Just as reliable as the Spring thaw, BFI Flare once again presents an exquisite showcase of the world’s best LGBT films. As one of the longest running LGBT film events in the world, BFI Flare attracts storytellers from all walks of life. This year’s Short Film category was no exception, offering everything from quirky to melancholy in bite-sized portions that can be consumed while you’re awaiting your next Uber.
1992 – France
Rich with nostalgia, the French film 1992 presents a glimpse of teenage love in the 90’s. The film opens as young Martin is once again capturing abstract scenes around his apartment with his camcorder. Martin is often left to his own devices, as his father works the night shift and sleeps throughout the day, the two men seeing each other just long enough for Martin to be chastised for not doing the grocery shopping.
After getting jumped at school, Martin is taken to the hospital by a young teaching assistant, whom he has a crush on. Seeking his first gay relationship, Martin makes a pass at his teacher, and is swiftly denied…at first. The resulting series of events puts Martin and his father in the express lane to reality.
Still Burning – UK/FRANCE
The French documentary Still Burning gives audiences behind-the-scenes access to the Parisian ballroom scene, also known as voguing. Erard, whose vogue name is Sky Ninja, recounts his experiences of growing up gay and fabulous in the island of Guadeloupe. Now in Paris, he places much of his focus on his dance troupe – a group of men and women who are all seeking to make a name for themselves among the vogue scene.
New to the scene is Erard’s brother, Connor. As Connor prepares for his first vogue event, both boys can’t help but feel butterflies. Among this band of voguers it is quite clear to see the bonds of brotherhood and family extend far beyond the blood in our veins.
Crush – UK
Short, quirky, and awkward. This not only describes the British short film, Crush, but is also an accurate description of the film’s leading young lady. When a shy awkward teen misses her train a serendipitous moment occurs. Across the platform she spies a beautiful girl her age. Over the next few days, our young hero seeks to get closer to her dream woman.
It is no small feat to tell a complex love story in under 8 minutes. However, it’s damn near witchcraft to do so with only one spoken line and still find an opportunity to deliver a perfect Hitchcock-ian zolly shot. Director Rosie Westhoff is apparently full of such surprises.
Heavy Weight – UK
Set in the machismo-fueled realm of semi-professional boxing, the British short Heavy Weight proves that gay love can be found in even the most unlikely places. When a scrappy Irish fighter joins his gym, the reigning local champ gets bristled at the possibility of sharing his turf. Soon after, the two fighters agree to spar, and neither pulls any punches.
However, after literally duking out their differences, the two men start to get along. Playful banter and wrestling becomes something else altogether, leading each fighter to consider whether they can still be a tough guy, even if they are attracted to other tough guys.
Jamie – UK
A short story about love and finding common ground, the British short film Jamie is a modern take on a blind date. The story opens as Jamie is carefully avoiding his family to text with a man named Ben. They agree to meet up with each other for the first time, prompting Jamie to sneak out of the house.
When the two men meet, they share war stories of their past flings. Instant companionship is found as each man shares his harshest wounds and happiest times with the other.
An Evening (En Aften) – Denmark
The follow-up to the short film, An Afternoon (En Eftermiddag), this Danish film presents the aftermath of first time intimacy. As two young men shake off the post-sex glow, a small conflict of emotions brews. One of these boys is so taken with emotion that he can’t shake the images of their passionate time together. The other boy is frustratingly cool, calm, and collected, failing to display the same level of emotion. As they go out and meet one of their friends, emotions boil over when they are confronted with the notion of being a couple.
Intimate macro photography creates a sensational connection for the audience. Each passionate flashback is intriguing and dark, yet the audience is frequently jarred from the daydream and pulled back into the present time. The beautifully shot piece is a delightful sequel.
Away From Me – UK
What appears to be a classic heist story, takes a wicked turn as hearts are broken and fantasies fade. Set in London, the film opens as a man is anxiously awaiting directions on a money drop. The deep voice on the other end of the phone offers more warning than instruction. As a young blonde girl approaches, the man is surprised to discover this is the bag runner. He acquiesces, paying whatever ransom necessary to get his loved one back.
No spoilers here, but audience beware. The one who appears to win the biggest payday actually has the most to lose in this part drama, part suspense short. Expert camera work and strong writing combine to leave the audience seeking a feature length version of the story.
Bayard & Me – USA
An interesting mini-documentary, Bayard & Me is a touching and very personal tribute to Bayard Rustin, as told by his surviving lover, Walter Naegle. Bayard Rustin is credited for bringing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the forefront of the American civil rights movement and advancing policies of non-violence. A bold, somewhat militant figure, Rustin is painted in a new light by Naegle.
