6 essential LGBT+ films to see at BFI Flare festival, from gay rugby romance to trans coming-of-age

A still image from the 1997 film Dakan.

BFI Flare is back for another year, and it’s set to bring incredible queer films to the masses once more.

Over the last few years, BFI Flare, London’s LGBT+ film festival, has cemented its position as one of the foremost events in the calendar for queer cinema. Now in its seventh year, the festival is continuing to go from strength to strength.

BFI Flare opens on 16 March this year with the UK premiere of Alli Haapasalo’s coming-of-age drama Girl Picture. It wraps up with the world premiere of Kevin Hegge’s feature documentary TRAMPS! on 26 March. This year’s festival will take place in person after it was went ahead in a virtual capacity last year due to COVID-19.

Ahead of BFI Flare, we take a look at six of the most exciting films due to be screened at this year’s BFI Flare festival.

1. In from the Side

A still from In from the Side.

A still from In from the Side. (BFI Flare)

Matt Carter’s In from the Side is the gay rugby film we’ve all been waiting for. The film tells the story of an injured A-team player who’s selected to play with the Bs as part of his recovery.

This tense film tells the story of an affair between two rugby-playing men, played by Alexander Lincoln and Alexander King, and it’s sure to be a hit when it debuts at BFI Flare.

2. This Is Not Me

This Is Not Me looks set to be one of the most important documentaries to debut at BFI Flare.

The film, directed by Saeed Gholipour, follows two young men – Shervin and Samar – as they navigate the Iranian courts so they can start transitioning. The film explores what it’s like to be trans in a society that neither accepts nor welcomes gender diversity.

3. Gateways Grind

Any documentary fronted by Sandi Toksvig is an immediate win for us, but Gateways Grind has plenty more to offer besides its famous host.

This fascinating documentary from Jacquie Lawrence explores the history of Gateways, London’s longest surviving lesbian club. Gateways Grind takes viewers through the club’s fascinating history, starting with its original owner, who famously won it in a poker game.

4. Framing Agnes

One of the breakout hits from last year’s BFI Flare festival was No Ordinary Man, a powerful documentary that explored the life of trans jazz icon Billy Tipton.

Director Chase Joynt is back this year with Framing Agnes, a powerful film that re-enacts forgotten trans history. The project is co-written with Morgan M Page and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to critical acclaim.

The film reimagines the lives of nine trans people, with Zackary Drucker, Angelica Ross and Silas Howard starring.

5. Dakan

BFI Flare doesn’t just present new films – it also gives queer audiences a chance to reappraise features from yesteryear. Dakan (1997) made history as west Africa’s first film about homosexuality – it was defunded by the Guinean government, and protests erupted during its production.

Dakan tells the story of the love between Manga and Sory. Manga faces pressure from his middle-class father to stop seeing Sory, who comes from a working-class background. Both men try to move on, but they struggle to move past their first love.

6. Charli XCX: Alone Together

Charli XCX has always had an enormous queer following, which is what makes this DIY documentary such a heartwarming and fascinating project.

Charli XCX: Alone Together follows the pop star as she tries to make an album in 40 days during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Needless to say, that’s not an easy task, and this documentary sees her enlist the help of her queer fans to bring the project to fruition.

Read more about the full programme at BFI Flare here.