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[Review] – Altered States – BFI Flare 2018 Shorts Programme

 

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Posted April 8, 2018 by

 
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This March, the BFI hosted the 32nd Flare LGBTQ+ Film Festival, showcasing an impressive variety of queer cinema. The Altered States shorts programme comprised a range of works from British talent, and included narrative shorts, documentaries, and a couple of pieces which defied genre. Here is my roundup of a hugely enjoyable afternoon of film.

Burn Bridge

Directed by Rhys Jones

An aching story of a teenage boy’s crush on his straight best friend. When Jamie gets a new girlfriend, Harry must feign interest in double dating while trying to keep his true feelings under wraps. This little film is unflinching in its portrayal of the raw physicality of being a young adult on the cusp of sexual awakening, and the desperate need for new experiences. You can almost feel Harry’s racing pulse and smell the damp earth caking his hands and school uniform.

Outlines

Directed by Ellie Rogers

A teenage girl forges an unexpected connection with an older woman after she comes home to find her father has hired an escort. I must admit, I think this film could have been just as effective without the sex work aspect (the older woman could have been a regular hook-up), but it was refreshing to see a relationship which wasn’t based on sexual attraction. The teen’s queerness here was incidental, and the fragile bond at the centre of the story was very touching, as was the prevailing air of grief.

Des!re

Directed by Campbell X

A frank, stylish, and playful examination of the allure of trans and female masculinity, Campbell X uses a strong monochromatic aesthetic and jazz soundtrack to bring testimonials from the women who love butch women and trans men to life. Experimental, honest, and highly entertaining, Des!re shines a spotlight on the complexity and spectrum of attraction.

Missed Conceptions

Directed by Ruby Parker-Harbord

By turns funny, heart-breaking, and uplifting, this tale – based on that of the director’s own parents – concerns the struggle faced by a lesbian couple to have a child in the mid-nineties. When a male friend refuses to be a surrogate father, the women must advertise for a willing sperm donor, only to run into fertility issues when they finally find someone suitable. This simple story of love, sacrifice, and family was made all the more poignant by the presence of the filmmaker’s mothers in the audience.

Edmund the Magnificent

Directed by Ben Ockrent

Benefitting from a strong cast including Ian McKellen, David Bradley, and Rebecca Front, this adorable film tells the story of a down on his luck farmer and a very special little pig. Edmund is bought to be a breeding boar, but when he refuses to mate with the female of his species, the farmer is forced to examine his own beliefs and desires. By turns laugh out loud funny and very dark, this glossy little fairy tale tackles some of life’s big questions in a very short run time.

The Sermon

Directed by Dean Puckett

This haunting folk nightmare is reminiscent of Robert Eggers’ The Witch, but with a same-sex, intergenerational relationship at its heart. In an isolated rural community where puritanical values have taken hold, the villagers route out and punish an older woman for seducing a much younger girl. With an aesthetic which owes much to British horror films of the sixties and seventies, such as The Wickerman, The Sermon is concerned with the very current problem of violence and persecution sanctioned by those in power. Chilling stuff indeed.

These Are My Hands

Directed by Evi Tsiligaridou

A dreamlike meditation on the changing physicality of trans woman Jo Clifford, set to her own poem and told in her own voice, These Are My Hands is hypnotic and touching. Exploring feelings of alienation, isolation, dysphoria, and self-confidence, Jo’s observations about finally feeling comfortable in her own skin despite the effects of aging and decay are universally relatable.

Landline

Directed by Matt Houghton

This documentary about Britain’s only helpline for gay farmers seems especially relevant in a year when God’s Own Country has been critically acclaimed and well received by audiences hailing it the British answer to Brokeback Mountain. Told via re-enactments set to real calls, Landlines explores the sense of isolation and shame prevalent amongst LGBTQ+ members of the farming community, where traditional, heteronormative notions of family and masculinity are still prized. Candid and ultimately hopeful, this film illustrates that however alone we might feel, there is always someone willing to share in our experiences.

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Katie Young
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