BFI Flare 2019: Socrates

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BFI FLARE
L o n d o n  L G B T Q +  F i l m  F e s t i v a l  2 0 1 9

"After his mother’s sudden death, 15-year-old Socrates must learn how to fend for himself in São Paulo. Unable to collect her ashes without the consent of a legal guardian and with no income to cover the rent for his run-down apartment, Socrates sees no way out. Landing a small construction job, he meets a troubled young man with whom he forms an unlikely connection. But as financial pressures mount, so do Socrates’ burgeoning feelings, leading him to confront the harsh reality of his situation." BFI Flare

Before you watch Socrates, stock up with tissues. This trip to São Paulo is going to be traumatic.

Socrates is a product of the Querô Institute in Brazil, a UNICEF-supported non-profit that provides social inclusion to teenagers from low-income communities through film-making. Incredibly, the film was co-written, produced and acted by these kids. Watching this accomplished production, you'd never know.


It's this input that gives Socrates its rawness. It's hard to watch Socrates, compellingly played by Christian Malheiros, suffer first bereavement, then heartbreak, isolation and poverty. At his lowest ebb, Socrates cries. He sobs uncontrollably, in deeply troubling, visceral scenes of real trauma. Socrates forces us to watch, from the safety of our comfortable cinema seats, the horrifying choices this gay child is forced to make - and question our own complicity.


A real triumph for its young cast and crew, Socrates will stay with you for a long time afterwards - as it ought to.


BFI Flare 2019: Consequences

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BFI FLARE
L o n d o n  L G B T Q +  F i l m  F e s t i v a l  2 0 1 9

"17-year-old delinquent Andrej has a serious chip on his shoulder. When his antisocial behaviour lands him in a youth correctional facility, he quickly falls in with a bad crowd, led by volatile and unpredictable Željko. As the two inmates form a tentative friendship, Andrej senses a strong physical attraction blossoming. But are Željko’s feelings real, or is he just using Andrej as a pawn in a far more dangerous game? Driven by a commanding performance from rising star Matej Zemljič, who imbues the conflicted Andrej with a palpable sense of silent longing, Darko Štante’s bracingly homoerotic drama resists the familiar traits we might expect from a queer teen narrative, in favour of something more distinctive and seductive." BFI Flare

Consequences is the first gay-themed film to emerge from Slovenia, a country best known for inflicting Melania Trump on the world. It's also the first feature from director Darko Štante.


Many of gay cinema's most recognisable ingredients are in play here: the errant youth (Andrej, played by Matej Zemljic); the mother from hell; the brutal yet homoertoic institution; some violent, antagonistic yobs... Instead of merely using these tropes to tell a familiar story, but set in Slovenia, Darko cleverly subverts expectations, elevating Consequences from being a solid feature, to a genuinely surprising one.



There's a couple of really shocking, didn't-see-it-coming moments, that will go into my own list of gay cinema's sexiest moments, but where Consequences really succeeds is in its examination of toxic masculinity and the complex dynamics between Andrej and the manipulative Željko.

Challenging, startling and uncompromising, Consequences is a winner.


BFI Flare 2019: Labyrinths of Desire

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BFI FLARE
L o n d o n  L G B T Q +  F i l m  F e s t i v a l  2 0 1 9

"Films about finding a connection, whether in the street, a bath-house, nightclub or on an app." BFI Flare

Festival veteran Brian Robinson curates shorts program Labyrinths of Desire. So what's a hit, and what's a miss?


Darío (director: Manuel Kinzer) is first up. The titular Darío, a dreamy 17-year-old lives in Barranquilla, Colombia, with his harridan of a mother. He's living for his carnival dance group, so much so that the attentions of an even dreamier admirer go unheeded. Kinzer's film is an absolute joy, and you'll be sure to fall in love with Darío. I did.


We're off to Taiwan next for Gentleman Spa (director: Yu Jhi Han).


Hao has self esteem issues. He also works in a gay bath house with sexy massuers. "Not many films feature fat people the protagonist," Yu Jhi Han says, "and even fewer gay films do. I'd like to make a film about ordinary people, like you and I, experiencing the pangs and trepidations of love."

Hao-Zhe Lai's character (also named Hao) is a lovable loser, and the focus on body positivity is timely.


My Loneliness Is Killing Me (director: Tim Courtney) is the highlight of this collection. "[It's] a film that will relate to anyone who shares the fear of living or dying without human connection and intimacy," Courtney says. Luke Elliott is fabulous as Elliott,  a sort of English Noah grappling with effeminophobia. There's a satisfying sting in its tale, too: wait for the end.


Enter (directors: Manuel Billi and Benjamin Bodi) probably ensured a sell-out house with its trailer, which hints at a mass of naked, writhing bodies.


