London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival

The program for the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival has been announced - and what a program it is too.

Perhaps most exciting is Rag Tag (left), which looks at the lifelong friendship between Raymond and Tagbo. "As twelve year olds they enjoyed an intimacy that many adults would find threatening. As young men, despite the disapproval of Tag's religiously driven father, racism, the distractions of troubled heterosexual relationships and shady dealings in Nigeria, Rag and Tag are forced to face the inevitable. Their love is full of promise and truth but neither of them is sure how to embrace it." It's set in London and Lagos, and features the First Black Gay Kiss in British cinema in a very, very long time.

Blueprint (right) is equally promising. An African-American feature, it "depicts an ambling day in New York as Keith prepares to leave. Suddenly, and without obvious explanation, Nathan appears and sticks to him like toffee. As the day unfolds a strong bond forms between them, demonstrating the fragility of youth and the first flushes of love." Screening with Blueprint is Testify (below left), about a gay African-American father and his son.

Black Beulahs (below right) looks at three black gay men in South Africa. "This is a glimpse of South Africa that few see and certainly sheds light on one of the most vibrant Black nations on earth."

From Mexico comes Broken Sky (below left). "University students Jonás and Gerardo are involved in a rapturous love affair, barely able to keep their hands off each other. However, after an encounter with a boy at the disco, Jonás suddenly pulls away from the relationship. The devastated Gerardo clings to his lover, but reluctantly becomes erotically entangled with aggressive Sergio who has watched him from afar. Will Sergio's passion make him forget Jonás? Lyrical and undeniably sexy, Broken Sky is a masterful exercise in visual storytelling that refigures the language of queer cinema."

The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros (left) is from the Phillipines: "Set in a poor district of Manila, the lead character Maximo is a self-confident 12-year-old boy with a penchant for dressing up and a clear sense of his own gay identity. He sashays around the neighbourhood with no problems, helping his widowed father and two brothers run the household. However, when Maximo falls in love with a young policeman, the scene is set for a dramatic conflict of loyalties."

Royston Tan - who gave us the stunning 15 in 2004, about the "speed-fuelled exploration of sexual adolescence" - returns with 4:30 (right). "Left alone in his apartment by his travelling mother Xiao Wu spends his time, when not at school, warmed by the meagre comfort of pots of noodles. When a male tenant moves into the block, nursing heartache, Xiao Wu tries every which way possible, physical and metaphorical, to connect with him."

Happy Hookers is from India, and tells the story of three male prostitutes in Mumbai. This is an unmissable insight into a world that few outside of India have had access to.

My favourite director, the disturbingly talented Tsai Ming-Liang, is back with I Don't Want To Sleep Alone (left), set in his own Malayasia. In it, a homeless Chineseman is beaten up and left for dead; he's taken in by a Bangladeshi illegal immigrant, who nurses him back to health. "As he recovers, Hsiao Kang meets the lustful waitress Chyi who cares for her boss's paralysed son (also played by Lee). Is one existence the dream of another? As the city is engulfed in a mysterious toxic haze, Hsiao-kang drifts between Rawang and Chyi aimlessly searching for affection. While other Tsai films are more preoccupied with the harsh, animalistic nature of desire, this subtle and absurd film muses on the universal need for place and companionship in a disorienting world."

Other fascinating slices of gay cinema include The Last Of The Crazy People from France watches his gay older brother slipping into madness, a state his mother - the madwoman in the attic - has already succumbed to. From Korea is No Regret (right) - about an orphan forced into male prostitution "in an upmarket boy-brothel" when he loses his job at a factory; he is faced with the obsession of the son of the factory owner's boss.

The second series of Noah's Arc - for those of you who haven't seen it - is also screening, and the second episode of The DL Chronicles (below left).

There's far too many films to list here, and the above is just a selection of what I consider to be the most interesting features. This year's films are from all corners of the world - Brazil, Spain, Nigeria, Korea, Canada, Sweden... Australia (if you can bare the accent) - and there's plenty of stuff about white queens in both American and Britain, if that's your thing.

Visit the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival site for a full listing, including dates and times. The Festival starts on 21st March.

Note: material in italics has been lifted directly from the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival site.


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