BFI Flare Reviews

The BFI Flare festival, Europe’s largest LGBT+ film festival, ran from 21 March to 1 April. Having attended Flare 2018 we thought we’d share our thoughts on a selection of films from the festival.

Becks (Feature)
Becks (2017, Powell and Rohrbaugh) tells the story of Brooklyn-based singer Becks (played by Lena Hall), who moves back to St Louis after a breakup with her girlfriend (played by Hayley ‘Lesbian Jesus’ Kiyoko). We observe the dynamics between Becks and her Catholic mother, her best friend, her absent brother, and the townspeople who ‘have never met a real-life lesbian before’.Screen Shot 2018-04-07 at 7.57.07 PM

Then, obviously, Becks falls in love with the WASPy wife of her childhood bully, and the two start an affair. While the premise is not particularly original, I found it interesting that Becks’ love interest Elyse (played by Mena Suvari) never seems to hesitate or blame Becks for her identity crisis as a formerly-straight woman, when it is such a common trope to demonise the lesbian character for ‘tempting’ the good housewife into sin. The film associates lesbian love with the potential for freedom and escape, in a way that so few films do. Furthermore, the performances by the main cast and the strong dialogue ensure that the film is never boring or repetitive.

Altogether, it is an easy film to watch and enjoy. There is nothing too out-there, but yet it still manages to subtly avoid many of the stereotypes that are so common in lesbian films.

Brown Queers (Short)
nullAesthetically beautiful, this short (2017, Williams Gamaker) plays with and discussesideas of perceiving, self-perception, and being perceived a particular gender and sexuality, or as a transgression of those, particular among People of Colour. At 25 minutes it feels slightly too long considering it is a portrait of only three people, and they seem to have very similar views, so I wouldn’t recommend it as a discussion of race, sexuality and gender, at most it would have to be a starting point of those discussions. As an art film it works brilliantly, though.


A Deal With the Universe (Feature)
A Deal With the Universe
(2018, Barker) is a documentary both by and about Jason Barker, his partner Tracey, and their road to pregnancy. After countless unsuccessful attempts at fertilising Tracey’s egg cells, Barker chooses to stop certain aspects of his transition in order to allow himself to become pregnant. The documentary deals with the various aspects of parenthood, the pain of unsuccessful attempts at pregnancy, and the reactions of friends, family, and others.null

Considering the topics that it touches upon are very heavy (infertility, cancer, death of a loved one, transphobia), the story is told with a surprising amount of humour, probably owed to the fact that Barker is also a standup comedian. Furthermore, while press coverage made it seem as a film that played on the Channel 4-type shock factor (“it’s about a MAN who gets PREGNANT” you can just hear the invisible exclamation points in almost all mainstream coverage), the documentary is actually very intimate and toned-down, never veering into the voyeurism that it could have gone into. Again, this is probably due to the fact that Barker is the documentary’s director as well as the subject.

Altogether, A Deal With the Universe is one of the true gems of the Flare, and for many viewers, including myself, it was the highlight of the festival.

Des!re (Short)
This visually stunning short (2017, Campbell X) celebrates the desire that women feel nulltowards masculine people who are assigned female at birth (trans men, butches, studs, genderqueer people et cetera). The shots are all in black and white, and show the subjects both fragmented and in full, both autonomous and anonymous. This allows the film to discuss sexuality and sensuality (indeed, desire) without becoming voyeuristic.


Love, Scott (Feature)
Love, Scott (2018, Wayne) is a documentary about the Canadian Scott Jones, who was left paralysed after surviving a homophobic attack. The documentary deals with parts of the emotional as well as the physical aftermath of the attack, and particularly tries to address the fact that Scott’s attacker may have been convicted of murder, but was never charged with a hate crime.

