Returning for a 31st year, BFI Flare: The London LGBT Film Festival presents over 150 features and shorts at BFI Southbank and other venues across the capital between 16-26 March. In addition to the screen selection, the festival has also laid on a range of special events, guest appearances, discussions, workshops and club nights to ensure the UK's longest-running showcase for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender cinema retains its reputation for excellence and inclusivity.

First catching the eye is an irresistible quartet under the `Winks and Nudges' banner exploring camp cinema. First up is a sing-a-long showing of Howard Hawks's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), a lively take on Anita Loos's saucy classic that sees Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe have a ball as thosee gold-digging showgirls from Little Rock, Dorothy Shaw and Lorelei Lee. Teasingly choreographed by Jack Cole, Monroe's `Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend' is the pick of the Jule Styne-Leo Robin score, but Russell is touchingly coquettish cruising a ship gym to Hoagy Carmichael and Harold Adamson's `Ain't There Anyone Here for Love?'

The emphasis is firmly on kitsch in Roger Vadim's sci-fi romp, Barbarella (1968), as Jane Fonda's 41st century envoy of the United Earth government ventures into the Tau Seti system in a bid to track down scientist Durand Durand (Milo O'Shea) before his positronic ray gun falls into the wrong hands. However, she crash-lands on the planet Lythion, where she finds herself drawn to the angelic Pygar angel (John Phillip Law), the benevolent Mark Hand (Ugo Tognazzi) and the bunglingly subversive Dildano (David Hemmings). Imagine The Wizard of Oz on acid and you get the psychedelic picture, as Barbarella encounters such splendidly eccentric characters as Professor Ping (Marcel Marceau), Captain Sun (Serge Marquand), the Great Tyrant (Anita Pallenberg), and her sidekick Concierge (also O'Shea). Based on a Jean-Claude Forest comic-strip and boasting magnificent Mario Garbuglia sets, Claude Renoir images and Paco Rabanne costumes, this is sexploitation at its extravagant best.

No one in their right mind would claim that Nancy Walker's Can't Stop the Music (1980) is a screen classic. But producer Allan Carr's bold bid to bring the Mickey and Judy barnyard musical into the disco era has its cult attractions, including the acting debut of decathlete Bruce Jenner (now Caitlyn, of course). He plays a super-square St Louis lawyer who finds himself caught up in retired supermodel Valerie Perrine's scheme to persuade ex-boyfriend Paul Sand to give a recording contract to The Village People, who have been discovered on the streets of Greenwich Village by her DJ roommate Steve Guttenberg. Tammy Grimes and June Havoc (the younger sister of Gypsy Rose Lee) lend amusing support as Perrines agent and Guttenbergs mother. But the stars of the show are Alex Briley (the GI), David Hodo (the Construction Worker), Glenn Hughes (the Leatherman), Randy Jones (the Cowboy), Felipe Rose (the Indian) and Ray Simpson (the Cop), who come into their own with `YMCA', the title track, `Magic Night' and an unforgettable rendition of `Danny Boy'.

Rounding off this wallow is Frank Perry's Mommie Dearest (1981), a wondrously outré, Razzie-winning adaptation of Christina Crawford's contentious and much-contested memoir of life with adoptive mother and Hollywood diva, Joan Crawford. Made just four years after the death of the former Lucille LeSueur (which saw Christina and brother Christopher excluded from her will `for reasons which are well known to them'), this is Sirk to the power of 10. Along with those iconic scenes involving wire coat-hangers and a TV soap studio, Faye Dunaway also gets to recreate one of the most famous moments in Oscar history, and, after the recent La La Land debacle, it's a decent bet that Ms Dunaway wished she had also stayed in bed rather than attend the ceremony. Mara Hobel and Diana Scarwid merit mention for their spirited interpretation of Christina, but all eyes will be on Dunaway and those Irene Sharaff gowns and the exceptional make-up and hair designs created by Lee Harman and Kathryn Blondell. A familiar feature takes pride of place in the Bodies selection, as Xavier Dolan's It's Only the End of the World was reviewed in these pages a couple of weeks ago. Boasting excellent performances by Nathalie Baye, Léa Seydoux, Vincent Cassel and Marion Cotillard as the mother, sister, brother and sister-in-law of gay prodigal Gaspard Ulliel, this is never an easy watch. But it suggest a welcome new maturity in Dolan's always intriguing oeuvre.

