“I was talking to an editor about writing prose. I was trying to figure out my life basically,” says Desiree Akhavan, when I ask her how she first stumbled across a copy of Emily Danforth’s The Miseducation Of Cameron Post. Danforth’s novel tells the story of Cameron, a young Montana girl who’s raised by a religious aunt after both her parents die in a tragic car accident. Akhavan’s adaptation of the book focuses largely on the second half of Cameron’s story – the time she spends at “God’s Promise,” a gay conversion therapy camp, after being caught having sex with a close female friend in the backseat of her date’s car at the school prom. “This was the first thing I’d read that felt really honest about the experience of being a teen and coming of age. It also happened to be queer and female driven but that wasn’t the only thing about it that made it really special to me.”

With thoughtfulness, clarity and a meaningful sense of urgency, Reed’s Sundance Grand Jury-nominated Dark Money begins by looking at how dark money groups have influenced the politics of her home state of Montana, before zooming out to consider the macro effects of unbridled campaign donations on the US government as a whole. Dark Money is a gripping and essential watch that posits the frightening possibility that House Of Cards might not be quite as removed from reality as we would like. Ahead of the documentary’s broadcast on PBS this October we spoke to Reed about America’s current political climate, why dark money poses more of a threat than Macedonian article farms, and what we can do to combat its influence.

Sundance and Emmy award-winning filmmaker/photographer, Lauren Greenfield, has spent the last 25 years documenting the impact of consumerism on youth, gender, body image and our wider social mores. Deepening and developing the themes she first began exploring in Thin and Queen Of Versailles, her latest feature Generation Wealth examines extremes of wealth and addiction through a series of intimate portraits filmed around the world. From disgraced Wall St financiers to Chinese etiquette coaches, Russian trophy wives to LA teenagers every inch the adult, Generation Wealth is a rigorous historical essay, entertaining expose and deeply personal journey which bears witness to the human cost of capitalism.

Foreshadowing the opioid epidemic currently tearing through present-day America, 1980s Detroit was caught in the grip of a deadly and far-reaching crack crisis. In the midst of an era defined by bloody turf wars, crippling social disarray and widespread police corruption a bizarre urban legend began to emerge – that of a skinny, teenage kingpin better known as ‘White Boy Rick.’ Appointed the mastermind behind one of the city’s largest drug organisations, Richard Wershe was arrested in 1988, aged just seventeen. Thirty years later he’s still behind bars, imprisoned under Michigan’s draconian 650 Lifer law remaining, until recently, the only one of 200 individuals still serving a life sentence without parole for a non-violent drug offence.

The epicentre of 70s hedonism, Studio 54 became a monumental magnet for beautiful stars, casual sex, and mounds of cocaine. A den of excess that defined its own rules by welcoming the ostracized, the queer, and the fabulous, the nightclub enshrined itself as an enduring and  contradictory symbol of openness and exclusivity. Chronicling the rise and fall of the most talked-about club in history, Matt Tyrnauer’s latest documentary Studio 54 tells the story of two best friends from Brooklyn, Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell, who conquered New York City only to have it crumble before their eyes. Combining never before seen footage with brutally honest interviews, Studio 54 is a parade of colour, creativity and celebrity which pulls back the curtain on the club’s hidden history.

One of the largest and most significant celebrations of non-fiction filmmaking in Europe, the 25th edition of acclaimed documentary film festival Sheffield Doc/Fest returns to South Yorkshire from 7th to 12th June this year. Featuring a powerful, thought-provoking and eclectic mix of features, shorts, discussions, talks, workshops and live performances, this year’s festival reflects on themes of race, identity, sexuality and mental health amongst others.

Set in the tight-knit communities and pastoral landscapes of Jersey’s coastal towns and villages, Beast is an intelligent, gripping and emotionally rich psychological thriller which unfolds with dramatic and unpredictable precision. The film follows Moll – a young woman stifled in an oppressive home, ruled by an uncompromising matriarch – as she gradually begins to assert her independence, detangling herself from her dysfunctional family with the help of an enticing and dangerous outsider. Starved of emotional oxygen, Moll’s companion offers hope for a newly emancipated life, until a slew of brutal murders smothers the island under a pall of fear and suspicion. 

