21st London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival
The British Film Institute's annual London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival celebrates its 21st year and will more than ever, seek to celebrate the diversity of modern gay filmmaking. FilmExposed’s Alex Perryman schmoozed at last week's launch party and suggests his must sees…
As the third largest film festival in Britain, the LLGFF has a distinguished history. Its unofficial beginnings in the BFI's short 'survey' of gay filmmaking in 1977 was organised by Warwick academic Richard Dyer. The concept of 'gay' themed cinema was still just as shocking to many when the inaugural festival programme took place in 1986 under the deliberately ambiguous title Gays' Own Films.
Taking place between 21st March - 4th April, 2007 marks its 21st birthday and as always, treads new ground featuring a mix of modern and classic films including documentaries, comedy, political pieces, world cinema and one or two mildly pornographic art-house shorts. This year's 'Femme' strand may be an attempt to compensate for the festival's historical leaning towards the masculine, both in men and women. On the other hand, it could just be a bit of fun. It also lends itself to an eclectic blend of films representing what you might call both 'high' and 'low' art. Indeed, politics often jostle with pornography and it seems appropriate that one of the two centrepiece films, is Adaora Nwandu's debut film Rag Tag. Set in Lagos, it follows the relationship between two black childhood friends turned lovers and seeks to explore what it means to be black, British and gay, and examines the divide between Nigerian and West Indian identities. Boasting 'the first British Black Gay screen kiss since Isaac Julien's Passion of Remembrance', it is worth a look especially given the general dearth of Black representation in gay cinema. There’s also a supporting panel event Is It Because I'm Black... and Gay? where you can take part in a discussion on the issues raised. The second centrepiece film is from critically acclaimed Filipino director Auraeus Solito. Tuli is an atmospheric, beautifully shot coming-of-age story set in the lush forests of the Phillippines, and is without doubt one of the highlights of this year's LLGFF. Solito's debut, The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros, screened to rave reviews at 40 international festivals and won 14 awards.
Another film to catch is Lisa Gornick’s Tick Tock Lullaby, a light-hearted look at Lesbian motherhood which treats its subject with humour, wit and poignancy. Gornick also stars alongwith much of the cast of her 2003 debut feature Do I Love You? Political offerings include No Magic Bullet which uses bold graphics and pop-graphics to ask why, when gay men are less concerned than ever over the issue of HIV infection, the rate of transmission is increasing. This piece is executed with an admirable single-mindedness that reminds us how important, and neglected, this issue is.
And where would we be without the bigger, more commercially successful Hollywood fare. This year has been a very good year for 'mainstream' gay cinema; from the excellent feelgood rom-com SHORTBUS, a film remarkable for the inclusion of butter-wouldn't-melt Canadian daytime TV presenter Sook-Yin Lee in some very hardcore sex scenes; INFAMOUS, the more plot-driven exploration of Truman Capote's writing which features an unmissable supporting performance by Daniel Craig; the award-winning ECHO PARK L.A. about Mexican-American life in LA which centres on Madgalena who is kicked out on her fifteenth birthday when she discovers she is pregnant, and the lewd but fun gay college comedy, Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds.
World Cinema picks include the Filipino film Pink Butterflies which follows two lovers' discussions on how to fit a gay life around their supposedly 'straight' lives. The film may be a bit rough around the edges, but given this country’s harsh censorship laws, it’s brave in its attempt to tackle the issues. Also notable is Shabnam Mousi (pictured), a showy embellishment of the life of an Indian hijra ('third sex') political candidate. Patrons of the Bollywood scene may be delighted to see a song-and-dance piece from India finally tackling gay issues, and in this sense Shabnam Mousi, now two years old, was a breakthrough.
A major highlight will be the unveiling of the BFI's new venue, the Mediatheque. As part of its remit to preserve, restore and stockpile cinema for future generations, this is a bold new move on the BFI's part to make cinematic material readily accessible to the public, all at the touch of a touch screen button. The LLGFF truly has come of age.
For full programme information and to book tix visit: www.llgff.org.uk