare runs from the 19-29 March. More info and tickets here.

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Follow Jess on Twitter @Jess_Commons

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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