Dolan reportedly wrote the script for his debut feature, I Killed My Mother (2009), when he was 16 and the focus turns to teens experiencing coming out turmoil in our next four titles. A stuffy gated community provides the setting for Don't Call Me Son, Anna Muylaert's follow-up to The Second Mother, which sees cross-dressing, bi-curious teenager Naomi Nero being returned to natural parents Daniela Nefussi and Matheus Nachtergaele and younger sibling Daniel Botelho after it's discovered through a DNA test that Nero had been abducted by the working-class woman (also Nefussi) who had raised him alongside her daughter, Lais Dias.

Having examined the Pinochet legacy in Dog Flesh (2012), Fernando Guzzoni contrasts generational notions of morality in Jesús, a starkly realist Santiago saga that shows how the strained relationship between 18 year-old K-Pop wannabe Nicolás Durán and widowed father Alejandro Goic improves after Durán and pals Sebastián Ayala and Gastón Salgado beat a gay youth into a coma and Durán has to seek Goic's advice after desperate tryst with Ayala places him in even greater danger. Intimidation and violence are also the theme of Canadian Yan England's debut feature, 1:54, which takes its title from the 800m time of Lou-Pascal Tremblay, the school track star who bullies Robert Naylor into ending his friendship with the equally shy Olivier Pilon. However, a chance for revenge comes when coach Patrice Godin and gal pal Sophie Nélisse talk Pilon into returning to athletics for the first time since the death of his mother.

Sport and a parental passing are also crucial to Nathan Adloff's semi-autobiographical second feature, Miles, as 17 year-old Tim Boardman's hopes of starting the new millennium at a Chicago film school are dashed when philandering father Stephen Root dies leaving mother Molly Shannon with a mountain of debts. However, when a volleyball scholarship becomes available at an all-girls school, Boardman ignores the advice of counsellor Yeardley Smith and finds an unlikely ally in coach Missi Pyle when he dons a disguise and transforms the team's fortunes.

Changing the mood dramatically, a young Mexican woman follows up a hunch about the reasons for her family's woes in Amat Escalante's The Untamed, which is clearly in thrall to Andrzej Zulawski's Possession (1981). Representing a distinct change of pace, the action takes place in rural Guanajuato and centres on the relationship that develops between unhappily married mother Ruth Ramos, her gay nurse brother, Eden Villavicencio (who is having an affair with her husband, Jesús Meza) and mysterious patient Simone Bucio, whose dog bite injury leads to an encounter with a sensual tentacled creature. Another unholy alliance is forged in Park Chan-wook's The Handmaiden, which translates the action of Sarah Waters's bestseller, Fingersmith, from Victorian England to Korea in the 1930s. Con man Ha Jung-woo poses as a Japanese count in order to fleece his marks. But in order to seduce Japanese heiress Kim Min-hee (who lives with her black-tongued Korean uncle, Cho Jin-woong), Ha recruits orphaned pickpocket Kim Tae-ri to become part of her household. However, his plan to elope with Kim and have her committed to an asylum are confounded when she embarks upon a passionate lesbian affair.

