The 2016 BFI Flare, London’s premiere LGBT film festival, delighted audiences once again with an enticing collection of gay themed films from across the globe. This year’s Shorts Film category offered plenty of laughs, tears, and brief glimpses to the future.
Mother Knows Best – SWEDEN
The short film, Mother Knows Best offers a voyeuristic glimpse into an awkward journey home. The films opens as two teenage boys are finishing a date in the backseat of a moving car. Smitten with each other, they are only briefly interrupted by the sound of an older female voice coming from the front seat. The car soon comes to a stop and one of the boys, Niklas, gets out to leave.
In the following scene, the second of the two shots that comprise the entire film, we see the teenager seated in the front seat of the car and speaking with the driver, his mother. She shares how much she liked Niklas and thinks the boys are a good fit. However, the conversation takes an awkward turn when Mother cautions Son about coming out to his father or being seen in public with Niklas. Frustrated, the son reveals that he has actually already come out to his father. His mother is insulted that he waited so long to tell her, leading both characters to give each other the cold shoulder.
The Future Perfect – CANADA
Set in an unspecified time period, a lone time traveller (Robert Baker) questions his mission with his commander, a disembodied voice (Zachary Quinto). His task seems menial at first, going back in time to make sure a red balloon remains in its first, fixed position. Cocky and confident, the time traveller suits up to take on his ridiculous task. However, upon returning from the past, the time traveller is under great distress. Specific details about why and how the red balloon was to stay in its fixed position were not revealed to him, which left him with a horrible decision to make during the mission,
Shot with simple, yet balanced scene direction, The Future Perfect does well to engage the audience and create intrigue about the mission and design for the future. Robert Baker delivers a fantastic performance, swaying between extreme emotions. The film pays homage to sci-fi kitsch, putting Baker’s character in a classic space suit and placing him in a white paneled room that resembles some forgotten corner of the Starship Enterprise.
Sauna the Dead – UK
Just another typical day in a gay men’s sauna…or is it? Jacob just wants to enjoy some quiet relaxation, but end us catching come-hither looks and advances from the many men who cruise in the sauna. He dismisses a few men and finally settles into a sauna room. When he hears moaning in another room, Jacob gets up to investigate. He discovers two men and decides to join in, however things are not what they seem. Jacob soon finds himself trapped and being chased throughout the sauna by a pack of towel-clad zombies.
Playfully executed, the film follows the classic zombie flick formula, but places it in the sexualized world of the gay sauna. Cruising becomes feasting, as zombies meander the hallways and massage rooms in search of their next victim. Though a little lengthy, the film delivers some good laughs and a fun story, allowing the audience to wonder how Jacob will survive his ordeal.
Le Gars D’la Shop – CANADA
Le Gars D’La Shop (The Guy From Work) is a dark and somber film from Canada. The film follows Raynald, a middle-aged man working in a tire shop and living a normal heterosexual life. Living in a world of blue collar workers, ice hockey, and macho conversations over beers, Raynald manages to hold a secret. After a hockey game, he pens a letter to one of his colleagues, expressing his attraction towards him. Later that night, Raynald’s crush lures him behind a stack of tires and beats him up. Raynald’s wife tends to his wounds, which he claims are from hockey. Life goes on.
A somber story, Le Gars D’La Shop draws the audience in and hits them with a depressing reality. The reality is, unfortunately not everyone is accepting of homosexuality. Using the stereotype of gruff, blue collar workers, this film portrays the fact that love exists in even the most unexpected places, though sometimes it must unfortunately stay hidden.
La Orquidea – SPAIN
Comprised entirely of one shot, La Orquidea (The Orchid) opens with an old man watering his flowers on his sunny terrace. Overlaid a series of voicemails is played, during which the elderly man is trying to reach his son and come out to him. Multiple voice mails are left, leaving the audience to wonder if the son is refusing to speak with his father, until finally a call is returned just as a beautiful orchid is delivered to the terrace.
Simple and heartfelt, La Orquidea is a splendid single scene film that comes to a close at just the right time. The only interaction between characters is a series of missed interactions, a playful nod to some of our modern day forms of communication and the misunderstandings that can often occur.
