London Film Festival 2023: 7 under-the-radar LGBTQ+ films to put on your watchlist

7 must-watch LGBTQ+ films at this year's BFI London Film Festival.

London Film Festival arrives in the capital this October, showcasing a rich variety of LGBTQ+ cinema from powerful debuts to big-name releases.

2023 has already proved a massive year for LGBTQ+ movie releases. Amazon Prime’s gay romance adaptation Red, White & Royal Blue smashed the platform’s viewership records, while Emma Seligman’s lesbian fight club comedy Bottoms has picked up overwhelming positive reviews from critics since its US release in August.

Now, London Film Festival is set to drop more queer delights to get film and TV fans through the autumn.

This year’s jam-packed 12-day programme features 252 titles hailing from 92 countries, in 79 languages, and showcases the best and the brightest from the world of LGBTQ+ filmmaking.

Emerald Fennell (Barbie, The Crown) delivers the highly-anticipated premiere of Saltburn, a dark erotic drama starring Barry Keoghan (The Banshees of Inisherin) and Jacob Elordi (Euphoria).

Paul Mescal (L) and Andrew Scott (R) in All of Us Strangers.
Paul Mescal (L) and Andrew Scott (R) in All of Us Strangers. (Searchlight Picture/Chris Harris/20th Century Studios)

Meanwhile, gay filmmaker Andrew Haigh debuts his tender, soul-wrenching adaptation of Taichi Yamada’s 1987 Strangers – retitled All of Us Strangers. It follows a fantasy romance story between screenwriter Adam (Andrew Scott) and neighbour Harry (Paul Mescal), as Adam confronts the ghosts of his parents after returning to his childhood home.

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Elsewhere, London catches its first glimpse of Thomasin Mckenzie and Anne Hathaway in psychological thriller Eileen, which tracks the sinister relationship between prison worker Eileen (McKenzie) and newly-hired counsellor Rebecca (Hathaway).

Among the major releases, some of which are already garnering Oscars buzz, the festival will also showcase several hidden LGBTQ+ cinematic gems. So, if you’re keen to uncover the intimate, breathtaking and under-the-radar queer movies BFI London Film Festival has to offer, look no further.

Housekeeping for Beginners

A still from Housekeeping for Beginners
A still from Housekeeping for Beginners. (Focus Features)

From acclaimed filmmaker Goran Stolevski, Housekeeping for Beginners follows a queer Macedonian family trying to find their place in society as tragedy strikes.

When reluctant mother Dita is forced to raise her girlfriend’s daughters, they must learn to navigate each other’s identities and fight for each other’s love. The film stars Anamaria Marinca, Alina Serban and Samson Selim.

You can find more information here.

20,000 species of Bees

When eight-year-old Cocó spends the summer with her great aunt and her magnificent hive of bees, both begin to question who they are and who they want to be. This Spanish coming-of-age feature explores gender identity and stands as a “beautifully understated paean to the inquisitiveness of youth”.

It is directed by Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren and stars Sofía Otero, Patricia López Arnaiz and Ane Gabarain.

You can find more information here.

The Lost Boys

A still from The Lost Boys.
A still from The Lost Boys. (Peccadillo PIctures)

Belgian film director Zeno Graton’s gorgeous feature debut, starring Khalil Gharbia, Julien de Saint Jean, Eye Haïdara, offers a sensual look at young gay love and the harmful consequences of incarceration. When sparks fly between juvenile detention residents Joe and William, Joe must confront whether he values his love or his freedom more.

You can find more information here.

Power Alley

Power Alley provides a powerful exploration of female reproductive rights in Brazil, following star volleyball player Sofia as she seeks an abortion and is met with vitriol from local fundamentalist groups.

Bolstered by the support of her genderfluid volley team, director Lillah Halla shines a much-needed spotlight on the power of “queer sisterhood”.

You can find more information here.

Asog

A still from Asog
A still from Asog. (Beb Bingo Entertainment)

Fillipino offering Asog follows 40-year-old non-binary former comedian turned typhoon survivor Jaya as they embark on a life-changing road trip to win the Ms Gay beauty pageant.

Directed by Seán Devlin, this “marvel of trans cinema”, gives an incisive look into the state of colonialism, transphobia and climate change in modern-day Philippines. And, most importantly, the beauty of friendship.

You can find more information here.

Slow

Sundance winner Slow delves into the world of asexuality in an “intimate and honest” way. When sign-language interpreter Dovydas comes out as asexual to his lover, dancer Elena, they must learn to explore their relationship with romance and sex from an entirely new angle.

From Lithuanian director Marija Kavtaradze, Slow stars Greta Grinevičiūtė and Kęstutis Cicėnas.

You can find more information here.

The Queen of My Dreams

A still from The Queen of My Dreams
A still from The Queen of My Dreams. (LevelK)

Acclaimed filmmaker Fawzia Mirza brings her generational, semi-biographical drama The Queen of My Dreams to London Film Festival.

When Bollywood-obsessed queer adult Azra (Amrit Kaur) is forced to return to Pakistan with her mother following her father’s death, she is drawn into conflict over their converging beliefs. However, the two may be more alike in spirit than they thought, as we are invited to glimpse Azra’s mother’s own rebellious past.

You can find more information here.

BFI London Film Festival runs from 4 October to 15 October, 2023. The full programme can be found here.

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