BFI Flare 2019

Following on from the success of previous years, and the diverse mix of LGBT+ films, documentaries and discussions that have made Flare a world leading celebration of LGBT+ film, we now know have the 2019 programme.

Once again, BFI has pulled out the stops with a huge mix of film and documentaries that speak to the diversity of the LGBT+ community, challenging, enabling and furthering our understanding of community ties and diversity. What really stands out in this year’s selection is the diversity of stories, documentaries and events, truly embracing all parts of our LGBT+ community.

Once again (as with most film festivals) the challenge of exploring a programme of over 50 features and 80 shorts, picking what to want to see is both exciting and exhausting.

So to help you along the way, here are my personal programme picks of some of the must see films and documentaries at Flare this year.

Vita and Virginia

Receiving a mixed reception at Toronto International Film Festival last year for its contemporary take on the lives of Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf. Flare offers us the opportunity to fully assess whether this film soars or lacks the credibility the story deserves.

Vita and Virginia

Tell it to the Bees

Based on Fiona Shaw’s novel of the same name, Tell it to the Bees has a strong leading cast, with Anna Paquin and Holliday Grainger. Focussing on hidden love in a small Scottish town post the Second World War there is always a risk of falling in the well-trodden clichés. Let’s hope Tell it to the Bees rises above these.  

Knife and Heart

A queer spin on a Brian De Palma thriller is how Variety describes Yann Gonzalez’s film. How could anyone resist!


Mapplethorpe has not had an easy ride with early critical reviews, including questions around Matt Smith playing the lead, a casting decision I personally do not see as problematic. I will be intrigued to see how the film, some of which depended on crowd funding, covers the life of the photographer, while clearly exploring the boundaries of his work and the public controversy that followed him right up to his early death from HIV/AIDS in 1989.


We the Animals

With positive reviews across the pond, The Washington Post describes We the Animals as a ‘spirited, sobering portrait of the artist as a young man using any means at his disposal – words, images, sensations – to process a confusing and contradictory world”  All I can say is grab a ticket for this one!

Papi Chulo

Receiving its UK premiere at the London Film Festival last year. Papi Chulo follows John Butlers acclaimed Handsome Devil with a subtle, sensitive and touching exploration of loneliness. This is a great film with some truly engaging and heart-warming performances.    

Papi Chulo


Brazilian filmmaking has long had a rich history of LGBT+ themes in both feature and short filmmaking. With positive initial reviews, this gritty drama comes at a point in time where Brazil’s politics have us questioning whether powerful filmmaking like Socrates will be seen in Brazil.


Winning the audience award at Outfest as well as the jury prize for best international film. Tucked takes us to Brighton, challenging gender, age and generational stereotypes, in what could be the stand out British feature at this year’s Flare.



Another film that relied partly on crowd funding, Austrian feature Nevrland promises a striking visual style alongside homage to classic psychological thrillers. This could be truly unique offering at this year’s Flare.    

Men of Hard Skin

Last year’s Flare brought us the striking and often uncomfortable film Maryln from Argentina. Men of Hard Skin, looks to continue this trend with subject matter that is unafraid to take uncomfortable but important social issues direct to the viewer.

Men of Hard Skin


Awarded the Queer Lyon Award at last year’s Venice Film Festival, The early reviews of Jose, and its realistic exploration of life in all its complexities in Guatemala make this film a must see.

Two in a Bush: A Love Story

Positive exploration of bisexuality is often sadly lacking in LGBT+ film, falling foul of outdated stereotypes. Two in a Bush promises a modern and fresh take on the romantic comedy genre, that embraces bisexuality as its core component


Making its debut at the London Film Festival last year Rafiki, based on a short story by the Ugandan author Monica Arac de Nyeko is a brave and fresh coming out drama. Rafiki never ignores the continuing struggle against homophobia in Kenya, and deserves its place as film that challenges and strives to create change in its home country.


Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life

Experienced and celebrated documentary makers Tomar and Barek take on the story of adult film star Jonathan Agassi with a documentary film 8 years in the making. Based on their previous documentary offerings this promises to be a unique and deep exploration of the porn industry, fame and life in the public eye.  

Making Montgomery Clift

Exploring the life on one of Hollywood’s golden stars, this documentary co-directed by Clift’s nephew promises a far more rounded exploration of his turbulent and complex life both private and public.


A solid and engaging debut feature from Belgium director Lukas Dhont and the talented new young actor Victor Polster. Girl has not slipped by without caused some controversy in its depiction of a transgender teen coming of age, but Girl is assured and important film making that is accessible, placing transgender experience front and centre.  


Based on Lee-Anne Poole’s 2010 stage play Splinters explores family relationships, identity and parental approval in a close-knit Canadian community. With positive reviews at last year’s Toronto Film Festival Splinters is well worth catching at Flare.  


And don’t forget the amazing short films on offer, where once again Flare brings curated collections of the best LGBT+ short films from the around the globe.

Challenge Accepted

6 Short films on courage and heart

In Place of the Real

13 short films exploring abstractions of queerness

Making History

7 Short films chronicling LGBTQ community history

The Time is Now

6 Short films exploring coming out

Dancing with a Stranger

7 Short films that entertain and enchant

Calm Inside the Storm

7 Short films full of emotion

What Makes a Man

4 Short films exploring masculinity and love lessons learnt

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

3 Short documentaries

Hook Ups and Downs

7 Short films exploring brief encounters that change us

Labyrinths of Desire

5 Short films about connections

Life in Transit

6 Short films exploring gender and diversity

The Way Things Are

10 of the best new home-grown shorts


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