Woman on Top at BFI Flare

BFI Flare Headshots 5Emma Smart is a programmer for BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival. We talk to her in the run up to the launch of one of the most highly anticipated events of the LGBT social calendar. 


I’m a programmer for BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival, which involves researching and watching a lot of films. I think this year alone I have personally watched around 170 films for selection purposes. In this job, you have to enjoy watching films, that’s a given. My favourite lesbian films, in no particular order, are: Kiss Me, Desert Hearts, and When Night is Falling. Some of my favourite films of all time, again in no particular order, are: The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music, The Philadelphia Story, and although it kills me every time I watch it, I do have a soft spot for Beaches. When you find a film that you absolutely love and you know your audience is going to love it too (or you hope they will!), that’s a pretty awesome feeling and probably the thing I enjoy the most.

The creative freedom you have as a programmer is something special, whether you are selecting films based on a body of work by a particular filmmaker, or around a theme which is important to the LGBT community, that you want to explore and debate with the audience. The ability to voice your own opinions and beliefs in this way is definitely something different, and something I really appreciate as part of my role. 

The festival itself can be gruelling schedule wise, you’re working around 14 hours a day for 12 continuous days, at the end of it all you want to do is sleep.

It’s a pretty equal split of the sexes in the world of LGBT programming. The central creative roles for the BFI Flare and the London Film Festival are both fulfilled by women, and the creative directors  of other LGBT film festivals around the world are often women. Saying that, there aren’t as many lesbians making lesbian films as there are gay men, making gay films. I think the reason for that is, it’s much harder for women to raise finance for a film than it is for men. It shouldn’t be, but it is. I look forward to day, in the not too distant future, where there are equal amounts of work from trans and lesbian filmmakers, as there are from gay filmmakers.

I hope the festival will go from strength to strength, championing LGBT filmmaking. For me, personally, I hope the future will hold more good films and more creativity… and puppies, I definitely need to have lots of puppies and dogs in my future.

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