The romance is a little more traditional in April Mullen's Below Her Mouth, which chronicles the intense relationship that develops when Erika Linder falls in love at first sight with Natalie Krill in a Toronto bar and tries to convince her that marriage to Sebastian Pigott would be a catastrophic mistake. Filmed with an all-woman crew, this represents a concerted effort to depict raw, naked passion from a purely female perspective. However, the male gaze is very much to the fore in Marcelo Caetano's Body Electric, another study in unabashed lust that takes its title from a Walt Whitman poem and centres on 23 year-old Kelner Macêdo, who works as designer Dani Nefussis assistant in a São Paulo garment factory. Boss Ernani Sanchez has high hopes for him. But Macêdo elects to ignore his advice about fraternising with the workforce when he develops a crush on Guinean migrant Welket Bungué, whose friends include Lucas Andrade, whose family is headed by flamboyant drag queen Marcia Pantera.

Attraction across the class divide is also the theme of João Pedro Rodrigues's The Ornithologist. While searching for black storks, Paul Hamy finds himself left for dead in a Portuguese forest after his kayak capsizes. However, he is rescued by female Chinese Catholics Han Wen and Chan Suan, who strip and bind him before resuming their pilgrimage to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela, leaving him to the mercy of gay shepherd Xelo Cagiao (whose name just happens to be Jesus). Despite the odd mystical moment, the mood is considerably lighter in sculptor Henry Coombes's directorial debut, Seat in Shadow. When not painting or making self-help videos, ageing Glaswegian David Sillars sees patients as a part-time psychoanalyst. Guided by Carl Jung (who communes with Sillars through a potted plant), he agrees to see foul-mouth friend Marcella McIntosh's depressive grandson, Jonathan Leslie, who is dated a domineering boyfriend. But their sessions have an unexpected impact on them both. Leading the Hearts slate is one of the most important gay films ever made. But Barry Jenkins's Oscar-winning Moonlight is perhaps even more significant for its depiction of a little-seen side of the African-American experience. Featuring a standout performance by Best Supporting winner Mahershala Ali as a conflicted drug dealer, this deeply moving and beautifully staged rite of passage follows a young black man (variously played by Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes) negotiating his relationships with his addict mother (Naomie Harris) and his best school friend (Jaden Piner, Jhamel Jerome and André Holland).

The truth is no easier to divulge for a middle-aged Indian family man in Tanuj Bhramar's road movie, Dear Dad, which sees Arvind Swamy use a boarding school run to summon the courage to tell teenage son Himanshu Sharma that he is gay and plans to leave wife Ekavali Khanna. Twentysomething twins Kristin and Doug Archibald also have some face some harsh fact in I Love You Both, (which was wittily written by the sibling co-stars and directed by the debuting Doug), as aspiring pianist-cum-babysitter Doug is reluctant to break the recently jilted Kristin's heart by announcing that they have their eyes on the same Mr Right in recently arrived artist, Lucas Neff.

Judging by their collaborations on In Between Days (2006), Treeless Mountain (2008) and For Ellen (2012), So Yong Kim also believes in keeping things in the family, as she teams again with husband Bradley Rust Gray on the screenplay for Lovesong, which follows Riley Keough to the wedding of longtime best friend Jena Malone, two years after they embarked upon an impromptu and unforgettable adventure with her toddler daughter Jessie Ok Gray, while neglectful husband Cary Joji Fukunaga was away on yet another business trip.

With Rosanna Arquette cameoing as the mother-of-the-bride, this is sure to find itself on the odd double bill with Irish debutant Darren Thornton's A Date For Mad Mary, which also has a best friend's wedding at its core and features an equally fearsome matriarchal turn by Fionnuala Murphy. Adapted from Yasmine Akram's stage play, 10 Dates for Mad Mary, this bracing romcom finds Seána Kerslake returning to Drogheda after serving six months for a violent attack outside a nightclub. Unsurprisingly, therefore, bride Charleigh Bailey is nervous about what her maid of honour might get up to. But Kerslake is far more tasked by the problem of who to take to the nuptials. That is, until she claps eyes on videographer and aspiring musician Tara Lee.

