From simmering fish curry to queer pigs, this year’s BFI Flare is as much a feast for the eyes as it is the soul. Once again, an exciting and eclectic collection of short films is at our disposal. Artfully composed and meticulously scripted by some of the world’s best filmmakers, the 2018 edition has no shortage of satisfying cinematic adventures.
LDR – USA, UK
LDR (Long Distance Relationship) is an enjoyable short film that follows the ups and downs of a long distance relationship between two gay men. Using video calls as a means to stay in close contact with one another, Rick and Seb manage to fall in love despite a vast expanse of ocean between them at any given time.
Written, directed, and starring James Kleinmann, LDR deploys a unique method of storytelling by stitching together video calls over an extended period of time and leaving the audience to fill in the gaps. The result is a voyeuristic experience of blossoming love thanks, in part, to modern-day technology.
Goldfish – Greece
In celebration of his birthday, a young boy is excited to get a new pet fish. His father, a staunch, rough around the edges conservative takes him to the pet store, but ends up disappointed in his son’s choice. With all the gladiator fish he could choose from, the young boy selected a chubby goldfish. During their return home, the boy declares that his goldfish is gay. This sets the father off on a tirade, as he couldn’t imagine a gay fish or worse yet, the possibility of a gay son.
Goldfish is a well-executed short story that reveals the risks and rewards of acceptance and understanding. Composed with a playful color palette and smart, clean camera angles, this film is a simple delight.
The Sermon – UK
When the daughter of a preacher has an affair with a local woman, the whole town is swept up in the notions of abomination, depravity, and sin. Narrated with often-controversial and frequently misused passages from Leviticus, we see how this preacher’s daughter bears the yolk of her illicit affair amidst the outrage and disgust of the local townspeople.
Beautifully shot and strategically scripted, this short horror film offers a surprising reminder of the power of love. A power which, given the right circumstances, motivates even the most humble among us to do uncharacteristically bold and potentially horrifying things.
Sleepover (Sova över) – Sweden
Best friends Emil and Adam enjoy an evening at the movie theatre, laughing about old friends and making plans for a dinner party. After the credits roll, Adam calls his lover to say good night and the two boys return to Adam’s place, where Emil is sleeping over. Emil, realizing he has feelings for Adam, contemplates whether or not to risk their friendship for a chance at romance.
Jimi Vall Peterson’s film presents a casual look at a problem facing many LGBT youth today. Coming out can be hard enough, but expressing your desire for something more than friendship with one your closest mates is downright terrifying.
Pulse – UK
A riveting short film set to a swelling piano track, Pulse walks the audience through one young man’s battles with inner conflict, sexuality, and love. Set inside a cavernous church building, we watch as a young man wavers between the various stages of denial and acceptance.
Gage Oxley’s latest project is an expertly written, directed, and choreographed piece of art. Running less than 5 minutes, the film is composed almost entirely of one perfectly orchestrated steadicam shot. Mixing visual storytelling with dance and theatrics, Pulse grabs the audience from the first frame and doesn’t let go until the credit roll.
Chudala – India
Rehan is a young man who transitioned from his life as a woman. Returning home to broker a business transaction, Rehan has arranged an appointment with his father, who is now in ailing health. As Rehan looks over the old photographs and items in his father’s home, he is reminded of his earlier life. As a young woman in India Rehan/Rukhsana was restricted from building a career and a life outside of the home completely due to gender. Now, as a man, he can follow his dreams and has found a way to help his father, even if his father doesn’t recognize him after so many years and so many changes.
Outlines – UK
A teenage girl arrives at her father’s flat unexpectedly and discovers he has hired an escort. Bottling her anger, she snatches the woman’s payment from the table and waits to meet her. Gradually, the two start to form an unexpected bond with one another, temporarily satisfying the young girl’s desire for a mother-daughter relationship, ironically in the moments after the father satisfied his own needs with the woman. However brief their relationship, the two women leave a lasting impression on one another.
Edmund the Magnificent – UK
As a former champion pig farmer is watching his once-thriving farm fall into decline, his hope is renewed by the return of an annual pig fair. He pulls all of his earnings to buy a prized boar and begin his breeding program anew. However, he’s shocked and dismayed to discover this gallant pig is not who he seems.
