British Council and BFI Flare celebrate a decade of Five Films For Freedom

British Council and BFI Flare: London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival launch 10th edition of world’s widest-reaching LGBTQIA+ digital showcase

Five short films from the Philippines, India, Spain, USA and the UK can be watched for free across the world from 13 - 24 March 2024

Landmark initiative presents five films for free to audiences globally and invites everyone everywhere to show solidarity with LGBTQIA+ communities in countries where freedom and equal rights are limited


British Film Institute

Five Films For Freedom, the world’s widest-reaching LGBTQIA+ digital campaign, returns on 13 March bringing five new films from the Philippines, India, Spain, the UK and USA to audiences across the world.

The film programme continues the British Council’s partnership with BFI Flare: London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival, with the short films selected from the festival line-up and promoted across the British Council’s global digital networks and BFI Player for free.Over the two weeks of the festival (13 - 24 March 2024) audiences worldwide are invited to dive into the world of LGBTQIA+ cinema from the comfort of their own homes and watch the films online for free.

Since its launch in 2015 Five Films For Freedom have been viewed by 23 million people, in over 200 countries and principalities. Our tenth anniversary edition showcases global LGBTQIA+ stories that resonate with strength and spirit, from the historic defiance of Compton's 22 in San Francisco to the heartfelt journey of love and understanding on a Mumbai beach in Halfway. This year's selection, including Little One, Cursive, and The First Kiss, dives deep into themes of family, identity, romance, and the universal quest for acceptance.

Talking about the 10th anniversary of Five Films for Freedom, Briony Hanson, Director of Film at the British Council said: “When we launched our very first Five Films For Freedom programme back in 2015, the idea was simply to share some of the brilliant films curated by BFI Flare with as many people in as many places as we could. 10 years and 50 films later, we’ve found that people all over the globe are hungry to see queer lives on their screens; we’ve found audiences in extraordinary situations to be braver than we ever imagined they’d be; and we’ve realised that LGBTQIA+ filmmakers have the ability to change lives with their stories. Bring on the next 10 years!”

Kristy Matheson Director, BFI Festivals: “For a decade Five Films for Freedom has allowed global audiences to encounter incredible filmmaking talents and celebrate LGBTQIA+ stories and communities. I would like to express my gratitude to the filmmakers for generously sharing their films and to the BFI Flare programming team and our friends at the British Council who’ve once again crafted an exceptional programme for us all.”

Former Five Films filmmakers from the programme’s 10-year history reflect on their inclusion in the programme:

Nora Mandray whose film True Wheel was selected in 2015:
“To share True Wheel as part of Five Films for Freedom gave the story of Fender Bender, a wom*n trans queer collective in Detroit, resonance on a global scale. It brought awareness and further solidarity to their action, in dialogue with the other four beautiful films. Looking back now, it’s fair to say that Five Films was an absolute pioneer in recognising the power of stories to gather communities online.”

Terry Loane, Director of Just Johnny, selected in 2023 said:
“We felt completely aligned with the Five Films banner of ‘love is a human right’ bringing universal, heartfelt human stories to audiences around the world. It just means so much for a story set in the north of Ireland to be given such a massive platform – the reach is incredible and their endeavor to make these powerful LGBTQIA+ films accessible to everyone is so important. This opportunity allowed us to reach new audiences across the world, that we might never had the chance to engage with."

Jake Graf, who directed Chance, selected in the very first Five Films selection in 2015:
“I was here in London and got on an early morning call to a group of young people in South Korea and heard them say 'the sun has just set and we've all just sat and watched your beautiful film together' and I found it strangely emotional to think that people on the literal other side of the world were seeing my little story.”

Savvas Stavrou, director of Buffer Zone, selected in 2023:
“To have my film seen in places where gay rights are still to be positively progressed and where it can actually make a difference is hopeful and it means the world. That’s what the British Council have created with this programme: hope.”

This year’s five films:

Little One
Directed by Clister Santos (Philippines – 9 mins)
A pregnant mother, unsure of how to raise a child, wants to chat with her two gay dads, but fate intervenes when one suffers a heart attack. Memories captured on an old camcorder help her reflect on their family's history.

Directed by Kumar Chheda (India – 14 mins)
A turbulent couple ends up at different entrances of Mumbai’s Juhu Beach, forcing them to walk towards each other and meet halfway.

Directed by Isabel Steubel Johnson (UK – 9 mins)
When a woman on the verge of a breakup gets help to improve her handwriting from a
mysterious stranger, she finds the inner voice she has always longed for.

The First Kiss
Directed by Miguel Lafuente (Spain – 9 mins)
Today is a special day for Andi, heading to Madrid to have his first date with a boy he's met online, but things don’t turn out quite as he expected.

Compton's 22
Directed by Drew de Pinto (USA – 18 mins)
Three years prior to Stonewall, trans sex workers and drag queens revolted against police violence at Compton's Cafeteria in San Francisco's Tenderloin district. Compton’s 22 imagines what happened.

