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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 30.Mar.20

34th BFI Flare shorts...
London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival • held virtually, 18-29.Mar.20

Reviews by Rich Cline | Page 1 of 3

Aliou's Journey dir-scr Mamadou Samba Diallo
with Sadibou Diagne, Bina Diarra Diop, Lamine Fofana, Bass Laye, Cheikh Diene, Ngone Ndoye, Khady Diop, El Hadji Mamadou Dioui, Awa Ndoye, Cherif Niang
17/Belgium 21m

Aliou’s Journey  
  Le Voyage d’Aliou     4/5

Aliou's Journey There's a raw, unpolished energy to this earthy drama set in Senegal. It's the story of Aliou (Diagne), a lively young guy who wants to make a film. His friend steals a camera from a tourist and sells it to him, so Aliou gets to work to tell the story of a neighbour who fled through Libya to Europe because he was violently persecuted for being gay. But none of his acting workshop friends are willing to be involved, and Aliou worries that no one will is brave enough to play the lead role.

The film opens with a note that in Senegal homosexuality is punishable by imprisonment up to five years, plus a huge fine. This offers a hint about where the story is heading. There's nothing polished about the filmmaking, which is more than a little rough around the edges (the sound mix is particularly variable), but the story is more than intriguing enough to pull the audience in. Sharply underplayed by Diagne, the likeable, tenacious Aliou thinks it's important to tell stories that challenge people, and is frustrated that the community's unwillingness to make his movie is another sign that things need to change. It's a clever approach to a very thorny issue, and a powerful insight into African culture.

27.Mar.20 flare

buckley dir-scr Emma Moffat
with Jessie Buckley, Sophia Brown, Alistair Petri), Samantha Spiro, Philippe Spall, Sope Dirisu, Marc Rodrigues-Bernet, Tom Jackson
19/UK 16m

A Battle in Waterloo  

A Battle in Waterloo Set in 1815, this fact-based short follows Ellen (Buckley) as she searches for her husband on the front lines of the iconic battle between Britain and France. No one knows that her husband is actually Agnes (Brown) in drag, and Ellen scours the battlefield to find her wounded. But getting out alive is going to be very difficult for them, what with so many French soldiers hiding in the woods.

Even if it looks like it was shot in Hampstead Heath with costumes borrowed from a community theatre group, the film is produced to a high standard (Isobel Waller-Bridge's score is particularly evocative), with especially strong performances. It grabs hold with its simple story and its pungent undertones. And Buckley is so good (as always) that she brings the emotions into raw, devastating focus, right to a stunning final twist. This is a great little story, the kind of historical detail that is usually overlooked but should be well-known.

27.Mar.20 flare

harris dir Jesse Lewis-Reece
scr Neil Hilborn
with Frankie Stew, Elijah Harris, Ishtar Currie-Wilson
19/UK 5m


Eyelash There's an intensity in the sounds and imagery right from the start of this little drama. Using Neil Hilborn's poem OCD as narration (read by Stew), the story unfolds through the eyes of a young man (Harris) reminiscing about the first time he met a woman (Currie-Wilson). A clinical obsessive, he worries about everything and admits that he never has a quiet moment. But this woman, and the eyelash on her cheek, caught his eye. And she loves his quirks. He recounts their first date, the crazy things that brought them together, their life as a couple and the cracks that began to appear in their relationship.

Filmmaker Lewis-Reece skilfully deploys closeups, crash cuts and a visceral audio mix. This is a remarkable depiction of the way an obsessive-compulsive sees the world, and how it can put pressure on a relationship. The approach is bold, intense, thoroughly involving in a way that becomes almost overwhelming. Which is seriously stunning, from a filmmaking perspective. So where the story goes packs a strong emotional punch.

27.Mar.20 flare

Kiko's Saints dir-scr Manuel Marmier
with Lika Minamoto, Francois Burgun, Arthur Gillet, Kengo Saito, Ryohei Tamura
19/France 25m

Kiko’s Saints  
Les Saints de Kiko   3.5/5

Kiko's Saints Artfully shot like a feature, this short French drama follows Kiko (Minamoto), a Japanese illustrator with a penchant for daydreaming. Of course, this fuels her work every day, but it also distracts her from what she needs to do. On an assignment to draw a remote seaside chapel, she begins to watch two naked men hanging out at a nearby beach, soon discovering that they're a gay couple. And now she can't get them out of her mind, so they begin invading her work. Giving in, she begins to furtively watch and draw them as they run on the beach, lie in the sun, playfully wrestle and escape to the dunes for some private interaction.

With very little dialog, the film has an almost comical silent-movie tone, as Kiko becomes increasingly intrigued by these beardy-burly men until they spot her, leading to a quirky game of cat and mouse. It's beautifully shot in a deserted location, cleverly evoking a sense of isolation in both time and place. Filmmaker Marmier makes inventive use of the settings, colours, sounds, lighting and animation, playfully adding details with glimpses into Kiko's imagination, as well as her growing confidence in standing up to her husband (Saito) and her boss (Tamura). It's clear that neither she nor her work will ever be the same.