Narrated by Sir Ian McKellen and starring David Bradley (Harry Potter, Game of Thrones), this extraordinary short film carries plenty of star power and an enchanting story of self-discovery and second chances. Crafted as a fairy tale, the rhythmic pace of McKellen’s voice perfectly compliments a lovely story of determination and acceptance.
Faggot (Tapette) – Canada
Alex and his friends are a fairly typical group of Canadian teenagers. They love hockey, talking about girls, and complaining about school. However, Alex is growing tired with the frequent homophobic slurs and insults his friends continually lob at a young boy named Eli. In fact, Alex is bothered by their words because he is secretly having a relationship with Eli, but has yet to build up enough courage to come out to his friends. Left with the choice between certain shame and embarrassment or hurting the one he loves, Alex is forced to make a decision.
Landline – UK
Landline is a mini-documentary about a helpline for gay farmers, organized by Keith Ineson in 2010. Comprised of a series of vignettes, the film features actual recordings from callers, each of whom share a piece of their story and the challenges they face by being gay in a conservative, close-knit community. This touching film presents a rare glimpse into a little-known part of the LGBT community.
Each vignette is painstakingly dramatized with expert cinematography. Beautiful and moving, the visuals present the stunning landscapes of the British countryside juxtaposed with the shame, fear, and bottled up feelings of gay men who live in this part of the world and feel compelled to hide who they really are.
Thirst – UK
Following another random hook up with a guy he met in a bar, a young man takes a midnight walk and thinks about what he really wants in life. He questions the need for a deeper connection with someone, talking himself into and back out of finding the right guy for a longer-term relationship.
By breaking the 4th wall at the outset, Thirst pulls the audience into the story immediately. Acting as a sounding board for a young man’s existential crisis, we see him process his feelings and debate his own meandering and directionless love life.
The Fish Curry (Maacher Jhol) – India
A young man nervously prepares for dinner. His father is coming and he’s anxious about the visit. He gets his haircut, stops at the fish market, and cooks up his father’s favorite dish – fish curry. Upon arriving, his father begins pressuring him about arranged marriage, showing him photos of eligible girls and suggesting he join a marriage website. The son, however, does not have a conventional Indian marriage in mind.
One of the few animated shorts in this year’s festival The Fish Curry is wonderfully illustrated with monochromatic hues. Excellent sound design completes the picture in such a way that you can nearly smell the fresh coriander and feel the young man’s tension and nervousness.
Vertical Lines – Canada
Two men are enjoying the honeymoon period of their blossoming relationship. Some pillow talk diverts their conversation into a much deeper look at each other’s past. Prompted by discussing their physical scars, each reveals painful emotional scars from earlier in life, which have haunted both men in their own way up until the present day.
Expertly written, the dialogue for Vertical Lines is natural and believable, with two excellent actors delivering compelling performances. What starts as a playful night in, turns into a deeply emotional connection and shedding of outer protective shells. These men are perfectly imperfect.
Blood Out of a Stone – UK
A pair of gay men are getting back into the dating game after each had been single for quite some time. One proposes an unconventional start to the date, an icebreaker of sorts, which leads to challenging perspectives and impressions. While the date appears to unravel at points, in truth each man gains new impressions of the other, despite being pulled from their respective comfort zones. One of the men, Dan, has difficulty handling this challenge and must decide between embracing his honest feelings or pushing them away.
Our Way Back – Israel
An older married man, Uri, takes a young man out to the desert to admire gorgeous rock formations and be miles from the hustle bustle of city life…and the prying eyes of strangers. When disaster strikes, Uri is conflicted between doing what is in the best interest of his young lover and exposing his illicit affair. Uri ultimately makes a tragic decision, which sends him into an anxiety-provoking tailspin.
Beautiful, arid desert settings are disrupted only by the fear and desperation of these two characters. As Uri hurriedly attempts to conceal his relationship, his young lover hangs in the balance, rather poetically pointing out that affairs can be a messy thing.