Taking Woodstock, Demetri Martin,Imelda Staunton

Calling all movie-loving Londoners! Are you going to the exciting film festival that’s opening on the South Bank today?

Taking place at the BFI Southbank, this colourful movie gala, apparently the UK’s third largest film festival, will be showcasing hundreds of films and featuring numerous special themed events.

There are opportunities to see new films from all over the world, plus a whole load of  vintage movies and there will also be screenings of some recently released big titles including the Bafta-winning A Single Man and the latest Ang Lee offering Taking Woodstock.

And that’s not all – the festival programme also includes special events such as filmmaking workshops, club nights and a 60s-inspired retro disco. It’s also supported by numerous big names including Lord of the Rings favourite Sir Ian McKellen and everybody’s dream dinner party guest Stephen Fry.

Many of the screenings are sold out already, it’s that popular, but the festival continues until the end of the month so you’re still in with a chance of some tickets if you book now.

I bet you can’t wait to find out more can you?

A Single Man,Nicholas Hoult

So here you go – check out all you need to know about this year’s BFI London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival here.

What? You’ve suddenly lost interest?

Hmm, you see, no matter how gay-friendly you are, let’s face it, if you’re heterosexual, you’re probably going to feel alienated by an event that calls itself the ‘London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.’ I don’t expect that’s because you’re narrow-minded or anti-gay. It’s simply because this title sounds exclusive.

I personally spend most of my film and TV-viewing time watching stories that feature largely heterosexual characters, but even though I’m not heterosexual I don’t give it that much thought. I’d love to see more diverse representation, but as far as I’m concerned, people are essentially the same and should be able to relate to any human story.

Taking Woodstock

However, I have to say that if I found myself presented with a ‘London Heterosexual Film Festival’ I’d feel a slightly alienated thanks to that exclusive title.

I tried a little experiment over the past week. I asked each one of my movie buff heterosexual London friends if they were going to see anything at this year’s Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. It was interesting. Unsurprisingly, none of them were planning to attend, and some seemed utterly bewildered that I’d even asked the question.

These aren’t the types of people to shy away from gay-themed films when they’re integrated with other mainstream film releases, but it seems to be a different matter if a movie is flagged up as ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’.

This is why I have mixed feelings about the LLGFF.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s fantastic that gay and lesbian filmmakers, screenwriters and actors get a platform to showcase their talent and I’m happy that it exists and happy to give it my support – I’ve been a fan on Facebook for a while.

This film festival is hugely popular, the third largest in the UK. Why? Because most movies made available to Londoners across the average year don’t even feature gay characters or storylines, so this festival makes up that shortfall. Gay and lesbian audiences, eager to see themselves represented on screen for a change, buy up tickets way in advance.

But why is it that I don’t see that many of these gay or lesbian-themed movies getting mainstream releases?

A SINGLE MAN, COLIN FIRTH

Surely something needs to change?

As A Single Man star Colin Firth recently pointed out – Hollywood is reluctant to recognise the talent of the gay and lesbian community and continues to favour heterosexual actors, heterosexual storylines, and insists on watering down the ‘gayness’ of the two or three gay-themed films it handles each year by placing well-known heterosexual actors into the roles.

I love you Philip Morris

You may have heard about the Jim Carrey film I Love You Phillip Morris? It stars big heterosexual filmstar Carrey as a gay con man and co-stars Ewan McGregor as his lover. It premiered to rave reviews at Sundance. Yet, despite the rave reviews and the big stars, this movie struggled to get a US distributor for ages. In this day and age, how can this be? (I love You Phillip Morris is not showing at the LLGFF, but it is released in cinemas in the UK today).

With this anti-gay Hollywood issue achieving increased prominence this year, I can’t help but think that this would have been the perfect time for the BFI and the LLGFF programmers to jump onto the bandwagon to push for change and raise awareness further.

In fact, I wish we’d seen the festival programmers send out a different message this year.  It surely would have been forward-thinking to extend a welcome to the wider London community to come and check out a programme of the great films that don’t make it into the mainstream because distributors are too scared to take them.

I’d love to see steps being taken towards a more inclusive film industry across the board. I’d love to see UK distributors releasing more gay and lesbian themed movies. I’d love to see some sort of lobbying for change.

Daniel Radcliffe

And, I’d also love to see more big filmstars (including those across the pond) raising awareness over gay issues, just as Colin Firth, Ian McKellen and Daniel Radcliffe have done recently.

As you can see from my heated ramblings, this film festival has provided much food for thought.

In fact, this one is a great topic for a lively dinner party discussion. You’re welcome any time Stephen.