Despite abundant sex, it manages to be moribund and a trial of patience. If you enjoy protracted conversations with someone who's smashed out of their head on drugs, yet believes they're being deeply profound, this is for you.


Foreign Lovers (director: Timothy Ryan Hickernell) wraps things up (and compensates for Enter's pretensions).


Foreign Lovers interrogates the notion of love at first sight. "I was coming off a career enhancing experience and then was suddenly unemployed, un-inspired, and spending most of my time in solitude," Hickernell says. "I was seeking affection from strangers on apps. The winter blues. When no one could see this dance show I had been dying to see I took myself out. A beautiful Italian dancer captured my attention during the performance. Serendipitously our paths crossed at a bar down the street just as I was leaving. A two day love affair ensued. Then and there I had been awoken. I knew I found my story."

Gloriously romantic, you'll swoon.


BFI Flare 2019: Last Ferry

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BFI FLARE
L o n d o n  L G B T Q +  F i l m  F e s t i v a l  2 0 1 9

"For Joseph, a young lawyer from Manhattan, his first excursion to Fire Island is far from what he had in mind. Looking for a good time, he finds the infamous island on its off-season, with nary a hot guy in sight. Things start to look up when he meets a handsome stranger, but Joseph’s luck goes from bad to worse when his furtive lover drugs and robs him. Drifting into unconsciousness, Joseph suddenly witnesses a murder. Waking to find himself in the care of a seemingly charitable local named Cameron, Joseph seems safe from harm. But as he should know by now, nothing is quite what it seems. Like Stranger by the Lake transposed to the luxurious locales of the fabled gay resort, this deliciously playful mystery will keep you guessing until the very end.." BFI Flare

There aren't really many gay thrillers out there: recently, M/M and Stranger By The Lake set pulses racing, whilst further back, Transfixed, American Translation, Our Paradise, and Eastern Boys were all effective nail biters.


Director Jaki Bradley's Last Ferry doesn't quite live up to its dark and disturbing precursor, Stranger By The Lake (writer and lead actor Ramon Torres specified the French thriller as a key inspiration in the post-screening Q&A), but it has a pretty good stab at it.

There's much to like about Last Ferry, including a fantastic soundtrack, and an excellent cast. Torres is perfect as lonely, insecure Joseph, and Sheldon Best excels as his gorgeous love interest, Cameron (and Best is very, very gorgeous). But props must go to Larry Owens for stealing every scene as that gay friend.


Things fall apart a little in the last act, which doesn't quite pay off the build-up, but the ride is so enjoyable that it doesn't really matter. You won't be inclined to holiday on Fire Island after this, but you'll probably be tempted back for another look at the Last Ferry, if only to gawp at Myles Clohessy's incredible ass.


BFI Flare 2019: José

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BFI FLARE
L o n d o n  L G B T Q +  F i l m  F e s t i v a l  2 0 1 9

"José is 19, lives in Guatemala with his mother and is employed to hustle customers at a roadside cafe. The grim realities of inner city life – the struggle to keep body and soul together, along with the perils of petty crime – might drag a lesser man down. But not optimistic and sexually promiscuous José. Then he meets Luis, a construction worker from out of town. The bond they immediately feel suggests to José that, finally, he might have met the one. Winner of the Queer Lion at the Venice Film Festival, this passionate and emotionally engaging story is an affecting tale of desire, but also of rebelling against societal conventions, macho attitudes and the strictures of religion. It’s also a rare portrait of gay life in contemporary Guatemala." BFI Flare

Over the past few years, some of the best features at BFI Flare have been from Latin America - Brazil's Hard Paint (BFI Flare 2018), Argentina's Marilyn (BFI Flare 2018), Brazil's Body Electric (BFI Flare 2017), Chile's Jesús (BFI Flare 2017), and going back to 2016, Venezuela's From Afar.

Add Guatemala's José to that list of winners.


Director Li Cheng interviewed gay and marginalised youth from across Latin America before deciding to set his film in Guatemala, where he felt the need for this story was most urgent. For those of us fortunate enough to live in relatively safe metropolises like London and San Francisco, the plight of gay men - particularly young gay men - in countries like Guatemala is almost unimaginable. Films like José bridge this gap.


Enrique Salanic, not a professional thesp, is a revelation as the titular José, his performance subdued, naturalistic. We stay with him, through the highs and lows, often in tight tracking shots, and at other times, spying our protagonist from afar, a lonely figure in the urban hellscape.


The film closes with an affecting scene at some Mayan ruins (Salanic himself is of Mayan descent), that will guarantee José a place in your heart.