Rustin, who sadly falls into the shadows in most history books, deserves more recognition for the life he had to endure. Aside from the civil unrest of the 1960’s, Rustin, who is black, was in a relationship with a white man who was many years his junior. This intimate portrait introduces us to an unsung American hero and reveals the great lengths at which love will go.
Beautiful Figure (Szép Alak) – Hungary
A heartfelt drama from Hungary, Beautiful Figure is a short story about taking a chance on love. Set in a high school, the school janitor, Elsie is busy cleaning up the school gymnasium. Luca, a star on the basketball team catches Elsie’s eye. During a frantic search for a lost cell phone, Elsie gets Luca’s phone number. After a short time, the urge to contact the young women overcomes her and Elsie sends some mysterious texts.
Filmmaker Hajni Kis does an outstanding job of conveying the loneliness Elsie must feel. Between being a lesbian and being surrounded by young women many years younger than she, Elsie sees her window of happiness slowly drawing closed.
Diane From the Moon – USA
Spacey to say the least, Diane is a bold and confident pagan priestess. While enjoying a trip to the desert, Diane splits her time between relaxing and contacting her lost lover. However, a grisly and disheveled man intends to ruin Diane’s good time. After harassing her in the bar, he proceeds to follow her up to the mountaintop, where she prepares a pagan ritual. Deciding enough is enough, Diane takes matters into her own hands.
This bright and colourful film fits perfectly with its southern California setting. Diane herself is a scene-stealer, with enough personality to fill a feature length film. Viewers who dabble in paganism may also appreciate the films subtle nods to spirituality and the exorcising of one’s own demons.
Doris – UK
Another delightful short from the UK, Doris is a brief biographical story of an elderly drag performer. As an old man spreads wrinkle concealment on his face, he begins sharing his story with a mysterious assistant. From the dimly lit dressing room, stories of his career and the heyday of drag are shared.
A very interesting juxtaposition is how filmmaker Francesca Silveri uses the concept of alter ego to reveal more about a character. As the man becomes Doris, more of his true form is revealed. So much so that by the film’s end the audience sees a beautiful drag performer in layers of makeup, yet knows the man inside.
Hattie Goes Cruising – USA/Germany
Another mini-documentary, Hattie Goes Cruising offers a “how to” guide for meeting men. Told by two elderly African American men, the film reveals through personal experience what it was like living as a gay man in New York during the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Broken into short chapters, Hattie Goes Cruising carefully illustrates the hardships young, queer, black men had to endure, yet still manages to deliver some touching and heartfelt moments. The story culminates in a walking tour of New York’s literal underground, to share memories of the underground gay culture of one of the world’s toughest cities.
Pedro – Portugal
Disenchanted teenager, Pedro, would prefer to spend his day lying around the house in his underwear and partaking in web cam shows. Pedro’s mother, however, has other plans. She eventually drags her son out of bed and convinces him to go to the beach with her. Upon arriving, Pedro notices an older man swimming in the nude. Telling his mother he has to piss, he sneaks away to hookup with the swimmer. Shortly after he returns, he’s surprised to find his mother has met a man as well.
Expertly shot with only a handful of characters, this Portuguese film offers a story of 2 lost souls drifting in the tide. While Pedro and his mother seem to have nothing in common, the truth is they both share a desire to escape and be loved, even if only for a brief moment.
Pria – Indonesia/USA
The Indonesian short film, Pria, presents a glimpse of the conservative Muslim ideals that drive much of the Indonesian culture. Set in the countryside, a young man named Aris is being placed into an arranged marriage with Gita, a young girl from a neighboring farm. Aris has no desire to be in this union, though knows the great shame that would befall his family if he were to back out or make a scene. Secretly, he sneaks away with his teacher, a gay American man.
Pria, which translates to “man,” is a unique coming-of-age film. Young Aris is forced to become a man and embrace a man’s role in Indonesian society very quickly. However, as a closeted homosexual, he seeks other ways to truly be the man he wants to be before he must devote his life to a woman he doesn’t love.
We Love Moses – UK
Told from the perspective of a 12-year-old girl named Ella, the British film We Love Moses is an enticing short story. Infatuated with her brother’s friend Moses, Ella spends much of her free time hanging out with the boys (until her brother tells her not to.) As pre-teen girls torment Ella at school, she is saved by the fact that she’s friends with such a handsome and cool boy.
One evening, however, Ella sneaks out of her bedroom and peeks through her brother’s broken door. She sees something beyond her years. Wanting to appear more mature, Ella tries to play it off as being totally cool with her. The boys, however, don’t want to talk about it, leaving Ella is an uncomfortable position despite her best efforts.