BFI Flare 2018 and more

Posted on: 20 Apr 2018 by Philip Wyn Jones

I’ve recently returned from BFI Flare 2018 where I saw six films. Between the films I visited numerous exhibitions. Let’s take a look, first, at the exhibitions.

At the House of Illustration just off Granary Square I saw their latest Quentin Blake show. Pen and ink drawings of naked women, surrounded by flying arrows, formed his Arrows of Love collection. He didn’t intend them to be displayed publicly but having been offered this space he thought, “why not!”  Made in North Korea is a collection of propaganda posters from that country. They are bright, colourful and clearly influenced by Soviet art. They give instructions, inspire the public and, in the case of the war film posters, present a Hollywood-style image of North Korean soldiers. Ridley Road Market is a photographic record of the Dalston area of East London. It carries a warning that a long established way of way is under threat from greedy developers. The Postal Museum at Phoenix Place offers a comprehensive, attractively presented survey of the Post Office, yesterday and today. There are vehicles, posters and hands-on exhibits. Across the road, beneath Mount Pleasant Sorting Office, you can take a ride on one of the trains that used to distribute mail under the busy London streets until 2003. The British Museum presents Living with Gods, a comprehensive survey of religions throughout the world, concentrating on the physical objects that help and inspire people as they seek religious guidance. Finally I visited the V&A which has two superb exhibitions running concurrently. Winnie-the-Pooh, Exploring a Classic is, as you might expect, supremely child friendly. For example, there are rooms within rooms that can be entered only by small children because the doorways are so tiny! Adults can study the interesting relationship between the words and the illustrations on the printed page. Ocean Liners, Speed and Style takes us back in time to the great ocean liners that were veritable hotels on the sea. One large room is particularly stunning. With the stars twinkling high above, you can gaze out at the ocean and watch other ships passing by. The opulent furnishings make you feel that you are really there, as you gaze up at the elegant staircases and watch the rich and fashionable descend slowly in their specially designed finery.

It’s time now for us to a look at the films. I saw six films at BFI South Bank. Here they are:

1: The Revival (Jennifer Gerber, USA, 84minutes). The title, in this context, refers to an evangelical jamboree of the happy-clappy variety. This is not the preferred approach of the film’s central character, a young vicar who wants his members to meditate deeply and seriously. In fact they consider him to be rather boring. Things go haywire when a handsome young drifter turns up at a church get-together and reawakens the vicar’s suppressed gay feelings. The film, from then on, moves into violent and ultimately horror territory. It’s extreme but also very effective.

2: Marika’s Missio (Michael Schmitt, Germany, 74minutes). This fascinating documentary centres on the word ‘missio’. This is a document issued by the Catholic Church. It permits a teacher to teach Catholicism in religious and state schools. Marika has been doing this with great success for eight years but the Church is unaware of her gay sexuality. It can no longer be a secret because Marika and her partner wish to get married. The Church would definitely revoke her permission to teach.  We discover how Marika reacts and also discover that the Church’s right to interfere in state education is enshrined in the German constitution. Change appears to be impossible.

3: Love, Scott (Laura Marie Wayne, Canada, 76minutes). Another documentary. Charismatic young musican, Scott Jones, who was present at the festival, was subjected to an unprovoked homophobic attack one evening and may well have to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. At its best this film is a moving tribute to Scott’s spirit and his determination to carry on. Sadly, when Scott is not on screen the film is in serious trouble. The director has an irritating tendency to favour long out-of-focus scenes set in the countryside. Did she fear that the film was going to be too short?

4: Martyr (pictured, Mazen Khaled, Lebanon, 84minutes). This remarkable film is set on the rocky shore of Beirut. Young men gather there to socialize, swim and dive off the high cliffs. Most of them have no ambitions and live from day to day in a kind of numb boredom. One of these men, Hassane, used to have dreams but now is becoming increasingly frustrated and on one fateful day he decides to take matters into his own hands.  The film’s simple narrative is enhanced by the use of traditional customs and rites and is endlessly original. It is a work of great beauty and great sadness.

5: The Wound (John Trengove, South Africa, 88minutes). Kwanda, a young man, is happy to be living in the city, but tradition demands that he return to his village and be subjected to various rituals that will make him a ‘real man’. They include circumcision. Lads of his age do not make him welcome, either because they assume or know that he is gay. The atmosphere becomes increasingly tense, life-threatening even and he wonders if he will ever escape.

6: Mario (Marcel Gisler, 119minutes, Switzerland). Mario and Leon are two brilliant goal scorers who play for the same soccer team. They are also deeply devoted lovers but don’t make a show of this. All goes well until they are outed by a team mate. He is not anti-gay, he simply resents the fact that they don’t include him in their goal-scoring strategies. The management, who are also not anti-gay, suggest ways of solving this potentially embarrassing problem. Mario agrees to have a fake girlfriend. Leon refuses to co-operate.  Everything is at risk including the future of the team and also Mario and Leon’s relationship. How sad that sexuality can be such a big issue.

Philip Wyn Jones

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