In the year of #20GayTeen, queer cinema has burst out of the closet and straight into the mainstream. Thanks to the likes of Call Me By Your Name and Love, Simon, LGBTQ representation is more inclusive than ever before, but guys like Simon aren’t the only ones who deserve love.
Disabled people are regularly marginalized on screen, too, and those who are both disabled and queer are even less likely to see their stories play out in the films that they love. Aside from occasional gems like The Way He Looks and Margarita With a Straw, the intersection between sexuality and disability is rarely explored in tandem and when it is, disabled actors are often overlooked in favor of able-bodied performers.
However, one quick glance at the programme for BFI Flare 2018 reveals that the times are a changin’. This year, the London LGBTQ+ Festival will screen a range of films that hone in on the queer experience of disabled people without fetishizing their condition or casting able-bodied people in their place. Stumped, Pulse, and Love, Scott all explore the lives of disabled queer people in different ways, shining a light on their hopes and desires. Most crucially of all though, each film achieves this with an unflinching honesty that demands to be seen by a wider audience.
In a world where mainstream cinema has only just started coming to terms with queer audiences and yet still fails to depict disabled people as sexual beings, films like the three listed below are of vital significance.
Here are three highlights of this year’s BFI Flare Film Festival.
Laura Marie Wayne’s documentary is a deeply moving portrait of musician Scott Jones who is left paralysed after he was attacked outside of a bar in his hometown of Nova Scotia. Neither the courts nor the media treated the assault as homophobic and this only deepened Scott’s pain as he struggles to rebuild his life.
Nick Robinson’s character may be grabbing all of the headlines in Love, Simon, but Love, Scott is just as important, portraying the devastating impact of ignorance at its most violent and cruel. Filmed over the span of three years, Love, Scott is a truly heartbreaking testament to the strength of one man in the face of hate, inspiring audiences beyond those who are queer or disabled. Despite what happened to him, Scott’s story is one of love, so we can only hope that audiences will find room in their hearts to love both Scott and Simon following the world premiere of the film at BFI Flare 2018.
Love, Scott is playing on Saturday 24 March & Sunday 25 March.
Directed by American filmmaker Robin Berghaus, Stumped tells the story of Will Lautzenheiser, a young film professor who loses all four limbs after contracting a rare and potentially fatal disease. The documentary follows Will’s road to recovery as he dives into the world of stand-up comedy as a means of escape and explores the challenges of recuperation along the way.
Like Love, Scott, Stumped also tells the story of a young queer man whose world is turned upside down, but here, humour becomes a surprising outlet that helps Will cope with his new reality, transforming life into something positive and meaningful. Tackling topics rarely seen on the big screen, Will’s comedy routines deconstruct the disabled queer experience in a relatable fashion while opening up a dialogue that is both hilarious and eye-opening all at once.
Stumped is playing on Wednesday 28 March & Friday 30 March
Pulse star Daniel Monks originally gave up acting because he “didn’t see disabled actors on screen or on stage who had sustainable careers.”
Set in an alternate reality where medical practices are far more advanced, Pulse challenges our conception of gender and sexual identity with the story of Olly, a gay disabled teenager who transfers his consciousness into an able-bodied female. With the support of his mother, Olly tries to adjust to life in this new body, but continues to face an even more complicated struggle than most in the search for love.
Hemiplegic actor Daniel Monks drew upon his own troubled experiences as a teenager to play Olly and also wrote the script for Pulse, too, making this a rare feature that explores the sexuality of disabled people in a wholly authentic way. As Olly explores his newfound freedom, the film raises questions about the relationships that we share both with others and with ourselves, reminding audiences from all walks of life that adversity is something we must overcome if we are to truly feel comfortable in our skin. Teen body-swap films have never been so awe-inspiring.
Pulse is playing on Friday 30 March & Saturday 31 March
Along with these three highlights, BFI Flare will also screen a programme of short films called Fighters of Demons, Makers of Cakes that highlights work by LGBTQ deaf and disabled people.
Whether or not you love Simon, Scott, and all of the other people involved in these films, it’s important to celebrate movies that portray the wider spectrum of life as an LGBT person with honesty and conviction, providing people from all walks of life with someone that they can finally relate to on the big screen.
BFI Flare 2018 runs from 21 March–1 April at London Southbank.