Lesbian & Gay Film Festival Preview - March 23rd to April 1st

After the phenomenal success of last year’s twenty fifth anniversary celebrations, the BFI London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival returns this coming week for its twenty sixth instalment, with another internationally flavoured and diverse line-up.

After the phenomenal success of last year€™s twenty fifth anniversary celebrations, the BFI London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival returns this coming week for its twenty sixth instalment, with another internationally flavoured and diverse line-up. Last year defied the recession and saw punters turn out to support the ailing festival which was under threat of being scrapped, luckily its back with a ten day slot devoted to the best new, old and experimental queer filmmaking. With a huge line-up of over sixty screenings and handful of talks and debates there is a lot to be seen, so here I am just going to pick some key highlights and a few personal choices. Obviously the opening and closing night galas are the most hyped and talked about, and this year it would seem, for especially good reasons. Opening the festivities (for a third time) is Canadian-American director Thom Fitzgerald with Cloudburst, a road movie about two septuagenarian lovers, Stella and Dotty. With Dotty declared legally blind her granddaughter Molly wants her to live out the rest of her days under the watchful eyes of an old people€™s home. Stella, however, has more radical idea; if they make the trip up to Nova Scotia to get married then Molly could no longer interfere with their relationship. The film has been billed and reviewed as one of the most original and compelling road movies in years, with dazzling performances and beautiful photography, an appropriate return for one of the festival€™s best loved filmmakers. Winding things up on Sunday the 1st of April will be the debut feature North Sea Texas by Belgian Bavo Defurne, a story of latent adolescent sexuality, which avoids the clichés of gay desire that has to be punished. Set in small coastal town, Pim has grown up fatherless with an ex-beauty queen mother, whose mind seems more occupied by daydreams than by her young son. Pim€™s bourgeoning sexuality find its focus in two disparate places, his older neighbour Gino and his mother€™s new lodger the enigmatic and compelling Zoltan, who has also caught his mother€™s eye. A tenderly acted and sensitively envisioned film, it is already being hailed as one of the queer films of the year. Other dramatic highlights include the French story of a chance encounter, and psycho-sexual murder, American Translation twists and distorts the lovers-on-the-run road movie sub-genre with uncomfortable and possibly polarising results. Treading further down the dark path we find Israeli picture Joe + Belle. Concerning drug dealer Joe, who comes home to her apartment after a trip abroad to find Belle in her bath threatening to kill herself, she reluctantly lets her stay to save her from herself, but with the police hot on their tails it soon becomes clear they can€™t stay in the same place for long. Away from the more nihilistic and violent fare, camp finds its ultimate embodiment in Leave it on the Floor a musical set in a world reminiscent of classic new queer cinema doc Paris is Burning. Taking its main aesthetic from the ever popular TV show Glee and musical cues from the worlds of hip hop, house and techno, it tells the story of Brad, recently kicked out of his home after coming out, he accidentally falls into the ballroom and drag scene with dramatic, romantic and inevitably toe taping results. Besides the big dramas, the festival has gone all out on their documentary strand this year, with a wide variety of subjects covered from the double life of infamous British writer W. Somerset Maugham in Revealing Mr Maugham. To the trans-male porn star and self- proclaimed €˜man with a pussy€™ Buck Angel, and his exploration of trans sexuality in Sexing the Transman. The two most interesting docs however are directly related to the history of queer filmmaking. Fragments: The Incomplete Films of Peter De Rome sees its world premiere in conjunction with the BFI€™s DVD release of much his work. De Rome is candidly interviewed about his erotic and experimental films inspired by the French poet Jean Cocteau, accompanied by three of his shorts, a DJ set and on stage interview. Infamous gay activist, film critic and historian Vito Russo is the subject of Vito by Jeffery Schwarz, which charts Russo€™s life and his crucial role in gay activism and the historical revisionism of cinema from a gay perspective, which formed the basis for the Fantastic film The celluloid Closet. The Celluloid Closet is also the jumping off point for much of this year€™s archive screenings, highlights include a rare screening of Stanley Kubrick€™s Spartacus with the much debated and notorious €˜bath scene€™ intact. The bi-sexuality inherent in Olivier€™s performance is rendered far from subtle, and was cut out of from the film€™s original theatrical release. Other films returning to the big screen include: Queen Christina from 1933 in which Greta Garbo plays the eponymous 17th century Swedish monarch, whose choice of dress and desire don€™t exactly conform to the hays code. And perhaps the most famous of early queer Hollywood film€™s Morocco from 1930, starring a tuxedo clad Marlene Dietrich, who€™s gender bending performance and knowing looks still elicit the sensation they did all those years ago. With these and many more delights to be had this year€™s festival, it looks like it€™s shaping up to the one of the best conceived so far. The BFI London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival runs from Thursday the 23rd of March to Sunday the 1st of April. See www.BFi.org.uk/llgff for more details and to book tickets.
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I am a film student with a love of almost anything filmic, I blog about film at www.seriousaboutcinema.blogspot.com