Noam – ISRAEL
Noam Reuvani is a typical teenage boy who decides to audition for his high school play, a production of Romeo & Juliet. Noam is gay and has a crush on one of his fellow classmates, Shai. During the audition, Shai agrees to fill in as Juliet so that Noam has someone to perform with in front of the director. Re-enacting the famous balcony love scene between Romeo and Juliet, Noam feels himself drawn to Shai. Shai perhaps feels the same and steps down from the play to permit Noam to play Romeo. Realizing how he got the part, Noam becomes angry with Shai, until lovesickness prevails and brings them together.
Rolling up a gay teenage coming of age love story in under 30 minutes is no easy task, yet this film does so poetically. Complete with heartbreak and a small helping of teenaged angst, Noam is a good fit for fans of feel good romance filmography.
Credence – UK
Set in the not so distant future, where a comet has struck the Earth’s moon and the moon is on a slow collision path with Earth. Only the wealthy are able to afford seats on the evacuation flights, a series of rockets bound for a new inhabitable planet upon which the human race can continue. Two gay men find themselves in the difficult position of wanting to send their daughter on the last flight, but not having the funds to pay for her survival. One of the two makes a grave decision to donate his body parts, to be used as “spare parts” for any necessary surgeries onboard the evacuation flight, in exchange for his daughter’s ticket to longer life.
A fantastic premise, the only failure in Credence is that you’ll wish it was longer! Remote location choices, fantastic acting, and expert color correction form the basis of a believable and intriguing sci-fi tale. This fateful story of sacrificial love is guaranteed to please audiences worldwide.
Mama, Please Forgive Me – USA
A mini-documentary filmed in the US, Mama, Please Forgive Me features a young man and his mother recalling why he’s gay and different…and a drug user. Revealing that he’s never had sober sex and loves to get high as much as possible, audiences catch a glimpse of the dark world of addiction. Misled by meth, he feels completely in control, yet in reality, he is floundering and falling on a downward spiral.
Using true footage and a pulsating, haunting music bed provided by Underwaters, Mama, Please Forgive Me expertly shares the chaos of losing control, losing touch, and lose one’s self through drug-induced sexcapades.
Les Meduses – CANADA
Les Meduses (Inner Jellyfishes) is another dark and emotional piece from Canada. Directed by Marc-Antoine Lemire, the film follows a gay man as he meets another in a bar. The two go home together and end up having a one night stand. However, when they are together, one of the men starts to feel something. When their skin touches, symbolic of the sting of a jellyfish, he starts to feel a burning desire to be something more and to care for someone for more than just sex. The other man doesn’t feel the same way, creating a space for loneliness and depression.
A heavy story, Lemire does well to unravel his tale in under 30 minutes and create dark and somber metaphors for his characters. Dimly lit scenes and silhouetted shots almost remove character identity, making them appear as lonely jellyfish drifting aimlessly on the current of life.
Floozy Suzy – BRAZIL
A love potion story gone terribly wrong, Floozy Suzy is filled with laughs, backstabbing, and uniquely Brazilian style. A frumpy gay teenager is the object of ridicule in his high school. The It girl at the school is a mega bitch, and all he wants to do is capture the attention of the hottest guy in school, to not only satisfy his own desires, but also get back at the mean girls. He soon discovers a way to make a mysterious magic love potion. Believing this is the answer he’s been looking for, he proceeds with his maniacal plan.
Loosely inspired by true events, Floozy Suzy is a riot of a good time from director Octavio Chamorro. A fun cast of characters, plenty of high school cliché’s, and rich color use make this film a delight to watch.
Lucid Noon, Sunset Blush – USA
A queer carnival for the eyes, Lucid Noon, Sunset Blush takes the audience on an adventure through queer femme life in the Deep South. When Micah is kicked out of her home, she runs to the nearest big city and discovers a gang of all black transsexuals who run the city, stealing from the locals and dominating white men. Micah learns each femme’s story and experiences first-hand a world where being black, gay, and femme is something to be proud of, and something others should respect.
Cutting through the fake eyelashes and pink flourishes, Lucid Noon, Sunset Blush delivers a curious flip on modern day society. Set in the predominantly racist and conservative Deep South, this group of black queer femmes are the answer to prejudice and stereotypes. The film creates a fantasy world where the tables are turned on the racist, homophobic white man.