Another mother has a major say in matters in Maura Anderson's Heartland, which was conceived in a Jeffrey Tambor writing workshop by Velinda Godfrey and Todd Waring. Godfrey also stars as a young woman who is left with no option but to return to the family home in Oklahoma after the cancer death of her girlfriend. However, she receives a frosty welcome from God-fearing mother Beth Grant, who is even less impressed when Godfrey begins to fall for Laura Spencer, who is making plans to open a winery with her fiancé (and Godfrey's brother), Aaron Leddick. Introverted art student Lee Sang-Hee has other things on her mind, as she prepares for her graduation show in Lee Hyun-ju's Our Love Story (2015). But, from the moment she spots coolly assured barmaid Ryu Sun-Young across a Seoul junk shop, she can't think about anything else, even though she has never had a single same-sex thought in her life. However, such is the intensity of her crush that her possessive passion becomes a problem.

Following the shorts Distance and Ordinary Family (both 2014) in Lee's bid to change Korean attitudes to LGBT issues, this neatly eschews Sapphic cliché in charting a relationship between two ordinary women and Takuro Nakamura proves equally adept and discreet in West North West, as bashful motorbiking cocktail waitress Hanae Kan finds herself drawn to Iranian art student Rosa Sahel after tiring of controlling model girlfriend Yuka Yamauchi's temper tantrums. Things are even more complicated in Monja Art's debut, Seventeen, as Austrian teenager Elisabeth Wabitsch is persuaded by best friend Vanessa Ozinger that her pash on classmate Anaelle Dézsy is mutual. But she is dating older brainiac Leo Plankensteiner, while Wabitsch is also flattered by the attentions of charmer Alexander Wychodil and the recklessly rebellious Alexandra Schmidt.

Septuagenarian auteur André Téchiné explored the nature of teenage angst and confusion in Wild Reeds (1994) and he returns to the topic in Being 17, which has been co-scripted with fellow director Céline Sciamma to chart the changing relationship between class foes Kacey Mottet Klein and Corentin Fila after the former's doctor mother, Sandrine Kiberlain, suggests that inviting the bi-racial Fila to stay might help him settle into their farming community in the Haute-Pyrénées and cope with the fact that his own adoptive mother has been hospitalised following complications with her pregnancy. Glad to spared the 90-minute walk to school, Fila responds to the kindness of Kiberlain and her air force pilot husband, Alexis Loret. But Klein resents Fila muscling into his family and it takes a misguide online dating tryst and some shocking news from abroad for him to reassess their relationship.

Icelandic debutant Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson taps into the same hesitant feelings and sense of domestic insecurity in Heartstone, which owes a debt to Norwegian cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen for its striking views around the remote fishing village where 14 year-old best buds Baldur Einarsson and Blær Hinriksson hope to spend an idyllic summer. Hinriksson has to put up with drunkenly homophobic father Sveinn Ólafur Gunnarsson, while Einarsson has to endure the teasing of older sisters Jonina Thordis Karlsdottir and Ran Ragnarsdottir and the fact that jilted mother Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir has started dating again. But the friends seem set to embark upon their own first flings with classmates Dilja Valsdotttir and Katla Njalsdottir until a game of Truth or Dare on a camping trip changes everything.

A carefree vacation also seems to be on the cards in Marco Berger and Martín Farina's Taekwondo, as twentysomething Gabriel Epstein invites his mates to a `boys only' summer stay in a plush villa in suburban Buenos Aires. However, he has invited Lucas Papa from his martial arts class without knowing he is gay. Lounging round the pool and bristling with machismo, Nicolás Barsoff, Francisco Bertín, Arturo Frutos, Andrés Gavaldá, Juan Manuel Martino, Darío Miño and Gaston Re boast about their female conquests and partying feats. But Epstein gradually finds himself preferring to be alone with the poised Papa. An interloper also comes between lifelong pals Louis Hofmann and Svenja Jung in Austrian third-timer Jakob M. Erwa's adaptation of Andreas Steinhoefel's Young Adult bestseller, Centre of My World. But lissom newcomer Jannik Schumann is not the only problem the 17 year-old Hofmann encounters on returning from a three-week stay in a French-language camp, as free-spirited mother Sabine Timoteo and tetchy twin sister Ada Philine Stappenbeck have started behaving very oddly towards him.

