All in Dazed

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.

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. 

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.

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.

Francis Lee’s debut feature film God’s Own Country, is a frank and unsentimental portrait of masculinity, loneliness, love and same-sex desire that pushes far beyond a simplistic, coming-out narrative. Set in the sublime, yet unforgivingly isolated Yorkshire Dales, the picture has scooped numerous awards at the Sundance, Berlin and Edinburgh film festivals for it’s pregnant silences and viscerally honest depiction of rural farming life.

Netflix's newest documentary looks at the bizarre Hulk Hogan lawsuit bankrolled by Silicon Valley billionaire and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, a mogul with links to Trump and an axe to grind.

Nearly three decades since Paris Is Burning first debuted to widespread critical acclaim, Kiki explores New York’s modern-day ballroom scene - only this time, the story is told from the perspective of the community itself.
 

Debuting at this year’s Sheffield Doc/Fest before making its way to London for a two month residency as part of the BFI’s Gross Indecency festival, Daisy Asquith’s Queerama mines the BFI’s National Archives to codify a collective queer experience in Britain throughout the 20th Century.

Picking up awards at the Frameline, Orlando and Calgary film festivals, we spoke to Tom E. Brown (director of Pushing Dead) at this year's BFI Flare Festival about being diagnosed with HIV, thinking of yourself as “poison” and what it feels like to finally reach a “moment in time where you’re comfortable enough to tell everyone” about your illness.

East London based Shamz Le Roc (younger sister of late-90s R&B pop singer Kele) released her first track Lazy Days back when MySpace was at it’s height some 6 years ago. An indolent reverie reminiscent of Kelela or Little Simz, the Anglo-Caribbean artist has since honed her production with Baishe Kings’ Herda Vim, collabed with Hudson Mohawke and put out a steady stream of tracks which show that her rich, brooding vocals have finally come into their own.