35th BFI Flare's LGBTIQ+ London Film Festival 2021

This year BFI Flare's LGBTIQ+ London Film Festival celebrates its 35th Edition with a empowering showcase of cinema, beginning from 17th – 28th March 2021.

What is BFI Flare?

BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival is the UK’s longest running queer film event. It began in 1986 as Gay’s Own Pictures. By its 3rd edition it was tagged the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and since then has grown to become the largest LGBTIQ+ film event in the UK, and its most anticipated.

The Festival changed its name to BFI Flare in 2014 to reflect the increasing diversity of its films, filmmakers and audience. The festival is programmed by Jay Bernard, Michael Blyth, Zorian Clayton, Brian Robinson, Emma Smart and guest programmer Tara Brown, led by Festivals Director, Tricia Tuttle.

This Years Programme.

One of the key themes emerging from this year’s programme is strong representation of significant individuals and communities whose lives and work have had an impact on queer history and the ongoing fight for change and equality.

Two exciting world premieres from the UK include:

Peeter Rebane’s lavishly told feature debut FIREBIRD, a touching love story set at the height of the Cold War, where a troubled soldier (Tom Prior) forms a forbidden love triangle with a daring fighter pilot (Oleg Zagorodnii) and his female comrade (Diana Pozharskaya) amid the dangerous surroundings of a Soviet Air Force Base.

Harri Shanahan and Sian A. Williams’ rousing feature documentary REBEL DYKES is a joyful and colourful history of post-punk dyke culture in the UK. Harnessing the anarchic energy and creativity of London in the early 1980s, REBEL DYKES mixes first person testimonies, animation and unseen archive to tell the stories of those artists, performers, musicians, sex workers and activists who lived it, and together, found their chosen family.

You can watch the full programme launch below:

This years programme is divided into three thematic strands: HEARTS, BODIES and MINDS. For more information on this years films Click Here.

Celebrating the Unheard.

This year’s programme also celebrates and elevates individuals whose lives and accomplishments are perhaps less well known but who deserve to be championed, such as Gloria Allen, Connie Norman and Billy Tipton. Activists and campaigners Dr. Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings are also featured, as well as queer icons including ground breaking German Director Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Moomin’s creator Tove Jansson.

Highlights that celebrate the legacy of these trailblazers include:

A Los Angeles Act-Up organiser is remembered for her fierce resistance to both transphobia and the AIDS virus in AIDS DIVA: THE LEGEND OF CONNIE NORMAN (Dir. Dante Alencastre).

CURED (Dirs. Patrick Sammon, Bennett Singer) – This astonishingly rich documentary explores the campaign by key U.S. activists to remove homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s definition of mental illness.

MAMA GLORIA, Director Luchina Fisher’s endearing documentary portrait shows how fighter, organiser and survivor Gloria Allen has become a local hero to younger Chicagoan trans women.

And, the fascinating story of pioneering trans jazz musician Billy Tipton is brought thrillingly to life in NO ORDINARY MAN (Dirs. Aisling Chin-Yee, Chase Joynt), a celebratory documentary portrait.

Five Films For Freedom.

Once again, BFI Flare will be in partnership with the British Council for Five

Films For Freedom, which makes five LGBTIQ+ themed short films available for the world to watch online for free for the duration of the festival.

Five Films For Freedom has been running since 2015 and the programme has seen nearly 15 million people viewing the films in more than 200 countries and principalities, including many parts of the world where homosexuality is criminalised, and in some cases, punishable by the death penalty.

Click Here to read more.


This year’s BFI Flare Shorts programme is split across 7 thematic selections: Beginnings and Endings, For the Record, Heart’s Desires, Into the Unknown, Queer as in Question Everything, Shapes We Make, Spaces We Take and Striving to Be Seen. For more information about this years films during the festival Click Here.

BFI Flare x BAFTA Crew: Mentoring programme

Now in its seventh year, the BFI Flare x BAFTA Crew Mentoring programme in partnership with BFI NETWORK offers a group of emerging LGBTIQ+ filmmakers an opportunity to strengthen and develop their industry knowledge and professional connections, providing mentoring from a senior industry figure, alongside a bespoke programme of masterclasses and discussions, and access to BAFTA’s year-round events programme. Previous mentors for the programme have included Luca Guadagnino, Oliver Hermanus, Isaac Julien, Desiree Akhavan and Russell T Davies.

A Virtual Festival.

As one of the world’s most significant and long-standing queer film events, this year’s BFI Flare will deliver virtual festival premieres of the best new LGBTIQ+ cinema from around the world via BFI Player to UK-wide audiences.

Tricia Tuttle, BFI Festivals Director says:

Facing the first lockdown last Spring, and with days until launch, we moved BFI Flare online – one of the first Festivals around the world to do so. Now, a year on, we are launching our second digital edition and Flare’s spirit of community, solidarity, defiance and celebration is more precious than ever, and we’re excited to be able to share that with audiences everywhere in the UK.

The most accessible version of the festival yet will include 26 features and 38 free shorts from 23 countries, with closed captioning (supported by Mishcon de Reya) and audio description on English- language films. Tickets are now on sale via bfi.org.uk/flare

For more information on the BFI Flare London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival, visit their website at https://www.bfi.org.uk/flare.


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