BFI Flare: LGBTQIA+ Film Festival announces 2024 opening and closing night films

The BFI Flare London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival has unveiled the opening and closing night films for this year’s festival. The 38th edition of the film festival will take place at BFI Southbank in London between 13 and 24 March.

The Opening Night Gala will see the European premiere of Layla, the debut film from Attitude columnist Amrou Al-Kadhi. The film starring Bilal Hasna received its world premiere earlier this month at the Sundance Film Festival.

A synopsis for the film reads: “Layla tells the story of a struggling Arab drag queen whose confident façade hides their desperate desire for love. When their performance at a belittling corporate Pride event turns into a transgressive takedown, they are surprised to catch the eye of marketing executive Max, whose attentions sweep Layla off their feet. The two start an intoxicating romance, but as Layla starts altering who they are to keep Max’s interest, they both face uncomfortable truths.”

Amrou Al-Kadhi, Layla‘s director said it was a “profound honour” to open this year’s BFI Flare Festival. “BFI Flare has been utterly instrumental to my career,” they continued being an alumnus of the BFI Flare x BAFTA mentorship programme where they met their producer Savannah James-Bayly.

“We are deeply proud to be bringing our first feature, Layla, home to BFI Flare,” Amrou went on to say. “Layla is a film dedicated to the creative resilience of the queer community, and a love letter to queer joy – to be opening the festival where I first felt the impact of joyful representation on screen, found my people, and laid the foundations of my career, is a cosmic gift, and I simply cannot wait to celebrate Layla with my community.”

“I cannot think of a better place to premiere Lady Like than BFI Flare!” – Luke Willis

Meanwhile, the Closing Night Gala on Saturday 23 March will see the world premiere of the docu-fiction Lady Like by director/producer Luke Willis. The film focuses on Lady Camden aka Rex Wheeler, who gained international fame via RuPaul’s Drag Race season 14.

As per the film’s synopsis: “In this rags to riches origin story, Lady Camden struggles to manage the demands of her freshly minted international fame, while Rex is forced to come to terms with the troubling childhood he left behind in Camden which drove him to so desperately seek joy, fantasy and escape through the performing arts.”

Willis shared, “I cannot think of a better place to premiere Lady Like than BFI Flare!” He also said: “It will be such a blast to share this inspiring story that starts in Camden, finds itself in San Francisco, traverses the globe, and ends in London with BFI Flare audiences!”

Programming BFI Flare 2024 are Grace Barber-Plentie, Jay Bernard, Diana Cipriano, Zorian Clayton, Rhianna Ilube, Darren Jones, Wema Mumma, and Brian Robinson.

The full programme for BFI Flare: London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival will be revealed on Tuesday 13th February at 11am.