The British film Institute (BFI) presented the 21st BFI London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival (LLGF) as part of the Opening Season of BFI Southbank. The opening night gala screening on March 21 of Itty Bitty Titty Committee at the Odeon West End directed by Jamie Babbitt (But Iâ€™m a Cheerleader) is a classic girl-becomes-woman tale, a Saturday night date movie with one-liners about the womenâ€™s movement starring Melanie Diaz, Nicole Vicius, Carly Pope and Deak Evgenikos, with appearances from Daniela Sea (The L Word), Jenny Shimizu and Guinevere Turner.
Now in its 21st year, the festival is the UKâ€™s third largest film festival, offering unparalleled access to the best in European and World cinema with outstanding contributions this year from France, the Philippines, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and the USA, attracting audiences in excess of 250,000.
The spotlight stays in the UK for Queer Britannia, where Neil Hunter and Tom Hunsinger (Lawless Heart, Boyfriends) return with Sparkle. This is not a gay film, but a warm and funny drama about the complexities of city life starring Stockard Channing, Shaun Evans and Bob Hoskins. Tick Tock Lullaby is Lisa Gornickâ€™s follow-up to Do I Love You? reuniting some of the same cast, including Lisa herself, with witty and painfully honest view on motherhood. Jaime Sylla asks some penetrating questions about where we are in the Aids pandemic in the world premiere of his documentary No Magic Bullet. Adding a black queer perspective, Image, Memory and Representation: The Work of Inge Blackman is a trio of film works spanning more than a decade that seek to explore sexuality and identity through Caribbean storytelling traditions.
From Europe there is Valerie Minettoâ€™s Looking for Cheyenne, a very French love story about politics, citizenship and missing your girlfriend. Olivier Meyrouâ€™s Beyond Hatred, movingly documents the aftermath of the death of Francois Chenu, murdered because of his sexuality, and his familyâ€™s journey to come to terms with their loss. Continuing with the documentary theme, The Railroad All-Stars charts the rise and fall and rise of a sex-worker football team from Guatemala City. Spanish director Chema Rodriguez has created a surprising film that champions the collective action and team spirit of â€˜the beautiful gameâ€™. Pernille Fischer Christensenâ€™s award-winning first feature A Soap< uses the stylistic forms of soap opera and melodrama in a tale about a recently single young woman and her transsexual neighbour in a world where gender is confused and nobody stays true to type. Belgian director Patrick Carpenter won a Teddy jury award at last yearâ€™s Berlin Film Festival for Combat, a fictionalised exploration of the powerful links between intimacy, sex and violence based on the directorâ€™s own experience.
Looking further afield, Singapore filmmaker, Royston Tan (15) returns to the festival with his new film 4:30. Told almost without dialogue, It is the remarkable depiction of a young boyâ€™s isolation and his desperate attempts to connect. With Young-jun Kim and Xiao Li Yuan. Sam Feder and Julie Hollar delve into the heated debates between transgender and queer communities telling the stories of three young transmen from New York. This riveting documentary attempts to open a dialogue about transgender identity and queer feminism.
Kirk Shannon-Butts brings his avant-garde sensibilities to African-America cinema with his first feature Blueprint a New York set drama about the fragility of youth and the first flushes of love, with mesmerising performances by the two leads Blake Young-Fountain and Damion Lee, Shannon-Butts is a name to watch. Eytan Fox, the talented Israeli director responsible for Yossi and Jagger, returns to the festival with The Bubble, a beautiful funny and tragic love story set amidst the relentless nightmare of the Palestine-Israeli conflict with Ohad Knoller and Yousef â€˜Joeâ€™ Sweid.
Kami Chisholm and Elizabeth Starkâ€™s new feature-documentary, FtF: Female to Femme, poses the question of whether, with much talk of female masculinities, femme voices have become lost in the debate. Also screening in Femme: A celluloid expression of identity and desire youâ€™ll find Barbara Stanwyck as a crime-solving stripper in William A. Wellmanâ€™s Lady of Burlesque, a deliciously feminine Carmen Maura in Pedro Almodovarâ€™s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and Catherine Deneuve tumbling head-long from cat-fight to lesbian kiss with Fanny Ardent in FranÃ§ois Ozonâ€™s 8 Women.
From the USA, Hineini: Coming out in a Jewish High School is a suspenseful and articulate documentary about a teenager's determination to establish a gay-straight alliance at a private pluralistic religious school in Massachusetts. It also tells the bigger story of what it means to be gay and Jewish today, and how to reconcile one's sexual identity with a religion that calls homosexuality an abomination. Director Irena Fayngold is a member of Keshet, an organisation that strives to make the Jewish community more aware of its gay and lesbian population.
The year-long LLGFF project Generations of Love, supported by the Mayor of London and in association with Mediatheque, is designed to provide a space for older members of the community to share experiences through film, discussion and reminiscence. The season kicks off with a screening of Jennifer Abodâ€™s feisty funny and inspiring documentary Look Us in the Eye: The Old Womenâ€™s Project in which three canny activists campaign for our rights.
The LLGFF on Tour runs from Mayâ€“September 2007 visiting around 40 towns and cities across the UK and Ireland.
Further programme information is available online at www.llgff.org.uk