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Short Films Selection – BFI Flare 2021

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

11 mins read

The following short films are available until 28th March 2021 on BFI Player free of charge

BFI Flare is renowned for championing short films alongside its feature-length programme, each new year bringing us thought-provoking, challenging and humorous reflections on LGBTQ+ experience from around the globe. This year is no exception, with many superb short films to choose from, each one available for free via BFI Player. While at the same time, Five Films for Freedom continues to find a global audience via the British Council. In choosing short films to feature this year, I have focussed on three key themes; love, isolation and freedom. With each film selected, a beautiful, challenging and exemplary reflection of these themes. However, a word to the wise, with so many shorts to choose from, our list is just the tip of a creative and brilliant iceberg of filmmaking. Therefore, we advise you to visit BFI Player today and explore the vast collection available for yourself.


Wings (2020)

Love is a many splendid thing; All you need is love; Love lifts us up where we belong. I could go on, but you get the message, love makes the world go round, whether it is the love of friends, partners or a random stranger; we all need it in our lives. It gives us hope, excitement and belonging, sometimes for a lifetime and sometimes for the briefest of moments as two eyes meet, an unspoken attraction and desire captured in a single stare. At this point, I know what you are thinking; desire and love are different; one physical, one emotional. But are they? Can we not fall in love through a single sexual encounter? Can a flirtatious meeting of eyes not convey something so much deeper than pure carnal desire? The first short films in our collection explore love in all its forms, from beginnings to endings.

I remember my grandma talking at length about her days in the Women’s Land Army during World War Two. She spoke with such passion, excitement, and pride at the work she undertook and her responsibility, a hidden sense of liberation, equality and purpose surrounding each story. The shackles of a male-dominated world suddenly shattered as women took the lead. These years would undoubtedly further women’s equality as the War came to an end. But for those women who found love in the arms of another woman, the shackles were harder to break—many returning to their husbands as War came to an end. Directed by Jamie Weston, with a sublime score from Jon Mills, WINGS is a stunning short film exploring a love lost and refound. Every one of its scenes beautifully crafted as two souls find peace in the most unlikely location.


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How many of you have sat on a train, a bus or plane and felt your eyes lock onto those of an attractive stranger? Butterflies springing to life in your stomach as you wonder whether to look away or commit to their gaze. These moments of random connection can be exciting, scary and full of desire as we realise we are no longer invisible. Our heart pounding as we wonder where this brief exchange of looks may lead. Sometimes the person we connect with disappears at the next stop or becomes fearful of any further connection, averting their gaze. But, occasionally, the non-verbal relationship between both people grows, eventually leading to the scary proposition of conversation or physical contact—the thin line between desire, attraction and instantaneous love a confusing, complex, yet exciting place.

These themes are beautifully captured in Jerry Carlsson’s THE NIGHT TRAIN (Nattåget) as two teenagers exchange eye contact on a long train journey home. One confident, forward and aware of the possible outcomes, the other shy and unsure of taking things further. Their brief but powerful meeting a ‘what if’ moment of connection, desire, and love in a brief moment in time. And as the train pulls into the station, their paths may diverge, but the memories of their meeting are forever stored.


The Night Train (2020)

Just for a moment, try to imagine a world where love, sex and human connection was free from social, political and religious control. Our concepts of love, attraction and connection born from our own feelings, emotions, likes and dislikes. In this world, gender and sexuality would surely be irrelevant, right? Well, whatever your thoughts and opinions may be, Varsha Panikar and Saad Nawab’s BODIES OF DESIRE is a stunning poetic reflection of a world without barriers and bias. Their short Indian film merging words with flesh and music as they ask us all to consider a world of genderless intimacy.

We all know that love does not always last forever. Sometimes no matter how much we love another person, the bonds between us slowly fail, and tears replace laughter. These emotions and feelings find a distinct and fresh voice in Grace Porter’s WE TWO. Her stunning but short photographic essay of love and loss, exploring the change in our emotions as love and laughter turn to heartbreak and emptiness.


Escaping the Fragile Planet (2019)

Our ability to love, connect and find belonging has never been challenged in modern times as much as during the COVID 19 pandemic. Our houses becoming virtual prisons as we all do the right thing in protecting both ourselves and others. For many of us, this 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, despite being filmed before COVID, Thanasis Tsimpinis’ ESCAPING THE FRAGILE PLANET is brave, bold and beautiful. His vision of the world slowly dying under a thick pink mist haunting in construct.

However, where Tsimpinis’ film excels is in its discussion on love and human connection transcending events. And in a world where we are all locked down, ESCAPING THE FRAGILE PLANET reminds us all to never give up on finding love and connection no matter the horror of the world surrounding us.

COVID 19 has been particularly tough on young people, and even more so, young people who identify as LGBTQ+. Their safe spaces and social circles removed, with many sitting in homes where they can not connect with others and be true to themselves. This isolation breeds fear in the world that lies ahead and a desperate need to reconnect and build new trust and support relationships. Directed by Catarina de Sousa and Nick Tyson, TRACING UTOPIA allows space for young people to talk and reflect on the world they would like to build. Each young person’s thoughts and feelings on equality, diversity and inclusion surrounded by graphics and animation.


Trans Happiness is Real (2020)

Ideas range from LGBTQ+ history on the school timetable to creating new safe spaces in neighbourhoods. Each viewpoint and opinion valued and heard by the other teenagers remotely surrounding them. The online world briefly and powerfully opened up for teenagers eager to build something better —the result, a positive, creative and deeply moving exploration of teenage LGBTQ+ life, hopes and dreams.

This passion for change and belief in inclusion also finds a distinct voice in Quinton Baker’s short documentary TRANS HAPPINESS IS REAL, as we follow young trans activists in Oxford. Their mission to replace all the harmful and negative anti-trans stickers and comments posted around the University city. Their replacement, positive slogans and messages about trans life built on hope and inclusion rather than despair and isolation. Baker allows the sheer passion and activism of young people to shine through, giving us all hope, as young people actively take up the baton for trans equality.

Themes of isolation and identity take a darker turn in our final film, Omer Sterenberg’s LISTENING IN (HaMaazin). Here, a young Israeli intelligence officer finds himself tasked with spying on a Palestinian man’s phone calls. However, the young officer soon discovers that the Palestinian man is engaged in a secret affair with another man. His passionate phone conversations laced with desire, fear and apprehension. However, as the young officer continues to listen, his own desires bubble to the surface; desires kept locked away. LISTENING IN is a sharp, bold and urgent exploration of hidden desire, fear and the similarities that sit behind universal experiences of LGBTQ+ life. At the same time asking us to explore the interface between politics, privacy, freedom and oppression in both our internal and external worlds.


Listening In (HaMaazin) 2020

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