The fact that Laura Marie Wayne, the director, is a personal friend of Jones’ that he knows from their musical education, gives the film an amazing personal touch, which is a nice occasional relief from the heavy topic it discusses. Indeed, the documentary works best when it just feels like two friends having a conversation, which happens to be recorded. There are some points in the film where this familiarity seems to become undone by the forced narration, but the intimate, less scripted, more whimsical moments make up for it. Screen Shot 2018-04-07 at 8.52.41 PM

As a call for social it also does well when it shows Scott’s mother realizing that gay men still need to be emotionally prepared for a world that will reject them, when Scott shows  his frustration at the fact that you can know you’re being targeted for what and who you are, and yet legally there is no acknowledgement of this, and when we see Scott’s community in Canada come together to celebrate their sexualities and support each other to not let this scare them back into the closet- in short, when it focuses on the emotional and social impact that the attack has had.

At the end there is an attempt to make a more formal, broader call to arms, which falls a bit flat exactly because this has been such a singular story about a very particular person in a very particular place. Altogether it tries to be two films at once: a portrait of a man who has had something terrible happen to him and the way he deals with this, and a general activist film that tries to make change but doesn’t give us the tools to focus on what should be changed and how. While it lacks a little in the latter, it does very, very well in the former.

My Days of Mercy (Feature)
My Days of Mercy (2017, Shalom Ezer) was the opening film of the festival. The story centers around Lucy (played by Ellen Page), who travels across the country to protest the death penalty. She lives with her siblings as their father is in prison on suspicion of the murder of their mother. At one of the protests, she meets the counter-protester Mercy (played by Kata Mara) – yes her name is actually Mercy and yes this does make the title fit in the long history of lesbian films with corny titles that sound like bad porno rip-offs of themselves, like I Can’t Think Straight, But I’m a Cheerleader, and Blue Is The Warmest Colour.

Anyway, obviously Lucy and Mercy start an affair, and obviously their ideological differences complicate this. As an opening film it was quite a safe choice, but not the most exciting. While the cast ensures that this will be one of the most discussed films in the festival, it is not as daring as I expected of both actresses. Given that particularly Page has been very vocal, progressive and political in interviews, and is one of the only mainstream lesbian actresses whose career in the mainstream is fairly secure, it is unfortunate that she is either unable or unwilling to choose a project that is more out-there, more experimental, more edgy.null

Particularly the treatment of race feels very off about a film that could have decided to take a more outspoken step: first of all, there are some protesters in some of the background scenes who hold placards reminding the audience that the death penalty disproportionately affects People of Colour. Yet at the only protest in the film that tries to prevent the death of a Black man, we see a shot of Mercy and Lucy running off, away from the Black and Brown protesters, in order to have their little romance together. The shot almost seems like an ironic commentary on the film itself, and as a rule of thumb I would say that if your film contains a scene in which two white characters run away from a mob of unnamed People of Colour, this better not be framed as a good and romantic thing.

Second of all, the only major Black character is a woman (again unnamed) who has no personality, seemingly no life or family of her own, and exists only to conveniently be a substitute mother to Lucy and her siblings- she gives Lucy some extra money out of nowhere, she sings gospel with the other protesters, and she consoles the children when they are sad. With all the discussions about race on film going on, I assumed that filmmakers knew better than to have such stereotypical and one-dimensional characters in their films.

Technically, the film is pretty good. There are strong acting performances from both the main actors and the supporting cast. The dialogue is wittier than I expected of a film with such an intense topic and such paint-by-numbers overall plot. There are scenes, especially in the second half of the film, that did genuinely move me, and there are many points at which I thought they were going towards Oscar-baiting material, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that they avoided that route.

However, while I watching it, I felt similar to when I was watching Freeheld: while the film could have touched upon , it prefers to take a more conventional approach, in which it loses two audiences: it is not yet accessible enough for a mainstream straight audience, but it is also not original or interesting enough to capture . It is good for an hour and a half of entertainment, but it is not going to be a turning point of lesbian cinema. Then again, it never pretended to be the latter.

Wishin’ and Hopin’ (Short)

This short (2017, Pepall) is a humorous twist on the old classic of a bridesmaid’s lamentations just after the wedding of her best friend (although the twist is kind of given away by it being screened at this particular festival). The story fits the film’s length perfectly, and it isn’t overly ambitious, but rather chooses to focus on what the format of a short film does best – giving a quick insight into a character’s life, without trying to dwell too long. It could be criticised as somewhat flimsy, but I think that that is part of its appeal, as so many LGBT films tend towards the very intense and melodramatic, and this is a nice short relief.