Biographies for this year's five films Writers and Directors

Cursive - Joe Borg, Writer; Isabel Steuble-Johnson, Director

Joe is a queer screenwriter and filmmaker from East London. He has written a wealth of original and genre bending features, TV and short screenplays, including the feature Sundays Only, which was awarded Feature Winner in the Blue Cat Screenplay Competition in 2023. Queer short film Cursive, written by Joe in 2023, was produced by Homecoming Films. He is currently writing and directing projects including a series of gripping character monologues and short drama comedy, Resaca.

Isabel is a director and producer based in London. She picked up a Best Producer nomination for National Anthem at the 2018 Underwire Film Festival. She has worked with multiple global brands, creating unique television and social content. Her short films have been selected for Oscar, BAFTA and BIFA qualifying film festivals. She is a proud BAFTA Connect and British Black List Member.

Little One - John Clister Santos, Writer, Director and Animator

Clister Santos is a Filipino animator, filmmaker and visual artist based in Manila. His works have won various awards in the Philippines such as the Globaltronics' National Digital Arts Awards (2018), Acer's Predator’s Masters for Masters (2020) for his VFX & Animation. Recently, his works have been featured in the Graphika Manila Artbook 2023 and won an award in the Awe and Wonder Student Film Festival for his experimental artwork "Araw-Araw''. His debut short film “Ili-ili'' was selected as an official selection and premiered worldwide at the 38th BFI Flare: London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival.

Compton’s 22 - Drew de Pinto (they/them) - Director, Co-DP, Editor

Drew de Pinto is a director and editor based in Queens, New York. Their most recent short film, Compton's ’22, has been featured by Film Independent, nominated for an IDA award, and acquired by The New Yorker for distribution in 2024. Drew is a recipient of the 2023 NewFest New Voices Filmmaker Grant, a graduate of Stanford’s Documentary Film MFA program, and a member of the Alliance of Documentary Editors. They have worked on projects with The New Yorker, Vox, Art21, and Insignia Films, among others.

Halfway - Kumar Chheda, Writer, Director, Producer

Born and brought up in Mumbai, India, Kumar has written and directed for theatre since college days subsequently performing multiple experimental plays at prestigious venues across India. In 2023, he co-wrote Dal Bhat, which won the National Award for the Best Short Fiction Film at the 69th National Film Awards, and won the Best Film at the South Asian Short Film Festival. Kumar makes his directorial debut with Halfway, which received its world-premiere at the Jio MAMI Film Festival 2023 where it won the Silver Award for Best Film. He is currently developing his first feature film.

The First Kiss - Miguel Lafuente, Writer, Director

Born in Madrid, Miguel is a cultural manager and filmmaker. He has directed several short films, including Mi hermano (2015), Mario, Kike y David (2017), and Guillermo en el tejado (2018), which have had notable success at international festivals and online. As a producer he made the documentary Fernández Pratsch by the Argentine director Emiliano Spampinato (2020), and the feature Después de la derrota by Rosa Blas Traisac, currently in production. Since 2012 he has also been the artistic director of the Madrid International LGBTI+ Film Festival, LesGaiCineMad.

Find out more about Five Films for Freedom:

Watch the films:


About Five Films For Freedom

Five Films For Freedom is an annual online celebration of global LGBTQIA+ stories, presented in partnership with BFI Flare: London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival. Launched in 2014 by the British Council and the British Film Institute, the initiative aims to amplify LGBTQIA+ voices and advocate for love as a human right.

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We support peace and prosperity by building connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and countries worldwide. We do this through our work in arts and culture, education and the English language. We work with people in over 200 countries and territories and are on the ground in more than 100 countries. In 2022-23 we reached 600 million people.

About BFI Flare

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 3rd edition 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 its most anticipated. The festival changed its name to BFI Flare in 2014 to reflect the increasing diversity of its films, filmmakers and audience. The BFI Flare 2024 edition is programmed by Grace Barber-Plentie, Jay Bernard, Diana Cipriano, Zorian Clayton,Rhianna Ilube, Darren Jones, Wema Mumma and Brian Robinson.

The 2024 edition runs from 13-24 March at BFI Southbank. Full details available at

About the BFI

We are a cultural charity, a National Lottery distributor, and the UK’s lead organisation for film and the moving image. Our mission is: To support creativity and actively seek out the next generation of UK storytellers. To grow and care for the BFI National Archive, the world’s largest film and television archive. To offer the widest range of UK and international moving image culture through our programmes and festivals - delivered online and in venue. To use our knowledge to educate and deepen public appreciation and understanding. To work with Government and industry to ensure the continued growth of the UK’s screen industries.

Founded in 1933, the BFI is a registered charity governed by Royal Charter. The BFI Board of Governors is chaired by Jay Hunt OBE.

March 5, 2024 5:00am ET by Newsdesk  

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