Representation, in all forms, is perhaps one of cinema’s most important tasks. Cinema is a platform that allows for individuals from around the world to see their stories being lived by others and in doing so allows them to gain a greater understanding of themselves. In every film, we must strive for representation.
Since 1986, the BFI Flare festival has shared this passion for representation and has held an annual film festival celebrating the power of LGBTQIA+ cinema. The biggest LGBTQIA+ film festival in Europe, Flare celebrates queer stories from across the globe and this year Concrete got the chance to celebrate with them, socially distanced of course!
This year’s festival featured a wide range of shorts and features all celebrating queer cinema and the queer community. My personal favourite of the festival was Luchina Fisher’s Mamma Gloria. A documentary telling the story of Gloria Allen: A 74-year-old Trans woman living in Chicago. The film shares with us the highs and lows of her life and her experience as a Black trans woman navigating society. Gloria’s unbreakable positivity and kindness in the wake of discrimination marks her as a true role model for younger generations. Director Luchina Fisher is the mother of a “bi-racial transgender daughter’ and wants Gloria’s story to act as “gift that I want to show my daughter and other young trans people — so they can imagine themselves growing old and having a long, mean-ingful life.” The film beautifully crafted film truly leaves you with an immense feeling of pride, hope and inspiration and will stay with you long after the credits role.
Another stand out film of the festival was Peeter Rebane’s Firebird. Unlike any queer story I had seen prior, Firebird tells the true love story of two members of the Russian air force serving during the Cold War. In this period in Russia, it was illegal to be homosexual and was punishable by imprisonment. According to the film’s writers, Peeter Rebane and Tom Prior, the pair wanted to highlight to audiences the fear and paranoia queer people went through. “It wasn’t just about the KGB,” said Prior. “It was also the fear generated by those living around you –your neighbours and friends.” The cold war setting allowed for Firebird to tell a story of love that defied the odds and tragically reflects the true hardships faced by LGBTQIA+ individuals during this period.
Overall, this year’s BFI flare festival was a triumph with countless films I simply don’t have enough word count left to go into detail about such as Shana Myra’s Well Rounded: A celebration of queer body positivity and Jonathan Wysocki’s Dramarama: A cringe inducing teen coming of age story. Flare truly is an inspirational festival with each film telling an important and insightful story. If you have the chance and wish to see some truly impressive and important LGBTQIA+ cinema, go and give these a watch, you will absolutely love it!