27.Mar.20 flare

My Sweet Prince dir-scr Jason Bradbury
with Yoni Roodner, Jacob Avery, Rio Thake, Oliver Bickers, Aoife Checkland, Sophie Oliver, Harry Saward, Arlo McGowan
19/UK 12m

My Sweet Prince  

My Sweet Prince Mixing in some very lively clips from his own childhood video diaries, filmmaker Bradbury weaves a kaleidoscopic tale of 1990s youth as young Tommy (Roodner) hangs out with older kids, dabbles in alcohol and drugs, and grapples with his identity. At home, his mum (Oliver) sees his thoughtfulness and asks if he's OK.

The film cuts between these clips and Tommy's expressive face, as he carefully observes the actions and attitudes of the other teens, then turns to Messenger to chat with his online buddy Mysweetprince (Saward) on a dial-up connection, making an appointment to chat later on webcam. "Can you see me?" Tommy asks, with more on his mind than just the camera. This is a lovely glimpse into the mind of a young man who knows he's not like everyone else and wonders if he will ever find a place where he fits in. And Bradbury's clever approach conveys this with visceral honesty through a collage of images, sounds and feelings. He even adds a Placebo track on the closing credits to offer a final kick.

27.Mar.20 flare

guobadia dir-scr Harry Lighton, Marco Alessi, Matthew Jacobs Morgan
with Otamere Guobadia, Dave Shields, Brian Martin, Stevie Raine, Henry Felix, Mary Higgins, Rowan Wigley, Serena Yagoub
19/UK 9m


Pompeii There's a dreamlike quality to this cleverly assembled short, which amplifies the impact even if it might leave some viewers somewhat confused about what it's trying to say. But it's a fiercely smart little film, assembled in a way that will be instantly recognisable to anyone familiar with social media stories. And yes, there's a strong storyline here, as Tam (Guobadia) travels home on the London Underground, watching online posts to piece together what happened when he went out the evening before with his partner Dave (Shields) and a group of friends. It looks like a fairly full night out, as Tam is persuaded to go to the full-on Pompeii nightclub, where Dave meets someone else.

The filmmakers assemble this with a mixture of formats, as Tam looks at photos and video clips in various mobile phone app formats. This is a bracingly contemporary way to tell a story like this, and audiences who click into its rhythms will find layers of meaning in it. Of course the main thing is how amazing the online posts look, depicting a fantasy world of joy-filled clubbing and connection that doesn't quite reflect as authentic in the real-world morning after. This gives the film an astonishingly realistic tone, leading to some heart-stopping moments that quietly touch on everyday racism and homophobia, plus darkly resonant feelings of jealousy and betrayal.

revisited 27.Mar.20 flare

tipu and hashmi dir-scr Hamza Bangash
with Mohammad Ali Hashmi, Adnan Shah Tipu
20/Pakistan 11m

Stray Dogs Come Out at Night  

Stray Dogs Come Out at Night Set in Karachi, this drama centres on Iqbal (Hashmi), who has gone to the city to find work to support his family back home. He lives in a one-room flat with his uncle Khurrum (Tipu), who accompanies him on a day at the beach. They matter-of-factly speak about their work as prostitutes, that Iqbal has tested HIV positive. And Khurrum vows to draw on his gangster connections to take care of whoever gave it to him. But Iqbal knows he can't go home now, and Khurrum is shocked to see that he has a gun.

The film is sharply well made, filmed documentary-style in real locations with actors who never seem to be acting. Essentially an extended conversation, the scenes are packed with terrific bits of dialog that feel improvised, such as when Khurrum comments that the cops kill the stray dogs, while ignoring the smugglers, drug dealers and mobile phone thieves. There's even an a capella Bollywood musical moment as the two men sing while riding a camel. Yes, filmmaker Bangash creates a complex mixture of this kind of goofy joy alongside much darker realism and heightened drama. So even if it never quite grapples with its central theme, it raises some important issues.

27.Mar.20 flare

kim dir-scr Livia Huang
with Sammy Kim, Conder Shou, Jon Wan
19/US 9m

Who Can Predict What Will Move You  

Who Can Predict What Will Move You Artfully shot with attention to detail, this film opens with a one-on-one basketball match in a public park at dusk, the sounds of sirens in the background. Cut to a low-key disco and a story begins to emerge as Nathan (Kim) becomes intrigued by a stranger (Wan). It also emerges that Nathan lives in quiet domesticity with Vincent (Shou).

The film is a tapestry of unspoken yearnings mixed with expressions of masculine physicality. Everything about this film is subtle and understated, which allows the actors to create delicate textures in their interaction. It also makes the film seem more than a little sleepy, even if the internal emotions are powerfully felt thanks to some inventive touches by filmmaker Huang. Exquisitely shot and edited, there's a tactile quality to this film, bringing surfaces and skin to vivid life, even if the central narrative is very thin. It's experiential without ever being obvious, which makes it quietly haunting.

27.Mar.20 flare

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