BFI Flare film festival – films 1 & 2

It’s that time of year again! The BFI Flare fest started yesterday so it’s one of the two times a year I see how many films I can cram into 10 days (the other being the London film festival in Autumn).

This year I’m being a little more disciplined – 12 films in 10 days (rather than last years 21!) and since some are days of 2 films there’s even time off in between. My pal R is seeing considerably more!

This afternoon and evening’s films were The Pass and Who’s Gonna Love Me Now which were a bit of a miss and a hit respectively.

The Pass was a hit stage play at The Royal Court in 2014 with Russell Tovey and Gary Carr and got some very good reviews. It’s translation into a film is not entirely successful. You can see how it would work well as a play – ostensibly a double hander set over 10 years in 3 different hotel rooms.  While there’s no reason this shouldn’t successfully transfer to the screen it didn’t quite work for me.  It very much felt like a play that had been filmed – rather than source material which had been adapted to screen. I believe it was also the director’s first feature length film and I think that also showed.

The film is the story of Jason (Tovey) and his best friend Ade (played in the film by Arinze Kene). It’s set over a period of 10 years – starting when Jason and Ade are 19 and shows how a decision made by Jason echoes through the next decade. We meet the two friends – apprentice football players – in a room in Bulgaria preparing for a big match the next day – their exuberant horseplay barely masking a longing for deeper physical contact. Some years later we catch up with Jason, now a successful pro player, married and with kids, but feeling the need to quell rumours about his sexuality in a hotel room honey-trap. In the final act Jason is separated, living in a hotel, and realising that he has sacrificed everything (family, love, friendship and physical fitness) for fame and fortune. It’s fairly easy to sympathise with the 19 year old Jason, far less so with the self-indulgent, selfish and manipulative 29 year old.  By the end I fully despised Jason and felt nothing less than contempt for him.

The pacing felt at bit patchy and the same could be said for the two central performances. Both Tovey and Kene had great moments – but overall the performances were as patchy as the pacing.  It’s not a bad film per se, but it could have been much better. I do have to say though that Kene is quite breathtakingly beautiful. 🙂

Who’s Gonna Love Me Now? was my choice, purely because of a throw away line in the festival brochure and a pic of the London Gay Men’s Chorus plus the talk of an excellent soundtrack.

From a slow beginning this turned out to be a stellar documentary. Saar – a gay chap from a relgious family in Israel – has been living in London for decades after being effectively thrown out of the kibbutz where his family live.   He enjoyed the gay lifestyle of London, found and then separated from the love of his life and has been diagnosed as HIV positive at the start of the film.

It’s a brilliant documentary shot over several years about love, friendship and family and follows Saar as he tells his family of his diagnosis, and gradually begins to talk honestly and openly about his life and their (in the case of some family members, unforgivingly hostile) reactions. Saar slowly finds himself torn bewteen staying in London or returning to Israel and his family. The Gay Men’s Chorus and Saar provide a brilliant soundtrack. It’s a story of forgiveness and uderstanding, compassion, compromise and respect, the power of friendship, family and home. I can’t recommend it highly enough and if you get the chance it is well worth seeing.

Saar and the two brothers who directed the film were present for a Q&A post film, the best bit being that Saar’s ex-military, quite strict (but obviously deeply loving) dad has invited the Gay Men’s Chorus over to perform in the kibbutz.  So yeah – feel good film all-round.

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