Dinner With Jeffrey – USA
Oliver is a young man who recently came out as gay. New to the gay scene, he meets his fabulous and flamboyant uncle Jeffrey for dinner. Jeffrey welcomes Oliver to gay life with open arms, overjoyed that his young nephew has come out. Oliver, however, is questioning the gay lifestyle, wondering why it must even be it’s own lifestyle, why you must meet gay men at a gay specific site, and what gay men do with their time. Jeffrey introduces Oliver to Hayden, and the two younger men end up going home together, though Oliver soon finds things aren’t what they seemed.
Presenting a quizzical and sometimes skeptical view of coming out, Dinner With Jeffrey is an intriguing short film that leaves the audience questioning whether the characters are in fact really being true to themselves. The flamboyant character Jeffrey clashes with the more straight-laced Oliver, illustrating the dysfunction that often exists within stereotypes.
Letargo – SPAIN
A touching story of love lost and rekindled flames, Letargo (Lethargy) is a masterfully created love story from director and screenwriter Xavier Miralles. The film introduces Alex, a gay man who recently ended a long term relationship with Marc. Now living alone, Alex is doing his best to mend his broken heart. One evening, however, he discovers his dog is very ill. Alex takes the dog to the veterinarian. Since he and Marc had welcome the dog into their lives when they were together, the dog’s illness forces the two men back together. In the midst of their sorrow over their pet, they re-awaken deeply seeded feelings for each other. A long and emotional night puts them on the path their lives were destined to take.
Audiences will be drawn in by the emotional roller coaster of this film. Empathy for Alex, Marc, and their beloved dog is hard to deny. Miralles does an incredible job of relating the sorry over a family pet to the story over a lost relationship. Both men find themselves looking back on happier times and realizing that life is short and we have but a few fleeting opportunities for true happiness.
Passing – CANADA
Passing is a documentary short that shares the stories of three trans men. Each man was biologically an African American female who transitioned to male. However, they soon revealed the hardships of not only being trans, but also seeing firsthand the prejudices being a young African American male. An eye-opening experience, each character shares how being stereotyped as a “troublesome youth” in the eyes of society is just as difficult as transitioning genders. The film offers a rare opportunity for the audience to vicariously experience prejudice and racism in one of the most convincing “walk a mile in their shoes” experiences caught on film.
Sixth Grade Slow Dance – ISRAEL
It’s the last party before high school and Amit is watching as his fellow 6th grade friends gather to celebrate Paz’s birthday. As he watches the young girls interact, his best friend Noam enters the party. Amit grows a little jealous as Noam walks over to hang out with the girls, barely noticing Amit. After a short party game, Amit is disappointed to discover Noam has elected to attend a different high school, making this one of the last times the boys will be together. As the slow dances start, Amit starts to fantasize about dancing with Noam. Growing frustrated, Amit starts destroying Paz’s gifts until he gest caught and is kicked out of the party.
Sixth Grade Slow Dance masterfully captures the awkwardness and social insecurities of pubescent, pre-teen life. Feeling his attraction for Noam, yet unsure of how to act on it, Amit commits regrettable acts and proceeds towards his teenage years carrying regrets and uncertainties than many can relate to. The retro feel of the cinematography further conveys this concept by creating an almost nostalgic feel to the film.
San Cristóbal – CHILE
Antonio and Luca are two young men living in a small fishing village on an island off of mainland Chile. Antonio works for the local fishery. During a short visit to the fish market with his sister, Luca catches Antonio’s attention and the two men have a romantic fling. However, their bliss is cut short when Antonio’s boss catches them together and sends some of his other employees to mug Antonio for being gay. A rift starts to form between the men until they both decide to go their separate ways – Antonio moving to a new fishing crew and Luca traveling on to Canada for a few years. Antonio seeks out Luca and gives him a religious card of Saint Christopher, explaining how the saint protects the bearer through travel.
A heartfelt tale, San Cristobal is an award-winning film and a delight to experience. Both actors deliver convincing performances and though scenes are often short and simplistic, the audience is quickly drawn into the romance between these men and the tough decisions they must make.