BFI Flare 2021: Short Films Selection

Wings, The Night Train, Bodies of Desire, We Too, Escaping the Fragile Planet, Tracing Utopia, Trans Happiness is Real and Listening In
20th March 2021

BFI Flare 2021: Short Films are free of charge until 28 March 2021 on BFI Player.

BFI Flare is renowned for championing short films alongside its feature-length programme. Each new year brings us thought-provoking, challenging and humorous reflections on LGBTQ+ experiences from around the globe. This year is no exception, with each short featured below available on BFI Player.

Wings (2020)

Love makes the world go round; love gives us hope, excitement and belonging, sometimes for a lifetime and sometimes for the briefest moments as two eyes meet. We can fall in love through a single sexual encounter or a single look, and our desires can quickly melt into love on the first touch of skin. The opening short film in our collection explores the complexity of love from its arrival to its departure.

As a teenager, I remember talking with my Nan about her days in the Women’s Land Army during World War Two. She spoke with passion, excitement, and pride at her work and her responsibility to keep the country moving. Through the twinkle in her eye, I saw the shackles of a male-dominated world shattered. But for the women who found love in the arms of another woman during those years, the shackles of discrimination were harder to break, with many returning to their husbands as the War ended. Directed by Jamie Weston, with a sublime score from Jon Mills, WINGS is a stunning short exploring a love found, lost and refound in older age.

In Jerry Carlsson’s THE NIGHT TRAIN (Natt├ąget), two teenagers exchange eye contact on a long train journey home; one is confident, forward and aware of the possible outcomes, and the other is shy and unsure. Their brief but powerful meeting is a ‘what if’ moment of connection, desire, and love that plays to a universal experience of sudden and secretive allure. After all, how many of you have sat on a train, a bus or a plane and felt your eyes lock onto those of an attractive stranger? The butterflies in your stomach spring to life as you wonder whether to look away or commit to their gaze. These moments of random connection can be exciting, scary and full of lust as we realise we are not invisible. Carlsson captures these feelings in exquisite detail in a short that may be one of my favourites this year.

The Night Train (2020)

Imagine a world where love, sex and human connection were free from social, political and religious control. What if our concepts of love, attraction and connection were born from our own feelings, emotions, likes and dislikes? Would notions of gender and sexuality be irrelevant? Varsha Panikar and Saad Nawab’s BODIES OF DESIRE is a poetic exploration of a world without barriers and bias, merging words with flesh and music as they ask us all to consider a world of genderless intimacy.

Our third selection is Grace Porter’s WE TWO, a short and stunning photographic essay of beginnings and endings as love and laughter turn to heartbreak and emptiness. Our fourth short explores love against the odds, a never more relevant theme than in our current COVID-19 world. For many of us, the pandemic has led to growing feelings of isolation and despair, while for others, it has tested the relationships they hold like never before. In a dystopian future that eerily reflects our current world, Thanasis Tsimpinis’ ESCAPING THE FRAGILE PLANET is brave, bold and beautiful; his vision of a world slowly dying under a thick pink mist haunting in its construction. Meanwhile, our fifth short, Catarina de Sousa and Nick Tyson’s TRACING UTOPIA, offers a space for young people to discuss and reflect on the world they want to build, a task never more critical than now. Their ideas range from LGBTQ+ history on the school timetable to creating new safe spaces in our towns and neighbourhoods.

Escaping the Fragile Planet (2019)

While Tracing Utopia asks young people for ideas, Quinton Baker’s short documentary TRANS HAPPINESS IS REAL follows young trans activists in Oxford who aim to replace all the harmful anti-trans stickers they see with positive slogans and messages. Baker’s documentary allows the passion and activism of young people to shine through, giving us all hope for the future.

Finally, themes of isolation and identity take a darker turn in Omer Sterenberg’s LISTENING IN (HaMaazin). Here, a young Israeli intelligence officer finds himself tasked with spying on the phone calls of a Palestinian man. However, the young officer soon discovers that the Palestinian man is engaged in a secret affair with another man, his passionate conversations laced with desire, fear and apprehension. As the young officer continues to listen, his own desires bubble to the surface desires long ago locked away. LISTENING IN is a bold and urgent exploration of hidden desire, fear and the universal experiences of LGBTQ+ life that transcend religion or race.

Listening In (HaMaazin) 2020

You may also like Boys Feels – High Tide and The Male Gaze – Hide and Seek, BFI Flare Shorts 2022

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