You Will Be Free (Short)
nullYou Will Be Free (2018, Jacques) is an experimental short, using footage from games, advertising, and other popular culture to create a pastiche commentary on the concept of bodies. The short gives a simultaneously fatalistic and hopeful view on gender identity. While this may sound paradoxical to some people, it is an odd mix of emotions that will seem familiar to especially LGBT+ youth.


This Article was written by Pippa Sterk.

Pippa Sterk, LFFF Coordinator and Programmer, is a London-based writer from the Netherlands. She has an MA in Sociology from Goldsmiths and a BA in Film Studies from Sussex University. She writes articles about media and activism, with a particular focus on LGBT+ film, and she is currently working on her first novel.

Axels of violence: the portrayal of abuse in I, Tonya

If the Tonya media spectacle was big in 1994, it is potentially even bigger now with the release of I, Tonya (2017, dir. Gillespie) during a year which also saw the 23rd Winter Olympics. The film has already been praised for its consciously subjective and nuanced portrayal of abuse and violence; and although she didn’t win, the role of Tonya has been widely acknowledged as the final proof that Margot Robbie is both the comedic and dramatic powerhouse that she was suspected to be.
However not everyone is raving about it. After the Oscars, Cosmopolitan published an article written by Ali Drucker about the repeated use of Tonya Harding-jokes during the awards ceremony. Drucker argues that the story of Harding and Kerrigan becomes flattened to be about violence, and violence alone. The trauma that both women went through in their lives becomes a shorthand for aggression and competition among women, and nothing else.
The film explicitly addresses how the cycle of violence continued through the media, in the sequence where Tonya turns to the camera and says that:

“I was loved for a minute. Then I was hated. Then I was a punchline. It was like being abused all over again. Only this time it was by you. All of you. You’re all my attackers, too.”

