The 31st BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival has wrapped for another year. Jack Cline looks at three final highlights…
Out of Iraq
This documentary about a gay love story is so packed with tension and emotion that we forget it’s a doc. Along with the moving romance, it depicts challenges faced by refugees fleeing potentially fatal homophobia in their homelands.
As the Iraq War began in 2003, recent Baghdad university graduate Nayyef got a job as an interpreter with US forces. Stationed in Ramadi, he met Btoo, a young Iraqi soldier. They quickly fell in love, hiding their sexuality from their families. By 2009 the situation became too dangerous for Nayyef, so the Americans gave him a visa to emigrate to Seattle. But Btoo was stuck in Iraq, and over the next several years Nayyef and a human rights activist try to figure out a way to get him to North America.
The story is told chronologically, with the real people narrating along with snapshots, home movies and Skype conversations. It’s a riveting way to recount the events, because it brings to life every twist and turn of both the bureaucratic immigration saga and the super-engaging romance.
Even more important is how the film reveals distinct situations Nayyef and Btoo face in their families and home culture. From harshly religious relatives to a hateful society, the situation for gay men and women in extremist nations is terrifying. And frankly the West is no better, as it puts so many obstacles between them and safety. So the film is almost overpoweringly moving. Bring tissues.
Argentine filmmakers Marco Berger and Martin Farina mash up their previous features Hawaii and Fulboy (both are also worth a look) for this outrageously lusty riff on male sexuality. The plot is fairly minimal, as nine fit, young men spend a sweltering summer together, often naked, as they lounge in the pool or sweat in the sauna. German (Gabriel Epstein) is secretly crushing on fellow taekwondo athlete Fernando (Lucas Papa), but isn’t sure if he’s gay.
Clearly, it would just take one question to find out, but the film is a voyeuristic sequence of skin-to-skin contact, furtive glances at exposed flesh and blatant masculinity. In other words, it’s a dreamy fantasy that you’ll wish you could experience yourself.
Taekwondo is out this week on DVD/VOD from TLA.
This quick-paced documentary explores London’s Pride movement. And it’s remarkably broad-based, asking difficult questions and letting everyone have their say. The main point is that the actual Pride march has become increasingly tied to corporate sponsorship, undermining its ability to truly celebrate openness and unity.
Of course there are other events running alongside Pride, and filmmaker Ashley Joiner speaks with organisers of Black Pride and Queer Picnic, among others. The film also details the history of the event in activism and protests from the 1970s onwards, plus the need for solidarity with oppressed LGBT people globally. In other words, this is a wealth of material to think about, and it’ll definitely spark
a needed discussion.
Pride? will be released later this year by Peccadillo.