Fitting in is also the problem facing Fionn O'Shea in John Butler's Handsome Devil, as he seems to be the only non-rugger bugger at an Irish boarding school obsessed with oval ball heroics. Furious with widowed father Ardal O'Hanlon and frosty stepmother Amy Huberman for delivering him into the clutches of class bully Ruain O'Connor, O'Shea would rather hide away in his room and listen to David Bowie. But this becomes less of an option after he is billeted with new student Nicholas Galitzine, who is under pressure from coach Moe Dunford to fulfil his sporting potential. However, English teacher Andrew Scott persuades O'Shea to take down the barrier he has constructed to keep Galitzine at arm's length and respond to his challenge: `If you spend your whole life being someone else, who is going to be you?'

Finally, let's take a quick look at the documentaries in the Minds section. Among the pictures up for discussion are Jacqueline Gares's Free Cece (which centres on the case of trans woman Cece McDonald, who was jailed for stabbing an abusive male); Katharina Lampert and Cordula Thyms's FTWTF: Female to What the F**k (a study of trans issues that focuses on the non-binary people who identify with neither gender); C Fitz's Jewel's Catch One (a tribute to black lesbian Jewel Thais-Williams, who founded a legendary Los Angeles disco); Erin Brethauer and Timothy Hussin's Last Men Standing (a profile of eight San Franciscans who survived an HIV+ diagnosis); Cecilia Aldarondo's Memories of a Penitent Heart (a niece's search for the long-lost lover of her Puerto Rican actor uncle, Miguel Dieppa, who died of AIDS when she was six); Eva Orner and Chris McKim's Out of Iraq: The Dangerous Story of Two Gay Soldiers (an account of the romance between Marines translator Nayyef Hrebid and Iraqi trooper Btoo Allami); S. Leo Chiang and Johnny Symon's Out Run (a study of Ladlad, the first Filipino political party dedicated to LGBT and disability issues); Jonah Markowitz and Tracy Wares's Political Animals (a celebration of the achievements of campaigning Californian lesbians Carole Migden, Sheila Kuehl, Jackie Goldberg and Christine Kehoe); Jonny von Wallström's The Pearl of Africa (which follows Uganda's first out trans woman, Cleopatra Kambugu, to Thailand for some major surgery); Ashley Joiner's Pride? (which traces the roots of the movement behind the iconic march that has become a global symbol of freedom, democracy and human rights); Dante Alencastre's Raising Zoey (which follows a 13 year-old Los Angelino transitioning with the support of mother Ofelia Luna and older sister Letty); Morgan White's The Slippers (a Tinseltown treasure hunt seeking out the numerous pairs of ruby slippers made by MGM for Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, 1939); Deborah Esquenazi's Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four (an investigation into the homophobia and evangelical bile that saw lesbians Elizabeth Ramirez, Kristie Mayhugh, Cassandra Rivera and Anna Vasquez wrongfully imprisoned for abusing children); Timothy Greenfield-Sanders's The Trans List (a look at being trans and famous with Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox and Buck Angel). Mark Kenneth Woods, and Michael Yerxa's Two Soft Things, Two Hard Things (a history lesson set near the Arctic Circle in the Nunavut capital. Iqaluit, that explores ancient Inuit attitudes to same-sex relationships); Jennifer M. Kroot's The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin (a profile of the author of Tales of the City, who served in Vietnam before embarking upon his essential San Francisco Chronicle column); and Paulo Cesar Toledo and Abigail Spindel's Waiting For B (a two-month sleepover with a group of queer Brazilians desperate to get a good spec at a Beyoncé concert in São Paulo).