Drucker makes an interesting point, and one that has occupied feminist filmmakers and film theorists for decades: how can we address violence without perpetuating it? How do we balance the line between showing violence in order to criticize it, and showing violence in order to be voyeurs?
In the case of I, Tonya we might be the voyeurs of the voyeurs of the voyeurs. A spectacle that is viewed through the lens of a film, based on interviews enacted by an incredible cast, viewed in cinemas by an audience that formerly (or still is) part of the media spectacle “Nancy and Tonya”, watched by people who have already picked either “Team Nancy” or “Team Tonya”. To interpret the film as simply wanting to bring Tonya Harding back to an international consciousness and fix her reputation into a stagnant, objective point in time (which is the unfortunate subtext of this award season’s many Tonya jokes), is to miss out on exactly some of the interesting commentary that the film offers.
It is not a binary story where you have to pick between the goodie and the baddie, the film rather tries to address the culture and reality in which Harding grew up. It shows way more than just the Kerrigan-incident, and most importantly, never tries to be just that. If anything, the incident is merely a footnote, a horrible real-life case of dramatic irony, in what is essentially a story about a girl being dragged from one abusive relationship to another: It is the relationship with her mother, as well as with competitive sports, with expectations of hyper-femininity that are only accessible to wealthy people. More layers of abuse are added showing the constant struggle with her husband, media spectacles and condemnation, and eventually competitive boxing.
Whilst the hyper-femininity of figure skating always shines through as the main spectacle of the film, it is often undermined or ironically criticized by being immediately juxtaposed to how Tonya is constantly enraged. Rage is what drives her to be her best self but also ensures that she fails to assimilate to what the figure skating judges expect from her. This is particularly significant in the last scene, where the intercutting of her skating and boxing allows us to see kinetic, cinematic, and social parallels between her career as a skater and as a boxer: the high point of her career, the triple axel, the moment where she says she became aware that “I was the best skater in the world”, was partially brought about by Tonya’s mother paying a man to verbally abuse her beforehand. We are asked how different the two situations are, and if we cheer for one, why not the other? If we pity one, why not the other?
The film is ultimately all about the line between care and abuse, acclaim and criticism. It is about Tonya Harding, the redneck, whose mum is an abusive alcoholic but still spends all her money on her daughter’s talent. It is about Tonya, the tomboyish girl surrounded by hyper-feminine figure skaters, someone who is taught that only rage will push her to her very best. Simultaneously she gets criticised for being just that: an enraged figure skater, unfit to join the status quo of fragile, feminine, restrained skaters. I, Tonya shows to how competitiveness, media spectacle and class issues are both the cause and the result of a fixed system that controls who is able to succeed and who is not.
However, while some audiences might consider it important to show this abusive life because of the film’s aforementioned socio-political engagement when it comes to class and gender norms, I, Tonya has also been criticised for portraying overtly cruelty and blatantly exchanging violence for laughs. In a piece for the Muse, Madeleine Davies points to who and what we are laughing at: “Scenes of physical abuse are seen in glib montages set to an anachronistic soundtrack of rollicking ’70s rock songs—played for laughs rather than for pathos”. She concludes that firstly, the real Tonya Harding has so far failed to acknowledge her past bad choices and behaviour and secondly, does neither deserve the novel limelight nor to have her privacy be the source of ridicule.
Whilst Davies makes an interesting point here especially in regard to how abuse is too easily laughed about, the scenes that walk that fine line between comedy and uneasiness, show how abuse and violence were a big part – if not the only part – in Tonya Harding’s life up to adulthood. Many women cope with abuse through humour, and the frequent breaking of the fourth wall by the characters, especially during scenes of abuse, signals to us that we shouldn’t take these images as objective, but rather as a retrospective look back on a very difficult life. In that sense, we are not told that this story of abuse is comical, but just that it can be told in a comical way.
We are shown that Tonya Harding grew up learning to immediately slap back, being beaten up by her mum was the every-day. Moreover, she had no one to teach her that violence should not be omnipresent as the people showing her initial kindness left (her dad) or had their own interests in mind (her coaches). To depict the many forms of abuse she encounters somewhat ‘normalised’ is what works so well here: We laugh at the absurdity of someone growing up like this, because we are transported into the mindset of someone for whom this is all so normal, that the only thing we can do is try and find the humour. Tonya herself realises in only a very few scenes that the way her surroundings interact with her is not normal.
Furthermore, we must not forget that again, it is a reality for many people that abusive behaviour comes hand in hand with (the image of) care – the most poignant scenes (and the ones in which the film is most obviously flaunting the talent of its cast) are the ones where we are shown, through the filmic Tonya’s eyes, slapstick violence enacted against her from either her mother or her husband. Then, suddenly, the tone of the film changes, perhaps a silence falls, and the audience as well as Tonya herself, realise that this is not funny, this is abuse. The juxtaposition of lightheartedness, the expectation of care, and this grotesque violence which initially contributes to it being perceived as comical, is exactly one that is emphasized as being a source of tragedy.
Hence, if all depictions of violence are seen as voyeuristic, then we must accept that it is unethical to depict violence altogether. And while it is certainly possible to make a case for that (as indeed some critics, especially feminist critics, have done very well), it is also possible to make the case for an alternative depiction of violence. One that does not simply exploit the cinematic subject but challenges the audience to see where we draw the line between indulgence and repulsion, between the spectacular and the grotesque. I, Tonya definitely sets a high standard for this depiction, and hopefully signals a change in the way that violence is portrayed on screen.


I, Tonya (2017, dir. Gillespie)

This Article was co-written by Pippa Sterk and Johanna Sprenger.

Pippa Sterk, LFFF Coordinator and Programmer, is a London-based writer from the Netherlands. She has an MA in Sociology from Goldsmiths and a BA in Film Studies from Sussex University. She writes articles about media and activism, with a particular focus on LGBT+ film, and she is currently working on her first novel.