BFI Flare 2019: Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life

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BFI FLARE
L o n d o n  L G B T Q +  F i l m  F e s t i v a l  2 0 1 9

"When a fresh-faced Jonathan Agassi hit the international gay porn scene in the late 2000s, he blew everyone else out of the water. Nothing short of a sensation, Agassi experienced a meteoric rise to fame, quickly becoming one of the most popular and prolific adult superstars in the business. Dividing his time between Berlin and Tel Aviv, Agassi supports his film career with live porn shows and escort work, making claims to have the best job in the world. But Agassi the performer and Agassi the person are two very different entities, and his euphoric professional highs are frequently countered by crushing personal lows. Bolstered by the unconditional support of his mother Anna, Agassi questions the nature of his fame and interrogates his self-destructive tendencies as he searches for a sense of happiness that continues to elude him. In his latest documentary, acclaimed filmmaker Tomer Heymann paints a fascinating portrait of a young man wrestling with loneliness, addiction and childhood traumas, and offers a probing, but never damning, insight into an industry that seems to promise so much." BFI Flare

The gay porn industry is not kind to its models. Even if you don't know about Joey Stefano, Erik Rhodes or Colin Black, or follow the gay porn gossip blogs, you already know this.

So we know, even before watching the trailer, that Jonathan Agassi's story won't be a happy one, and that the industry that has buoyed him, might also be his undoing, as it has been for so many others.

Or, is the opposite true, as the title of Tomer Heymann's film - Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life - suggests? Heymann leaves space for the audience to make up its own mind, but it's hard not to draw the conclusion that being a gay porn star is as demanding as it probably is corrosive.


Eight years in the making, the film covers the highs and lows in Agassi's life, both professional and personal. His mother is a hero, his father a devil. Russian pornographer Michael Lucas lives up to his sleazy reputation. And what of us, the audience? Is Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life further exploitation? Agassi has already given us his body; now, we get to pick over the bones of what's left.


Titillating, thought-provoking, and well-intentioned - but will it help its subject's well-being? Who knows. Maybe it'll save his life.


Then I grew up, and the beauty of succulent illusions fell away from me

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"I know myself," he cried, "but that is all"

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I learned a little of beauty - enough to know that it had nothing to do with truth

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There’s a loneliness that only exists in one’s mind. The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is blink



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It is invariably saddening to look through new eyes at things upon which you have expended your own powers of adjustment

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Steve Grand

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"The song and video were both inspired by a difficult time in my life where I was really struggling with a lot," Steve Grand says of his new video, Disciple. "It felt like an all-out war inside of me." Get it.

So I walked away and left him standing there in the moonlight - watching over nothing

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Kiddy Smile

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New music from French artist Kiddy Smile. Get it.

Bronze Avery

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Orlando-born Bronze Avery describes his latest single, Want 2, as “bedroom sheets meets the dance floor”. Get it.

Somewhere inside me there’ll always be the person I am tonight

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So I walked away and left him standing there in the moonlight - watching over nothing

MASS IN
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What people are ashamed of usually makes a good story

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Everywhere we go and move on and change, something's lost - something's left behind. You can't ever quite repeat anything

MASS IN
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Pelicandy

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Silent Treatment could be a song about a failure to communicate in a relationship, dismissing others over political differences, or soundproofing your home," London trio Pelicandy say about their new single. "But it’s really a song about listening." Get it.


Well, you never knew exactly how much space you occupied in people's lives

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King Gvpsv

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New music from King Gvpsv - aka actor Mehcad Brooks.

Those days are over. I have to be won all over again every time you see me

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Nakhane

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"Love does not make me clairvoyant
All I know is how to be your servant..."


"Clairvoyant is a sober love song," says Nakhane "When it comes to love songs, you either have ‘Oh, I love you and I can’t live without you’ or ‘Go fuck yourself, you left me, you cheated on me.’ No one talks about the mundane idea of a relationship or love, how it feels to love somebody very much but that week you’re not sexually attracted to them, how you can love someone very, very much but he’s driving you nuts for the day and you literally want to kill him and you look at him and think, ‘Oh, it’s the best thing in my life right now.’ Those little feelings that no one talks about."


Someday I'm going to find somebody and love him and love him and never let him go

MASS IN
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Alen Chicco

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New music from Lithuania's Alen Chicco. Get it.


You're a slave, a bound helpless slave to one thing in this world, your imagination

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N.E.F.O.R.M.A.T.

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Brave out, gay Russian duo N.E.F.O.R.M.A.T. have outraged their homeland with the video for Aliens Destiny. Get it.


In crowded rooms they would form words with their lips for each other's eyes

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D. Prime

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GAY and HAPPY-NESS, a film from Michael Isip. The music is from D. Prime's album GAY. Get it.


I don't care about truth. I want some happiness

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Sunni Colón

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Lose yourself in Sunni Colón's woozy Psicodelic. Get it.


So we'll just let things take their course, and never be sorry

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Tom Goss

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Have a large box of tissues on hand for the latest from Tom Goss. Here's the video for the quietly devastating Still I Want You. Get it.


In any case you mustn't confuse a single failure with a final defeat

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