Fims4FreedomBFI and British Council announce new LGBTQ+ short film commissions selected for #MOREFilms4Freedom

Three new short films have been commissioned by BFI Flare: London LGBTQ+ Film Festival, the British Council, and BFI NETWORK as part of the #MOREFilms4Freedom programme. The selected films - all cross-cultural collaborations exploring LGBTQ+ stories - build on the success of the original #FiveFilms4Freedom digital campaign, which originated in 2015 as a partnership between BFI Flare: London LGBTQ+ Film Festival and the British Council.

This year’s pilot #MOREFilms4Freedom programme supports urgent, creative collaborations exploring LGBTQ+ themes. The three selected projects will showcase a breadth of distinctive filmmaking voices and explore diverse themes including sexuality and conflict; intergenerational gay culture; and migration and family ties. They include two documentaries and one fiction project, with collaborations between UK filmmakers and Syrian, Palestinian and South African filmmakers currently based in Lebanon, Israel, and South Africa.

The three selected projects have each been awarded a grant from the British Council of £10,500 to cover all stages of production. Each team has been working with Executive Producer Loran Dunn (former Screen Star of Tomorrow, BFI Vision Awardee, and producer, A Deal With the Universe) whose support has been provided alongside their funding, to mentor both team and project from script through to edit. The projects are due for delivery in February 2020, with the possibility of screening at next year’s BFI Flare: London LGBTQ+ Film Festival in March, as well as appearing alongside the 2020 #FiveFilms4Freedom campaign.

The selected projects and teams are:

The Men Who Speak Gayle (Director Andrew Brukman, writer/storyteller Nathan Kennedy, producers Thembisa Cochrane and Georgie Paget). Young drag performer Nathan is one of the last people to speak Gayle - a secret language the gay community were forced to invent during Apartheid. He finds out about Louis, an original Gayle speaker living in a conservative desert town in South Africa and wants to put on a performance with him. These men, two generations apart and from different cultural and racial backgrounds have never met - and have no idea how the town will react.

Let My Body Speak (Director Madonna Adib, producer Noe Mendelle). Our bodies store memories. The body does not forget. A childhood in Damascus, OCD, the revolution, falling in love with a woman. My body remembers, it keeps the trauma. And after all the losses, I had to start listening to my body.

Nowhere (Writer-director Christopher Manning, producer Garry Paton, co-producers Laura Samara Hawa and Baher Agbariya). A young Palestinian woman crosses the Israeli border illegally to find her long-lost brother, who she hopes will be her ticket to a new life far from the West Bank. When she discovers the truth behind his exiled existence, her dreams of a happy reunion are shattered, and she must face her next steps alone.

The  #FiveFilms4Freedom digital campaign has generated views from nearly 14 million people in 202 countries and principalities since 2015. In previous editions of the campaign, a gap was found in projects and stories originating in countries within the African continent and the Middle East. In response, this year’s #MOREFilms4Freedom is supporting three collaborations between filmmakers in the UK and countries in those regions.

Briony Hanson, Director of Film at the British Council, says:

“One of the unexpected pleasures of our #FiveFilms4Freedom programme so far has been witnessing just how universal LGBTQ+ experience is wherever you are in the world. I am delighted that these first #MOREFilms4Freedom commissions will give voice to more international stories, and that three groups of UK filmmakers will have the chance to create new global connections as a result.”

Tricia Tuttle, BFI Festivals Director, said: 

“#FiveFilms4Freedom has brought moving, provocative, beautiful stories with global LGBTQ+ perspectives to audiences worldwide. With #MOREFilms4Freedom, British Council, BFI Network and BFI Flare London LGBTQ+ Film Festival wanted to offer UK filmmakers the opportunity to collaborate creatively with filmmakers from other parts of the world. It’s an important project which enables talented filmmakers to learn from each other and explore the similarities and differences of LGBTQ+ experiences and stories across cultures”