Johanna Sprenger is a London-based writer from Berlin. She has an MA in Sociology from Goldsmiths University as well as two BAs in Communication and English Studies from Leipzig University, Germany. Usually she has opinions and writes about them on her only recently launched blog too many tall men where she discusses situations of the every day, politics and music from a feminist perspective.

The Way She Looks: Cinema and the Lesbian Canon

With The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018, dir. Ahkavan) receiving the highest honor at the Sundance festival, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about the novel it was based on, as well as spending about an hour every day convincing everybody I know to read the book (not a lot of success so far). The book has an interesting relationship to cinematic culture, and it will be interesting to see how this relationship plays out in the triangle of book – adaptation – wider cinematic and literary culture.
In the novel (written in 2012 by Emily M. Danforth), the title character finds herself obsessed with the film The Hunger (1983, dir. Scott). Cameron watches the scene between Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve again and again, not really understanding why it interests her so much. Even though at the time of reading the book I myself hadn’t yet heard of The Hunger (I was 17 so it’s allowed), this experience seemed very familiar to me. Despite the fictional Cameron Post growing up in the early 90s in rural Montana, a lifetime away from me both chronologically and geographically, the way she looked at female characters in media was similar. Indeed, there were several passages in the book that I returned to again and again, without knowing why. What The Hunger was to Cameron, Miseducation was to me.
Then, a few days ago, as I was watching If These Walls Could Talk 2 (2000, dir. Anderson, Coolidge and Heche), the opening shot reveals the two main characters of the first part watching The Children’s Hour (1961, dir. Wyler) together in the cinema. It is always an interesting cinematic phenomenon, watching characters watch others (never say the words ‘looking relations’ to a film critic unless you want to be bored to death for the next 3 hours), but in this case it felt particularly significant to watch fictional lesbians watch a film that is about other fictional lesbians. The shot instantly reminded me of Miseducation.
These ‘looking relations’ are clearly a trope in lesbian media. This is because within the representation of same-gender relations, there is a particular invisibility of lesbian relationships (for the purposes of this article I will use the word ‘lesbian’ to refer to romantic and sexual relationships between women, but obviously the women in these relationships don’t necessarily identify as lesbians themselves) because of the general lack of exploration of women’s lives among ourselves to begin with – indeed, we mustn’t forget that the Bechdel test, a test which is often used to measure how well a film portrays women’s relations to each other, found its origin in Alison Bechdel’s 1983-2008 comic Dykes to Watch Out For, and can be more accurately summed up as a commentary on the impossibility of portraying lesbian lives in a world that can’t even conceive of two women talking to each other about their lives outside of men.
Among my LGBT friends, all of us have had our cinematic character, a character which we were inexplicably drawn to without being able to articulate exactly why (say hey if you ‘just really liked Bend it Like Beckham’ [2002 dir. Chadha] when you were younger). Many of these characters are not even explicitly lesbian, but just have ‘something’ about them that we identify as part of ourselves, before we have the language to articulate this.
Clare Whatling, talks in the introduction to Screen Dreams: Fantasising Lesbians In Film (1997) about the fact that the most important lesbian films tend to be the ones that have a lesbian ‘sensibility’, rather than being explicitly about same-sex attraction. This is likely because covert images of lesbianism are ones that come to us earlier, exactly because they are covert. While some parents are perhaps open-minded enough to let their child watch media that contains actually explicitly lesbian characters, this is still quite rare, and it is only a very recent development that has allowed lesbians to exist in media that is specifically aimed at children.
Furthermore, minority sexualities differ from many other marginalized groups, in that there is a distinction at all between overt and covert representation. While most of the time (though definitely not always) race and disability both physical and mental, can be shown simply through visuals, this is not the case for sexuality. We often can’t look at a character and undoubtedly know that they are gay, this has to be inferred from secondary clues such as clothing and mannerisms, or sometimes even extradiegetic clues in camera movements, editing, or prior knowledge of actors’ roles (we all know that Ellen Page is not playing a straight character anytime soon). So it is not just that covert representation comes to us earlier, it is also for most people the predominant mode in which we see ourselves represented at all.
