Within sport, homophobia is rampant and it’s a battle that never seems to be ending. Whether in football, rugby or the olympics, gay sports stars are constantly under the spotlight, targeted by abuse from fans and the opposition alike. While steps are being made that are creating an environment of acceptance, there are still moments that show how little progress has been made. The Shiny Shrimps (Les crevettes pailletées) takes a look in to how a character ingrained with homophobic ideals can grow and unlearn these harmful thoughts and how sport can connect all of us.
After making an on-air homophobic comment that threatens to end his olympic career, Matthias (Nicolas Gob) is ordered to coach an amatuer gay water polo team. The Shiny Shrimps are dreaming of qualifiying for the Gay Games in Croatia and with the help of Matthias are hoping that the dream can become reality. While the group gets off to a bumpy start with their new coach, things begin to develop as the swimmers become a stronger team and Matthias grows as a person. With qualification and a potential championship to play for, Matthias must bring the group together while attempting to stop his Olympic career from going out with a whimper.
While the focus of the film is primarily on Matthias and his growth, it’s the incredible array of characters in the shrimps team that really help bring the film to life. From Joel (Roland Menou) the elder statesmen of the group who is incredibly skeptical of Matthias joining the group to Cedric (Michaël Abiteboul) who is juggling his sporting commitments with recently born twins. The group all feel fleshed out which is rare for sports film when screen time is so hard to split across a large group. The relationships shared between the group are heart warming as they share moments of fear, excitement and love. Sports films have a habit of being overly dramatic thanks to the likes of Chariots of Fire and Rocky which have set a standard for what is expected but The Shiny Shrimps (Les crevettes pailletées) serves as a perfect antidote, taking it’s story seriously while still allowing plenty of fun to be had by cast and audience alike.
The film is filmed beautifully by cinematographer Jérôme Alméras but the standout shots are those in the pool. Underwater cinematography is crossed with shots of slow mo and fine tuned editing which make all the polo matches exhilarating to watch. The games are as intense as they are fun with great physical comedy thrown into the mix which keeps this jaunt across Europe light hearted even when some of the themes may be of a more serious nature. Not only does the film look at how homophobia is ingrained in sport but how within different communities of queer people there is a lack of acceptance if you don’t meet certain standards. The film brings it’s brand of comedy to tough topics and has no shame in making fun of some of the crazy situations the group find themselves in.
The Shiny Shrimps (Les crevettes pailletées) fits perfectly within the canon of heart-warming sports films that are happy to not take themselves too seriously. Having it’s premiere at the Merlinka Festival this December, this film is sure to prove to be popular among audiences while helping to promote acceptance in sports. Water polo has never looked so fun.
Read our interview with Director Cédric Le Gallo