The BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival celebrated its 35th birthday this year. It ended on Sunday after 11 days of online cinematic festivities. Among a rich selection, three works have made quite an impression on us.
From the category Hearts
Rūrangi starts off very badly for its main character Caz (Elz Carrad), a young transgender man. Affected by a tragic event, he returns to the rural community he left ten years ago, where no one knows about his transition. If Caz’s childhood friends can forgive his abandonment, his dad (Kirk Torrance) is a different ball game.
This New Zealand film, originally a 5 episodes web-series, is a beautiful take on roots, family and understanding. Several characters seek to return to their foundations, whether through learning Te Reo (the Maori language), caring for the farmland or returning home. Director Max Currie immerses us in his world with some beautiful photography and incredible lighting. The characters’ awkwardness infuses this drama with some funny moments; despite it dragging towards the middle, the finale makes you long for a season 2.
The film marks the screen debut of transgender actor Elz Carrad, who delivers a great performance as Caz. His body language illustrates the various phases his character, a disillusioned activist in search of meaning, goes through. An inclusive and gender diverse crew supports the film’s motto: “Rūrangi, a film by us and about us”.
Rūrangi, dir. Max Currie, New Zealand, 96 min, 2020.
From the category Bodies
Marcos (Carlos Portaluppi) is as big as Gabriel (Ignacio Rogers) is slender. Marcos is mature, discreet, Gabriel is young and charming. Both men are nurses, and both men kill some of their patients. Marcos helps alleviate the pain of doomed sufferers. Gabriel has a much more morbid agenda. How could Marcos denounce his colleague without putting himself in danger?
With The Dose, Argentinian director Martín Kraut signs an original, slow-paced thriller.
Night after night, Gabriel turns into a threatening presence; everyone is infatuated with him, making it even more difficult for Marcos to express concern.
Carlos Portaluppi is brilliant in his portraying of a rather aloof, contrite man, seduced and frightened by his young rival. A dark, erotic game develops between the two characters. The more Gabriel charms the others, the more Marcos becomes clunky, knocking things and people over, moving erratically, like a trapped animal. Until the final confrontation.
Almost exclusively set indoors, The Dose displays an interesting use of colour and warmth. Initially cold, green and blue, the colour palette warms up as Marcos wakes up and defends his realm, his life, and his idea of ethics.
The Dose (La Dosis), dir. Martín Kraut, Argentina, 93 min, 2020.
From the category Minds
A biopic about Rainer Werner Fassbinder, the “rebel child”, couldn’t have been anything but epic. Enfant Terrible, by German director Oskar Roehler, is a 2-hour trip down the life of this intense, unabashed yet despicable artist.
Part of the New German Cinema movement of the 1960s and 70s, Fassbinder worked in theatre, television and film, directing queer classics such as The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (1972), In a Year with 13 Moons (1978) or Fox and His Friends (1975). He is also famous for many political and personal controversies. His relationships with his lovers, men or women, were tumultuous, tainted by Fassbinder’s outbursts of violence.
The film takes the risk of covering an extensive period of time, from the director’s early days in theatre to the production of his last film. The fast pace and elegant cinematography makes the time fly by. Oliver Masucci, known to European audiences for his role as a policeman in the Netflix series Dark (2017), gives an impressive performance. Unrecognizable, he does a fascinating job on his voice and demeanor.
An array of colour, characters and costumes enriches the piece, which adopts a distinctive “recorded” theatre look. Something in the depth of field, in the shot size, echoes Fassbinder’s early work on stage. The film stands out for its aesthetic and functions as a cultural window into the work of an uncanny director.
Enfant Terrible, dir. Oskar Roehler, Germany, 134 min, 2020.
By Lucie Camille
The 35th BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival ran from Wednesday 17th March to Sunday 28th March 2021, find out more here.