This particularly goes for lesbian representation. While male-male intimacy tends to get pushed into the gay box very quickly, the knee-jerk response to label any female-female intimacy as simply friendship or curiosity, means that even representation that could be considered overt (two female characters kissing, flirting, even having sex), might be reduced in the public eye to a mere ‘reading’. I am very often told that I am simply pushing my own interpretation on characters that I presumed to be obviously and undeniably gay.
This isn’t helped by the fact that there is a wide variety of (unsurprisingly male-directed) films in which female-female intimacy exists mainly to be pathologised into a signifier for danger and destruction to the characters around them – examples off the top of my head include High Tension (2003, dir. Aja), Black Swan (2010, dir. Aronofsky), Heavenly Creatures (1995, dir. Jackson) and The Neon Demon (2016, dir. Winding Refn). It seems that female-female intimacy can never just mean that the characters are gay. Incidentally, the influence of the trope of the predatory lesbian who preys on innocent young women, and the trauma that it causes for young lesbians, their self-image and the ease with which lesbophobia becomes legitimized in communities out of fear, plays a huge role in Miseducation.
While I don’t for a moment want to imply that the situation is a lot better for relationships between men, there is an issue of visibility that creates a huge difference between lesbian representation and gay male representation: firstly, media creators tend to be male, and their experience of women’s inner lives, and women’s lives away from men is secondhand at best. This results in a host of female characters that are clearly ‘images’ of women, rather than characters that feel real. Many lesbian characters, if they’re not wildly offensive to begin with, feel flat at best. Personally I have always been drawn to fictions of gay men (or even occasionally straight men) more than lesbian women, for exactly this reason: once the media creator feels comfortable actually engaging with the inner life of a character, their stories become much more relatable – and often this can only happen if the character resembles the writer in some way, so women (and particularly lesbians) tend to be right out of the question.
Secondly, as mentioned before, the sheer number of male characters vastly overwhelms the number of female characters in most mainstream entertainment, and when women are represented, they tend to be singular or somehow attached to a male presence. The idea that there are women whose primary (or perhaps even only) relationships are with other women, seems to be one that terrifies Hollywood.
Because the small and often covert canon that we do have is such an established part of lesbian growth and socializing, it seems to become part of the identity itself on a semiotic level: the mere watching of The Children’s Hour by the characters in If These Walls Could Talk 2, signifies to us that these characters are lesbians.
It comes as no surprise (and definitely not as a coincidence) then, that the first time I became aware of the film If These Walls Could Talk 2, it was through the writing of Sara Ahmed, in her 2017 book Living a Feminist Life. The whole book is concerned with the way in which we, as feminist, distribute our emotions and our experiences, and how certain bodies and certain pieces of media lead us to particular insights, emotions, and how this sharing creates a sense of intimacy and familiarity. Ahmed looks, for instance, at the role of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway (1925) as portrayed in The Hours (2002, dir. Daldry) a book that connects a writer to a reader, connects readers among each other, connects women, and women’s love for each other, through time and geographical difference.
Now that Miseducation is a film (film often being a more accessible medium than literature), and one with massive mainstream exposition through the Sundance win, it is very likely that in itself it will become part of this canon that creates a trace through time. Like Cameron, there might be young women watching the film, not understanding why they are so interested in particular aspects of life depicted in it. They might (as I did), follow in Cameron’s footsteps and watch The Hunger, or other films that are alluded to in the film and the novel, and in this way the alternative canon continues itself.
This is why it is so important that we have spaces like the LFFF where we can explore what it means to take inspiration from and create an alternative canon, a canon that is centered around women, and has a female language that is not often spoken in the mainstream cinematic world. Most importantly, it is paramount to allow works that have been created by women to take the forefront because it allows for a dialogue between creator and audience and between different audience members among each other, while also questioning the very distinction between creator and audience – canons, and alternative canons in particular are created bottom-up through interaction and debate around the text, rather than top-down. Spaces where we can create these canons allow us to turn our established order upside-down.

Pippa Sterk

New series of articles from the LFFF!

