British Council screens LGBTQ+ short films

The British Council in the Philippines and BFI Flare: London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival are launching the ninth run of the world’s widest-reaching LGBTQ+ digital campaign, Five Films for Freedom, this March.

This year, the United Kingdom’s international organization for cultural relations and educational opportunities partners with the Film Development Council in the Philippines (FDCP) to bring free limited screenings of five LGBTQ+ short films at Cinematheque Centres around the country from 21 to 22 March. Aside from the in-person screenings, the films are available for free across the world at the British Council Arts YouTube channel from 15 to 26 March, coinciding with the BFI Flare: London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival.

The 2023 selection of films, chosen by the British Council from BFI Flare’s program, explore subjects, such as violence and security, love across borders, and shifting identities. It includes All I Know by Obinna Robert Onyeri (Nigeria and the United States), Butch Up! by Yu-jin Lee (South Korea), Eating Papaw on the Seashore by Rae Wiltshire, and Nickose Layne (Guyana), Just Johnny by Terry Loane (Northern Ireland, United Kingdom), and Buffer Zone by Savvas Stavrou (UK and Cyprus).

They will be screened publicly at the FDCP Cinematheque Centre Manila (22 March, 6:30 p.m.) and FDCP Cinematheque Centres in Iloilo, Davao, Zamboanga, Nabunturan, and Bacolod City (21 March, 4 p.m. and 22 March, 6:30 p.m.)

Global audiences are encouraged to show solidarity with LGBTQ+ communities around the world where freedom and equal rights are limited by watching the films via the British Council Arts YouTube channel and through other channels in countries with access restrictions.

Five Films for Freedom continues the British Council’s work building connections, understanding, and trust between people in the UK and overseas through arts, education, and English language teaching. This year the five selected titles have been translated and made available with subtitles/closed captioning in 23 languages. During BFI Flare, the Five Films for Freedom program and filmmakers are presented at a special reception event for politicians in Westminster.

Since 2015, Five Films for Freedom films have been viewed 20 million times by people in over 200 countries and principalities, including parts of the world where homosexuality is criminalized, and where the death penalty is in place.

BFI Flare: London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival is the UK’s longest-running queer film event. It began in 1986 as Gay’s Own Pictures. By its third run, it was tagged the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and since then has grown to become the largest LGBTQIA+ film event in the UK, and it’s most anticipated. The festival changed its name to BFI Flare in 2014 to reflect the increasing diversity of its films, filmmakers, and audience. The 2023 festival presents 28 world premieres with 58 features and 90 shorts from 41 countries, and for the first time will present BFI Flare Expanded, a selection of four immersive art and virtual reality works from boundary-pushing LGBTQIA+ artists.

“Five Films for Freedom promotes rarely heard LGBTQIA+ stories from around the world, and makes them accessible to a global audience, particularly for people living in cultures where they cannot live or love as they would like,” Briony Hanson, British Council director of the film, said. “People can support this campaign through the hashtag #FiveFilmsForFreedom to drive home the message that love is a human right, no matter how we identify or where we are.”

On the other hand, Michael Blyth, BFI Flare’s senior programmer, said: “We are delighted to once again be partnering with the British Council on Five Films for Freedom. This global campaign is an essential part of the BFI Flare programme, and it’s a privilege to share the work of these hugely talented filmmakers with millions of people around the world, many of whom do not have the same level of access to LGBTQIA+ film, or the rights to express themselves freely. This year’s campaign remains as vital and urgent as ever.”
The Five Films for Freedom campaign trailer can be watched on YouTube ( Here’s a rundown of the featured films:

All I Know, directed by Obinna Robert Onyeri

‘All I Know’
All I Know (16 minutes, 2022, Nigeria and United States) shows two friends meeting for dinner. One goes to meet a stranger for a hook-up date while the other goes home. We follow a man’s search for his friend that puts him at risk of revealing life-altering secrets they both share.

Director Obinna Robert Onyeri is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker, born in Lagos, Nigeria. He studied Film at the University of California, Los Angeles, receiving the Hollywood Foreign Press Association Directing Fellowship award and the George Burns and Gracie Allen Scholarship.

‘Buffer Zone’
In Buffer Zone (16 minutes, 2022, UK and Cyprus), two young soldiers across enemy lines fall in love and find an escape from their oppressive environments through music.

Director Savvas Stavrou was born in Cyprus and studied Film at the University of Westminster, London. He works as a director across advertising, music videos, and short films, and he is developing his first feature. He is a Sundance Lab alumnus.

‘Butch Up!’ directed by Yu-jin Lee.

‘Butch Up!’
“Stop being miserable.” After hearing her ex’s last words to her, Mi-hae, a lead singer of an independent band, cannot get herself to sing the band’s most popular song, “Oppa’s Girl.”

The director of Butch Up! (12 minutes, 2022, Korea), Yu-Jin Lee studied film directing at the Korea National University of Arts. Her first short film, A Good Mother, was the most talked about queer film of the year in Korea.

Photographs courtesy of the British council of the Philippines
‘Eating Papaw on the Seashore,’ directed by Rae Wiltshire.

‘Eating Papaw on the Seashore’
Eating Papaw on the Seashore (18 minutes, 2022, Guyana) is a coming-of-age film about Asim and Hasani, two queer Guyanese boys, navigating their feelings in a homophobic society.

Director Rae Wiltshire studied literature and linguistics at the University of Guyana. As a playwright, he won Best New Guyanese play at Guyana’s National Drama Festival in 2015 and won the Guyana Prize for Literature in Drama in 2022 for his play Don’t Ask Me Why. Nickose Layne is a playwright, poet, and actor, who studied Theatre Arts at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago.

‘Just Johnny,’ directed by Terry Loane.

‘Just Johnny’
In Just Johnny (19 minutes, 2021, Northern Ireland, UK), Maria and Dermot’s straightforward family life takes a sudden turn when their son Johnny announces that he wants to wear a dress for his Holy Communion. Both parents are keen to do what is best for Johnny, but their different opinions almost pull the happy family apart.

Director Terry Loane was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and studied photography at Ulster University. He began designing for film in 1996 on the Oscar-nominated short film Dance Lexie Dance, and in 1998, he wrote and directed his first short film comedy, CLUCK. His latest feature as director, The Last Rifleman, is released this year.

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