BFI Flare 2017: Brief Encounters + Jewel's Catch One

B F I  F L A R E
L o n d o n  L G B T  F i l m  F e s t i v a l  2 0 1 7

It's March and that can only mean one thing: Flare, the official London LGBT film festival. I'll be looking in on eleven screenings this year, and reporting back here at KAOS (you can find reviews of previous years here).

First up, we have Brief Encounters, "four films about getting what you want, or what you think you want."

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it is (to coin a phrase) a hideously white series of shorts. It's hard to fathom why the BFI would (yet again) think it's okay to present a series of shorts on the LGBT experience in which all of the films are about white gay men.

3 Friends
This isn't a criticism of the individual films, which are (largely) excellent. 1992 (director Anthony: Doncque), about a bold high school teen living with his single father, takes us down that well-trodden path of setting the film in the recent past. It's unclear why so many filmmakers choose to do this; aside from adding a frisson of nostalgia, it adds nothing, and we end up playing "anachronism eye spy". But that's a niggle; it doesn't take away from the film, which has a refreshing take on the arty gay son/working-class father trope. 1992 is well worth visiting.

3 Friends (director: Michael Moody Culpepper) is based on a short story by Colm Tóibín. It might be helpful to read it first, since what ends up on screen is as nebulous as the Cork scenery is beautiful. This felt more like a trailer than a piece of its own. It's also unclear how 3 Friends fits into the Brief Encounter theme.

Herculanum (director: Arthur Cahn) is set in a gorgeous Paris apartment. It's therefore no surprise that it's also agonisingly romantic. It's gorgeous. There's a volcano. I loved it.

Mørke Rum
Mørke Rum (Eng: Perpetual) is the jewel in the crown of this series. It should be mandatory viewing for every baby gay. Or maybe not; because whilst Perpetual is brutally instructive, its last shot is devastating. (On a purely superficial level, lead Nicolas Wollesen is an absolute stunner.) Watch it here. Read an interview with director Peter Ahlén here.

Back in 2015, I saw Kate Kunath's heartbreaking documentary We Came To Sweat, about Brooklyn's pre-Stonewall, black-owned gay bar the Starlite Lounge, which was facing closure (spoiler: it closed) after fifty years. Jewel's Catch One is in a similar vein, with director C. Fitz racing against the clock to preserve history. And what history.

Jewel's Catch One
If you don't know about Jewel - or Catch One - it's a fascinating story that touches on racism, sexism, homophobia, the AIDS crisis, substance abuse, celebrity and gentrification.

The key difference with Sweat (apart from tone - whereas as that was a story about a losing battle, this is a joyful celebration) is the focus on Jewel herself. Jewel is Catch One, and this film is about her as much as it is her legendary club.

Jewel was actually present at the screening (with Snap! vocalist Thea Austin, who serenaded the great lady), and her very presence permeated the room with a sense joy and goodness. She's an inspiration, and a beacon of hope. She's something to believe in.

Every year, KAOS reports from the annual BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival. This year, I'll be reviewing eleven films (including a few programmes of shorts). Next time: A Romp Through Classic Camp, plus Transcendent Tales..


Jewel Catch One doc said...

Amazing article!!! So enjoyed your writing & can't wait to share with @JewelThais @CFitz_ 🎥@theaaustin and the team.@WallmanPR

C. Fitz said...

Big TY 4 the great writing in this review! Me + team appreciate the recognition. An honor 2 screen @jewelscatch1doc @ @BFIFlare

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