The early submissions deadline has passed (we’re very happy with the submissions we’ve got so far), and now that we have a bit of a breather here at the LFFF we thought we’d start to share our thoughts about the film landscape this year. It’s an exciting time for women in film, and for feminism, with the #metoo and #timesup campaigns detonating a seismic change in the industry – and beyond. We would like to open our platform to contributions to the different debates taking place right now, and engage with film and feminism the whole year round.

In order to do this, we will be commissioning and posting articles about a broad spectrum of themes, with a feminist take in tune with the festival’s mission. Expect nuanced critique, unusual perspectives and above all, a passion for feminist debate. 

The first article in our series, The way she looks: Cinema and the lesbian canon by Pippa Sterk, takes on the “looking relations” trope in lesbian media, specifically focussing on the critically acclaimed The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018). 

We hope you enjoy this new feature of the London Feminist Film Festival and that you share your thoughts about it on our social media.


Submissions for LFFF 2018 are now OPEN!

Submissions for the 2018 London Feminist Film Festival are now open and we are now accepting submissions to the festival via FilmFreeway.

The earlybird deadline for submissions is 15 February 2018 and the regular deadline is 15 May 2018.

To submit your film to LFFF2018 please click on the button below:

We look forward to receiving your feminist films!

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LFFF2017 – that’s a wrap!

What a fantastic last day at LFFF2017!

The afternoon started off with a powerful session on violence against women and girls, with three fantastic films. The panel, chaired by Camille Kumar of Women & Girls Network, discussed honour-based violence, giving a voice through film to those who are not usually heard, and the current funding problems for grassroots women’s organisations.


The final session of LFFF2017 was on women in male-dominated industries, especially STEM. Leeds Animation Workshop’s poignant and humorous animation was followed by feature film Ouaga Girls, about a group of young women in Burkina Faso training to be car mechanics.

After that, we all headed to the High Water cocktail bar up the road. There were vegan nibbles, gorgeous cocktails (including our special ‘Gin of One’s Own’), and our raffle was drawn. We also announced our award winners, who were as follows:

Short Film Award: Cycologic
Feature Film Award: Where to, Miss?
Feminist Favourite Audience Award: Did I Say Hairdressing? I Meant Astrophysics (with Talk Back Out Loud being a very close runner-up)

Many congratulations to the worthy winners! See our website for the judges’ comments on the films.

In case you missed out on your LFFF2017 merchandise and would like a souvenir of the festival, we still have a few tshirts and bags available from our online shop.

Thanks very much to all the filmmakers, panellists, LFFF volunteers, the Rio and the BFI, High Water, and to all our fantastic feminist audiences, for making this year so special!

OMG we sold out the 450-seater NFT1!

Oh what a night! We can’t not start this post with the news that we SOLD OUT NFT1! Marva Nabili’s The Sealed Soil, our Feminist Classic for LFFF2017, was originally scheduled for NFT2 – when that sold out it was put up to the gigantic 450-seater NFT1. The LFFF crew turned up at the BFI last night and discovered the news that we’d sold out that screen too!

The audience seemed to love this beautiful, painterly film, and they showed their appreciation afterwards with lots of thoughtful comments and questions in our Q&A. It was wonderful to hear from the marvelous Marva Nabili about how she made the film, including how it had to be done in secret – not even the actors knew what the film was! – and about her artistic influences. It was a really special evening which we will remember for a long time and we are very grateful to Marva for making the trip from LA to attend the screening.

Earlier in the day, we had two packed out sessions – one on Feminism and the Archive, with an enlightening talk on the Rio’s feminist film archive, and the other our shorts session around the theme of Visibility.

Today is the last day of LFFF2017 😦 Do come and join us at the Rio this afternoon. And don’t forget our closing night party from 6 pm at High Water cocktail bar – free vegan food, amazing cocktails, and music till late!

We’ll also be slashing the prices of our merchandise today! So come and get your LFFF2017 bags, tshirts, hoodies, and posters before they sell out!

See you later hopefully!

Anna, Marta, and all of the LFFF team. xx