Drawing on his personal experiences with Paris’ ACT UP pressure group, Robin Campillo’s 120 BPM is a rousing, heart-breaking celebration of queer activism. Set in the height of France’s 1990s AIDS epidemic, the film follows introspective, HIV-negative Nathan as he gradually gets pulled deeper into the group’s agitating political demonstrations, direct action and protest rallies. An intimate and deeply moving love story as much as it is a thoughtful and well-paced historical account, 120 BPM has a vitality and urgency to it that perfectly embodies the pulse-racing energy of its title. 

One of the largest and most significant celebrations of queer cinema in Europe, the 32nd edition of acclaimed LGBTQ film festival Flare, returns to the BFI Southbank from 21st March to 1st April this year. Featuring a powerful, thought-provoking and eclectic mix of features, shorts, discussions, talks, workshops and club nights, this year’s festival reflects on themes of family, identity, displacement and disability, whilst also exploring the way film has refined and shaped our understanding of HIV/AIDS over the decades. 
 

When Marina suddenly loses Orlando, her lover and friend twenty years her senior, her identity as a trans-woman sees her ostracised from the family, shut-out of Orlando’s funeral and targeted with suspicion and contempt by the authorities. Pushing back against a community which views her existence as an aberration and a perversion, Orlando’s death reawakens an instinctive drive in Marina to assert herself as a complex, strong, forthright and fantastic woman.

Speaking to Michael Blyth, programmer for the BFI’s Flare Festival, we’ve pulled together a list of witty, dark and touching films to look forward to in 2018 that delve deeper into the trans-experience, explore queerness in the context of strictly religious communities, challenge conversion therapies, focus on the fringes of sexuality and gender, and celebrate LGBT socio-political activism.

Throughout 2017 we’ve seen widening social divides as our beliefs become more entrenched, and the stories we see and share become increasingly tailored to our interests. Political unrest has been catalysed by erratic, and frustratingly binary approaches to nuanced social, economic and international issues, and, whilst some journalistic institutions have been attacked, undermined for the way they seek to challenge authority, others have begun to thrive in a new age of misinformation. Throughout it all, a host of insightful and necessary documentaries have catalogued these changes, reflecting this new set of preoccupations back at us, working to inform viewers about the changing status quo whilst simultaneously providing a platform for marginalised communities to raise their voice above the din.

A thoughtful, slow-burning study of sexuality and self-awareness, Beach Rats follows Frankie as he seeks to escape the bleakness of his family’s situation through late-night gay chatrooms, disguised cam shows and anonymous hook-ups.

Scoring both fame and widespread critical acclaim with his iPhone-shot Tangerine, Sean Baker returns with The Florida Project, a touching portrait of childhood innocence set against the backdrop of America’s failing economy. 

Based on André Aciman’s 2007 novel of the same name, Call Me By Your Name is a queer coming-of-age love story that’s as languorous and seductive as its North Italian setting. Directed by This Is Love and A Bigger Splash’s Luca Guadagnino, the film follows Elio as he struggles to navigate first-time feelings of lust, longing and same-sex desire brought on by the arrival of his father’s new research assistant, Oliver.

David France has spent much of his adult life preserving, sharing and celebrating the defining moments of LGBT history. His seminal 2012 documentary about the AIDS epidemic, How To Survive A Plague, picked up awards at film festivals across the globe, including a Sundance, Emmy and Oscar nomination. His latest feature, a Netflix Original, chronicles the extraordinary life and death of Marsha P Johnson.

With the release of the eagerly anticipated sequel Blade Runner 2049 just around the corner, we spoke to Rhidian Davis, curator of the BFI’s Days Of Fear And Wonder and Ian Brookes, author of Film Noir: A Critical Introduction, to find out more how film noir influenced the Blade Runner’s darkness and why it’s integral to the film’s lasting success.

This October, 243 films will be screened from 67 countries, at 15 cinemas across the capital for the 2017 BFI London Film Festival. Bringing together a vibrant mix of homegrown and international talent, this year’s festival explores themes of social division, disability, immigration, gender equality and LGBTQ rights. We’ve pulled together a few of our favourites from this year’s line-up.

Creator of two critically acclaimed web-series - The Slope and F To Seventh - both of which use sarcasm and satire to tease apart the complexities of pre-middle age, sexuality, gender and what it means to find your ‘old-fashioned lesbianism’ has been left behind; Ingrid Jungermann’s first feature film Women Who Kill is a wickedly dry, queer, thriller-comedy.