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The Owls The Owls
Posted: Wed Mar 23 2011

The London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival is again screening queer cinema we don't usually get to see. Time Out wonders if the curtain is coming down for good

Like most publicly funded cultural institutions, the British Film Institute has had its grant cut and so must scale back many of its activities. Unfortunately that means the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, which is organised and heavily subsidised by the BFI, has been reduced to a week from its usual fortnight, and once this year's edition is over, the BFI will conduct a review of the festival to decide whether it should continue.

Initially this seems like alarming news. The festival has been a cultural and social highlight of London's LGBT calendar for 25 years and a welcome annual fixture for film fans of all orientations. But despite healthy ticket sales, the LLGFF doesn't make enough money to cover its costs. This is a make-or-break year, so now is the time to show your support. There's a 'Save the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival' Facebook group and petition, but the easiest way to make a difference is to go see a film.

Happily, there's much to recommend in this year's programme. The festival will get off to an explosive start with 'Kaboom', Gregg Araki's campus comedy/'Buffy'-style whodunnit mash-up that features queer characters of every stripe and state of mortality. There are more college hipsters in the Closing Night Gala, 'The Four-Faced Liar'. Bridget and Molly are both literature students in New York, but apart from that appear to have nothing in common: Bridget is an impulsive womaniser who names her conquests after days of the week, while Molly is a control freak who's just moved in with her nice but dull boyfriend Gregg. No prizes for guessing where this is going, but the journey is sweet and the humour and heartache of the girls' experiences ring true.

One generation back are 'The Owls' - a quartet of Older Wiser Lesbians involved in a murder. The real story here is that 'The Owls' is the project of a collective of older, wiser, queer, feminist and political filmmakers and actresses, including Cheryl Dunye, who directed the film, British actor-director Lisa Gornick and, on screen together for the first time since 'Go Fish', Guinevere Turner and VS Brodie. So, although 'The Owls' is ostensibly a murder mystery, it's actually a sharp state-of-the-nation address from the generation of women who paved the way for how we see lesbians on screen today. The accompanying making-of documentary, 'Hooters', is just as fascinating.

Bringing things bang up to date is 'Too Much Pussy!', a road movie following the European tour of The Queer X Show. These feminist performance artists titillate and provoke with their explicit and extreme stage acts, but we learn more about these passionate and engaged women as we hang out with them in the tour van, eavesdropping on their conversations.

One element of the slimmed-down LLGFF that hasn't been sacrificed is its commitment to inviting guests to discuss their work with audiences. Alongside filmmaker Q&As there will be an interview with Sarah Waters following a preview screening of the television adaptation of her fifth novel, 'The Night Watch', starring Anna Maxwell Martin, Claire Foy and Jodie Whittaker.

'The Night Watch' will be broadcast on the BBC later this year, but most of the work shown in the LLGFF would otherwise not be seen by UK audiences. Book now to avoid long-term disappointment.

London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, BFI Southbank, Mar 31-Apr 6 2011. See www.llgff.org.uk for full details.

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