Interview with BFI: Flare Director Darren Stein

BFI Flare: London LGBT Festival opens later this week and runs until the end of March. The festival is split into four different strands, including, Galas, opening and closing night events; Hearts, films about love, romance and friendship; Bodies, works on transformation, sex and identity; and Minds, which is a reflection on politics, art and community. The Hearts programme features Darren Stein’s G.B.F., a high school comedy about a young man whose outing at school makes him very popular with the kids who long for a Gay Best Friend. We speak to Stein about classic teen films and stereotypes.

ASFF: In what ways have classic teen films of the 1980s and 1990s such as Sixteen Candles, Clueless and Dazed and Confused influenced your work?
Those films are all hilarious and yet they have heart. They capture a time and place and there’s a great deal of comfort and nostalgia found in those films. Also, they all have killer wardrobes and soundtracks! All three have such worlds that are fun to inhabit for a couple hours and endearing characters you want to revisit multiple times.

ASFF: G.B.F. plays on many stereotypes and cliques common to the teen movie genre. Do you think this type of film represents a microcosm of how the wider society is structured?
It’s been said that we never truly graduate high school. Whether in the work place or in adult social situations, life is still competitive, a sort of a rat race. High school is more irresponsible, oversexed version of adult life and all the social dileanations and wounds we carry as teenagers continue or transform in some way as adults. Cliques most definitely exist beyond high school. We still want to belong. We still covet the lifestyles of others. It seems there are always “the haves and have nots.”

ASFF: Music features heavily in the film, do you think soundtrack plays an important role in filmmaking?
I love a good film soundtrack, whether it’s score, pop songs or a combination of both. American Hustle had a stunning soundtrack this year, a soundscape that truly punctuated the tonal and emotional undercurrent of scenes. In teen films, especially, where music is such a rite of passage, soundtracks are essential. I still listen to John Hughes soundtracks, yet I listen to a ton of 1980s so that’s no big surprise. I especially love atmospheric, sad or moody soundtracks like The Piano, Bladerunner or anything Riuichi Sakamoto.

ASFF: G.B.F. features a gay male as the lead character, something not yet explored in teen film. How would you say film and television are changing to allow for a more complex representation of the LGBT community?
We’re moving towards a place in culture where sexuality is becoming more accepted. There’s more exposure in the media as well. But more acceptance also brings more resistance, so it seems the violence across the world against the LGBT community has never been more pronounced or maybe we just hear more about it because we’re so interconnected. I thought Jill Soloway’s Transparent pilot for Amazon was pretty wonderful with one married sibling experimenting with lesbianism, the father transitioning to become a woman and a little incest thrown in for good measure. We’re definitely in a time of pushing boundaries and that’s always a good thing.

G.B.F. screens at BFI Flare on 21 March, the rest of the festival runs until 30 March, for more visit

1. Image courtesy of BFI and G.B.F.