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BFI Flare 2024 (38th) – The Queer Muslim Project film panel has successful night…

BFI Flare 2024 (38th) – The Queer Muslim Project film panel has successful night…

The British Film Institute’s (BFI) annual celebration of LGBTQIA+ saw the spotlight on South Asian films and filmmakers…

INSPIRATION and inclusivity were very much on display at a gathering led by The Queer Muslim Project and held during BFI Flare (March 13-24).

More than 100 professionals turned out, as the spotlight at the festival turned onto the vibrant world of Queer Cinema from the Global South. Among the films featured at the festival were ‘Merchant Ivory’ a documentary about filmaking couple James Ivory and Ismail Merchant; ‘Pine Cone’, another feature but this time, a semi-autobiographical tale about a gay and out film director in India and loosely based on co-writer and director’s Onir (Dhar) own life. He is more commonly referred to as just Onir.

Panel (visible); Cary Rajinder Sawhney; Amrou Al-Kadhi;
Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor

More about the other films that featured here (in our preview piece – here)

Interviews with writer-directors James Krishna Floyd (‘Unicorns’) and Fawzia Mirza (‘The Queen of My Dreams’) can be found on our Youtube channel (pending – subscribe and do not miss!)

A specially convened panel at BFI Flare discussed the issues facing filmmakers who want to explore the Queen Cinema space.

Luminaries, whose films graced the film festival, spoke about the challenges they faced – covering everything from film funding, expanding audiences, nurturing leaders that could speak to the wider industry and how Queer Cinema from the Global South can continue to create work and spaces that enable further engagement, understanding and ambition.

Among the panellists were Amrou Al-Kadhi (writer-director behind ‘Layla’ which opened BFI Flare this year and is about an Arab drag queen who catches the eyes of a marketing executive at a London corporate event that does not go well – but leads both into a heady romance in which they will both confront their issues with love).

Nimra Bhuchar

Indian writer-director Onir, whose ‘Pine Cone’ screened three times and was among the closing films last Sunday (March 24). Read our interview with the director here – (pending). His latest film looks at the personal challenges gay and out director ‘Sid Mehra’ faces when trying to navigate his love life among pivotal dates in the fight for equality in India. Light on politics or overt social commentary, it is a Bollywood inspired film that has same sex relationships at the heart of them. Onir hopes to secure distribution in India and is perhaps best known as the filmmaker behind ‘My Brother…Nikhil’ which is centred around one of the first Indians to be identified as HIV+ and how the authorities unjustly treated him. Set in Goa, it is based on the life of activist and founder of organisation, Positive People, the late Dominic D’ Souza.

The others on the panel were Cary Rajinder Sawhney, the director of the London Indian Film Festival (LIFF) and for many years a programmer for the London Film Festival (LFF); producer, Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor, one of the creatives behind the successful ‘Blue Story’ (2021) and ‘Champion’ in 2023. She was named as a Screen a 2020 International Star of Tomorrow and also directs – she specialises in producing work that has Black, Queer and Female-led content at its forefront.

Rafiul Alom Rahman, Bucha, Sawhney, Al-Kadhi, Gharoro-Akpojotor and Onir

Completing the panel was Nimra Bucha, who is one of the central characters in the Canadian-Pakistan film, ‘The Queen of my Dreams’ which enjoyed its premiere at LFF last year and had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). It is film about a Canadian university-aged gay woman having to go back to Pakistan, for a time, following their death of her father. Bucha plays the central character’s mother – who has her own activist past – unknown to her daughter, Azra (Amrit Kaur).

The panel was moderated by Rafiul Alom Rahman, the director of The Queer Muslim Project.

“The conversation soared,” he said. Audience members also enjoyed the hospitality and were treated to a BFI Flare DJ night.

BFI Flare DJ night at the BFI Southbank

“The rhythmic beats of a nostalgic desi-latin music mix, set the perfect backdrop for connection-building and idea exchange. Amidst the glamour and camaraderie, one thing stood out above all: the genuine warmth and passion of the diverse group of professionals in attendance,” continued Rahman. “Their shared dedication to the advancement of queer cinema from the Global South created an atmosphere of inclusivity and inspiration.”

He added: “Nobody wanted to leave. One attendee remarked that if we weren’t ushered out of this, it would’ve easily turned into a sleepover. Another filmmaker said that ‘for a queer filmmaker of colour, this was such an important space to be seen and for our stories to be heard.”

Rahman believed the event would help to “harness the power of collaborations in order to promote more intersectional, diverse and nuanced queer stories from the Global South”.

The event was hosted in partnership with Gay Times on Thursday, March 21 at the BFI Southbank.


More information can be found about The Queer Muslim Project here –


With thanks to the BFI Flare 2024 press team

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture