Film

BFI Flare LGBT Film Fest runs 17th -28th March 2021, with Kenyan documentary feature, I Am Samuel

With last year’s Flare LGBTQI+ film festival dramatically transferring to digital, this year’s is no different and every film is available online to watch.  The ‘Bodies’ strand has a notably fantastic and broad selection: Well Rounded, I Am Samuel and The Obituary of Tunde Johnson all setting in motion a showcase of original lesbian gay bisexual trans queer intersex + stories and talent all worth watching. Here Abigail Yartey selects ALTS picks for the festival. (Main image: Mama Gloria)

I Am Samuel

I am Samuel still courtesy BFI.

A queer Kenyan couple, Samuel and Alex navigate complex cultural thinking and cultural expectations in Pete Nurimi’s, I am Samuel.​ Their partnership navigates around dangers and hardships they face whilst confronting issues around homophobic violence and rejection, which necessitates their love to be hidden – particularly when strict laws in Kenya mean homosexuality carries a 14-year prison sentence, introduced by the colonial British over a century ago.  Director Pete Murimi is a bold and courageous filmmaker.  His nuanced, intimate portrait of queer love invites us to honor their commitment, daring and imagination as figures in the queer Kenyan underground.   Keeping their love, a secret, they are tasked with navigating their place in the world as heirs to a traditional way of life. 

Directed by Pete Murimi

Produced by Tonu Kamau and Pete Murimi

Mama Gloria

In keeping with the festival theme of individuals who have played a part in queer history, it was reaffirming to see late black trans survivor, Gloria Allen featured in this year’s selection in, Mama Gloria​. Directed by Luchina Fisher, the story of Gloria Allen, who came of age amid Chicago’s drag balls, transitioned before Stonewall and dedicated her life to supporting trans youth, many of whom were kicked out of their homes because of their trans identities is told tenderly and honestly.  In her debut documentary feature, Fisher describes Mama Gloria​  as, ‘a love letter to a charismatic activist’ and her heartfelt debut is a warm and sincere depiction of trans life in Chicago’s black communities.

Well Rounded is an affirmative film that spotlights body positivity, race, activism, and queerness in a journey of radicalisation, assertion, and self-determination, leaving us to fully embrace the beauty in all marginalised identities. Well Rounded ​  ​explores true inclusivity and shows how, using creativity people can reaffirm their unique self-styled individualism that fatphobic beauty standards too often seem to marginalise.  The triumph of the film is how Myara cultivates ripe conversation in a dialogue pushing for social change: Myara’s, Well Rounded​ tells the stories behind this struggle, taking back control in a loud and proud documentary that is well-tuned and mellifluous in its tone.  A standout feature that will redefine the value of all bodies and liberate audiences’ hearts and minds in the process. 

Directed by Luchina Fisher

Produced Yvonne Welbon, Luchina Fisher, Zainab Ali

With Gloria Allen

The Obituary of Tunde Johnson

Sharp, clever, attention grabbing feature from director Ali LeRoi, The Obituary of Tunde​ Johnson​ tells the story of a young queer Nigerian American man, Tunde Johnson, played by Steven Silver.  He comes out to his parents as gay before falling victim to a racially motivated murder by a police officer finding himself stuck in a time loop of his recurring meet with death.  The Obituary of Tunde Johnson​​    ​deconstructs everyday threats of racism, homophobia, and police brutality so rife in American and British society.  ​The fragmented approach and non-linear time structure echoes Eve’s Bayou ​        ​(Directed by Kasi Lemmons) as well as Daughters of the Dust​ ​ (Directed by Julie Dash). The audience feel the psychological​ pull of living life in fear, as Tunde w​akes each time to confront difficult truths about his life and himself.  As the title would suggest the film reads as an obituary, but this martyrdom is a​  societal weight we bear, and it is imposed on the lives of too many gay black African​      American men. 

Directed by Ali LeRoi

Produced by Zachary Green, Jason Shuman, Chuck Bond, and Marni Bond Written by Stanley Kalu

Transitions II: Movement in Isolation

A beautifully visual and aesthetically bold non-linear exploration with the physical and social dimensions of chronic pain.  Can be found in the Shapes We Make, Spaces We Take​  programme.

Directed by Toby Adebajo

Isaac and the Ram 

Firmly lodged in the Hearts’ Desires​    section is​   Isaac and the Ram​: a 15-minute short film about a tense encounter between a young man in distress and the saviour who hears his call. 

Directed by Jason Bradbury

Produced by Yaw Basoah, Brett Webb

Acrimonious

Acrimonious is a hilarious, uplifting, heart-breaking and relatable 14-minute short film in the Queer as in Question Everything​  collection.​         

Directed by Olivia Emden 

Produced by Sam Brain, Giannina Rodriguez Rico

Worthy of note: The hearts section, RURANGI   (NZ, English and Maori)​  

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