11/10/2019 Ending on a High Note – LFF Days 8 + 9
After nine days and 16 films, it’s officially a wrap on my BFI London Film Festival experience (*cries*). A trio of queer cinema features, one on Wednesday and two last night, made sure that my final days packed a cinematic punch. Between these three very different films, I was struck by how all tackle hard-hitting and seldom depicted queer experiences, demonstrating that filmmakers are still keen to tell challenging stories and strive for much-needed representation outside of the usual LGBT cinema fare. Kudos to the LFF programming team for including these three significant films in this year’s lineup.
First up was Walking with Shadows, which follows the unraveling of a family man’s life in Nigeria after he is outed to his close friends and family. The Nigerian setting alone makes the film’s exploration of sexuality all the more daring, though the film avoids falling into familiar tropes or wallowing in the hardships, instead punctuating the drama with bursts of trauma. Rather than honing in on solely the man’s story, we are given a fuller picture of the ripple effects on his wife, mother and friends. It’s clear great care has been taken to encompass all aspects of the difficult situation at the centre of the film, and an eye-opening Q&A that followed the screening reinforced how important and personal a story this was for many involved in the filmmaking process.
Finishing an incredible nine days off on a high note was the one-two punch of Rialto and Moffie. The former, a delicate and intriguing Dublin-set character study, while the latter a powerful and tough delving into the darkest recesses of toxic masculinity, in 1981 Apartheid South Africa. Tom Vaughan-Lawlor’s haunted (and haunting) leading performance in Rialto is up there with my standouts from LFF, as a middle-aged man no longer able to repress his sexuality, torn by his desires and obligations to his family. It’s a painful portrait of internal anguish, keeping us thoroughly invested for the brisk 90-minute running time. As for Moffie, I still haven’t quite been able to shake the potent impact the film had on me, and I fear my words might not do justice to this mighty achievement. Breathtakingly beautiful and harrowing in equal measure, this is muscular, bold filmmaking that plumbs the depths of masculinity and its capacity to strip away humanity. The pensive last shot is heartbreaking, and will no doubt linger with viewers like it has me. Moffie is among the greatest queer cinema entries I’ve ever seen, and I couldn’t ask for anything better to bring my time at LFF to a close than a film that makes me – to put it simply – really feel something.