Wednesday 10 June 2020

The free-to-access More Films for Freedom debuts on 15 June with three short films exploring LGBTIQ+ stories commissioned by the British Council, BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival and BFI NETWORK.

The three films are cross-cultural collaborations between UK-based LGBTIQ+ filmmakers and storytellers from countries in Africa and the Middle East. They will stream free of charge for a month each on the British Council’s Arts YouTube channel and on BFI Player to coincide with Pride.

More Films for Freedom opens with director Christopher Manning’s Nowhere,followed by Andrew Brukman’s The Men Who Speak Gayle and Madonna Adib’s Let My Body Speak.

The initiative builds on Five Films for Freedom:the world’s widest-reaching LGBTIQ+ online film campaign, run by the British Council and BFI. Since its 2015 launch this annual digital screening has been viewed by more than 14 million people in at least 200 countries, including places where homosexuality remains illegal.

More Films for Freedom responds to a gap in projects and stories originating from Africa and the Middle East.

The three debut films have been developed separately by filmmakers in the UK working independently with Palestinian, South African and Syrian filmmakers. They explore compelling LGBTIQ+ realities amidst themes of gender, freedom and global human rights:

  • Nowhere, streaming 15 June – 14 July:Written and directed by award-winning Christopher Manning, this short drama tells the story of a young Palestinian woman who crosses the Israeli border to find her long-lost brother. 
  • The Men Who Speak Gayle, streaming 15 July – 14 August:Young drag performer Nathan and retired airline steward Louis bond through Gayle, a secret language created by the gay community during Apartheid South Africa, in this documentary by Andrew Brukman.
  • Let My Body Speak, streaming 15 August – 14 September:Syrian refugee Madonna Adib writes and directs this personal account of the experiences her body stores – from her childhood in Damascus, battling OCD, witnessing the Syrian revolution, and falling in love with a woman.

The teams behind each film were selected for their uniquely collaborative international approach to filmmaking and, as part of the commission, worked with BFI Vision awardee Loran Dunn as Executive Producer. 

Briony Hanson, Director Film, British Council, said:

“Our More Films for Freedom campaign is so special because it allows us to connect UK filmmakers and those in under-represented regions of the Middle East and Africa to tell their LGBTIQ+ stories. With lots of Pride events around the world cancelled this year due to Covid-19, what better way to bring global LGBTIQ+ communities together than through the power of film.” 

Michael Blyth, Senior Programmer, BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival, adds:

“For the past six years, Five Films for Freedom has allowed BFI Flare to spread our message of love and hope by sharing films with millions of people across the world. With More Films for Freedom, we have had an incredible opportunity expand on that project, helping filmmakers to create powerful new stories, confronting issues around human rights and social change which have always been such an essential part of what we do at the Festival.”

Notes to Editor

For further information, including screening password and interview opportunities, please contact: 

Amber Mezbourian, Media Relations Officer, British Council | +44 (0)7542 269345

Sarah Bemand, Press Officer, Cultural Programme, BFI | +44 (0)7752 370745

Watch the campaign trailer:

Watch all three films:  

Download film stills:

More information on the films and the teams behind them:

More Films for Freedom 2020

Nowhere (UK with Palestinian collaboration)

Dir. Christopher Manning

A young Palestinian woman crosses the Israeli border to find her long-lost brother, whom she hopes will be her ticket to a new life far from the West Bank. When she discovers the truth behind his exiled existence, her dreams of a happy reunion are shattered, and she must face the consequences. 

Christopher Manning is an award-winning English writer, director and producer of narrative fiction. His debut short film JAMIE was selected for the 2017 Five Films for Freedom campaign, and his most recent short ISHA premiered at the BFI London Film Festival in 2018.

The Men Who Speak Gayle (UK with South African collaboration)

Dir. Andrew Brukman

Young drag performer Nathan and retired airline steward Louis have one thing in common: Gayle, a secret language the gay community were forced to invent during Apartheid South Africa.

Andrew Brukman is a South African-born filmmaker who has produced and co-directed with Oscar-shortlisted feature documentary director Mark Hopkins on various projects. This year, he will start shooting his debut feature documentary on the coffee industry in Guatemala.

Let My Body Speak (UK with Syrian collaboration)

Dir. Madonna Adib

Our bodies remember and store our experiences. School in Damascus did not escape the social and political repression going on in Syria. For years, I thought I led a normal childhood except for my visits to therapists. Then the Syrian revolution happened, then I fell in love with a woman…and at last I was ready to listen to my body.

Madonna Adib is a Syrian writer / director, whose documentaries revolve around LGBTIQ+ rights, identity and migration. She currently has two films in development: a short fiction about the LGBTIQ+ community at the beginning of the Syrian revolution; and a feature documentary about four Syrian women who rebel.

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We work with over 100 countries in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Last year we reached over 80 million people directly and 791 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. We make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. Founded in 1934 we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive a 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK government.

About Five Films for Freedom

Five Films for Freedom is the world’s widest-reaching LGBTIQ+ online film campaign. The campaign has been run by the British Council in partnership with BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival since 2015.

About the BFI

The BFI is the UK’s lead organisation for film, television and the moving image. It is a cultural charity that:

  • Curates and presents the greatest international public programme of World Cinema for audiences; in cinemas, at festivals and online
  • Cares for the BFI National Archive – the most significant film and television archive in the world
  • Actively seeks out and supports the next generation of filmmakers
  • Works with Government and Industry to make the UK the most creatively exciting and prosperous place to make film internationally

Founded in 1933, the BFI is a registered charity governed by Royal Charter. The BFI Board of Governors is chaired by Josh Berger CBE.

About BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival

BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ 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 LGBTIQ+ 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 festival is programmed by Jay Bernard, Michael Blyth, Zorian Clayton, Brian Robinson, Emma Smart and guest programmer Tara Brown, led by Festivals Director, Tricia Tuttle.

The 2020 edition of BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival migrated to ‘BFI Flare at Home’ on BFI Player, the BFI’s VOD service following the Festival’s cancellation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Festival viewers were given the opportunity to screen nine LGBTIQ+ features selected from the 2020 programme as well as wider digital access to a wealth of BFI Flare titles from previous editions, ‘live’ filmmaker Q&As, daily programmer recommendations and a virtual closing night party Spotify playlist, bringing the party to living rooms around the UK. Five Films For Freedom saw BFI Flare offer five new LGBTIQ+ short films for free across the world promoted through the British Council’s global networks as well as being made available on BFI Player as part of the BFI Flare at home programme. ‘BFI Flare at home’ ran from 20-29 March 2020.

Pureland Foundation is the Main Supporter of BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival.


BFI NETWORK is the BFI’s UK-wide talent development programme, supporting new filmmakers to make short films, develop first features and advance in their careers.