BFI Flare 2019: the LGBTQ film-fest is back

Our top choices from 50 films and 80 shorts, as well as club nights and queer quizzes at the Southbank

It was pretty darn good last year, the buzz in the Southbank tangible on opening night.

So this year’s 33rd – yes, really! – edition of BFI Flare, one of the world’s long-standing LGBTQ+ film festies, comes with the thwack of expectation.

But thankfully a glance at the programme doesn’t disappoint: over 50 features, more than 80 shorts and a range of one-offs, big names and proper club nights.

The festival opens with Chanya Button’s rather stately period drama Vita and Virginia, charting the passionate relationship between Virginia Woolf (Elizabeth Debicki) and enigmatic aristo Vita Sackville-West (Gemma Arterton).

Fast forward to the Closing Night Gala and you’ll catch the European premiere of Justin Kelly’s JT Leroy. As for in between? Highlights Mapplethorpe, which stars Matt Smith as the iconic photographer, and Tomer Heymann’s Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life, an enlightening, absorbing doc about the eponymous porn star.

Elsewhere there’s Tell It To The Bees, adapted from Fiona Shaw’s novel, starring Anna Paquin and Holliday Grainger as two women who fall in love in 1950s Scotland, while the classic high school coming-out story gets a smart revamp in Giant Little Ones, featuring Kyle MacLachlan.

And brainiacs shouldn’t miss the Big Gay Film Quiz, inviting you to put your queer knowledge to the test; while sybaritic night owls may prefer the Flare Club Nights (Fri 22nd, Sat 23rd, Fri 29th, Sat 30th and Sun 31st) at BFI Southbank’s Bar & Kitchen. DJs include The Batty Mama, Club Kali, Tony Dunne and Unskinny Bop.

BFI Flare, 21st-31st March, Southbank Centre SE1. Tickets:

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