One of the world’s most significant gay film festivals is getting a makeover after 26 years, changing its name to reflect the “increasing diversity of the programme and the people who identify with and embrace it”.
The BFI London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival will now be known as BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival, after extensive consultation with its audiences.
Clare Stewart, head of cinemas and festivals, said: “It was clear there was an ongoing discussion around whether the name was truly representative and inclusive enough of all the diverse identities and sexualities represented in the programme and the audiences.”
The majority of respondents wanted a change: “It was a very robust debate,” Stewart said. “We felt we should be bold because the festival’s history was bold.”
Some respondents said use of the words lesbian and gay “was very old fashioned,” festival programmer Brian Robinson said. “It never occurred to me in my life that lesbian and gay could be considered old fashioned and conservative. I guess it shows how far we’ve come as a culture.”
He added: “It’s an interesting cultural moment to refresh what we are. We’ve always been a broad church in what we screen and under this new umbrella everyone can come in.”
The festival was first a one-off in 1977 called Images of Homosexuality, which played in the cinema for a month. Mr Robinson said: “No other cinema had done a survey of gay cinema at the time.”
The same year hippies in San Francisco projected experimental films onto a sheet in a squat, which became the first San Francisco Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.
The London festival became an annual event from 1986 when it had the name Gays’ Own Pictures. Two years later it was renamed the BFI London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.
“The festival used to be an oasis in the desert,” Mr Robinson said. “We couldn’t have imagined that a film like Blue is the Warmest Colour would win the Palm d’Or. However far we get into the mainstream, there’s always need for a showcase.”
The programme this year will feature films themed to those about romance; stories of sex and identity as well as reflections on art and community.
Ben Wishaw film Lilting is to open the festival on 20 March, with the closing film was tonight announced as 52 Tuesdays, directed by Sophie Hyde.
Documentaries include The Abominable Crime, which tells the story of two Jamaicans: one gay activist and a lesbian mother who survived a shooting. Another, Born This Way, looks at prejudice against the lesbian and gay community in Cameroon.