From kitschy ballroom dance classes to world-renowned concert pianists, to the lavish and colourful Carnival festival, this year’s BFI Flare shorts collection really gets the body moving. Never failing to delight, the 2019 collection of short films presents a wide variety of stories from across the globe, guaranteed to provoke thought, crack smiles, and perhaps draw out a tear or two.
Ponyboi – USA
Directors River Gallo, Sadé Clacken Joseph
From his apartment in the back of a New Jersey laundromat, an intersex Hispanic named Ponyboi dreams of escaping his boring, run down, working class life. He passes his time saddled between the drama of his friend’s turbulent relationship and turning tricks with a stream of greasy, perverted men. When a cowboy rides into town on his Mustang and tips his white hat towards him, Ponyboi thinks he may finally have a way out. Destiny greets him on the boardwalk, a place he cherished in his youth.
Wildfire – Canada
Director Bretten Hannam
Link is a half-white, half Mi’kmaw teenage runaway. After growing up with an abusive, racist father, Link steals a truck and runs away with his younger half-brother. Accompanying the boys on their journey is Pasmay, a Mi’kmaw two-spirit. Pasmay finds himself attracted to Link and helps him gain greater knowledge of his Mi’kmaw language and heritage. With his friend and brother at his side, Link musters up the courage to face his abusive father man to man.
Set in Nova Scotia, this moving story of personal journey is enhanced by great color work and a swelling music bed. Lush greens and forest offer a sense of wonder and a reminder of our roots.
They Found Her In A Field – UK
Director Ellie Rogers
A young woman is haunted by the memory and the scant details of her friend’s death 10 years prior. She revisits the place where the body was found, reciting the sequence of events that surrounded the tragedy. Recalling that the authorities did not view her as a friend of the victim, the young woman remembers the truth of the matter – that she and her friend had a relationship that was unexpectedly forced to a tragic end.
My Loneliness Is Killing Me – UK
Director Tim Courtney
Femme party boy Elliott seems to be loving his life full of smoky air, neon lights and thumping bass lines. However, in peeling back the layers of makeup at the end of the night, we start to see the real Elliott, an emotionally vulnerable young man desperate for intimacy.
A few minutes spent on a hookup app brings Jack to Elliott’s door. An aggressive encounter is tempered by Elliott’s grace and sensuality, which unexpectedly breaks Jack’s hard emotional shell. The two men share a brief heart-to-heart conversation, achieving a connection neither had expected when the night began.
Parking – Iran
Director Ahmad Seyfipour
As a thief is looting an open garage, he unexpectedly discovers two men having sex in a parked car. The thief, who would face minimal punishment in Iran, recognizes that the two men face a far graver penalty for homosexuality if he were to call attention to them. He quickly seizes the opportunity to extort the lovers out of all the money they have. Empty-handed, the two men are forced to tolerate insults and humiliation at the hands of the thief, or face public disgrace and certain death.
Carlito Se Va Para Siempre (Carlito Leaves Forever) – Peru
Director Quentin Lazzarotto
Carlito is a young man who has grown disenchanted with his simple life in an indigenous Peruvian village, set along the banks of the river “Mother of God” in the Amazon. Without saying a word, Carlito packs his possessions and embarks on a journey, leaving his native home and family behind. When his canoe stops along the riverbank, Carlito’s reason for leaving is made abundantly clear.
Filmed under the supervision of Werner Herzog, this film embraces the life and culture of the Amazon basin. All spoken language is in the native tongue of the village, and subtle emotive experiences pass calmly like the muddy currents of the river.
Foxy Trot – USA
Director Lisa Donato
A lesbian couple signs up for ballroom dance lessons and learns a bit more than they bargained for. Between their own petty bickering and the awkward interactions with a motley band of classmates, the pair starts to recognize their differences on the dance floor. While the dance class turns out to be a total disaster, their relationship is anything but. They hijack the music and dance the night away.
Listen – UK
Director Jake Graf
A short compilation of first person introspective scenarios, this film gives the audience a glimpse of the emotional and mental hurdles of being young and trans. Utilizing a cast of trans child actors, we see the moments of struggle, fear, and anxiety as each child wrestles with bullying, mockery, and embarrassment at the hands of others.
The latest work by actor, director, and activist Jake Graf, this short film delivers a stirring perspective on trans and queer youth. Each brief dramatization delivers just enough personal struggles to inspire empathy and encourage the audience to listen.
I (Ég) – Iceland
Directors Vala Omarsdottir, Hallfríður Þóra Tryggvadóttir
A young trans person named Svanur is anxiously awaiting her appointment with a doctor, where she hopes the gender reassignment process may begin. Skipping school for the day, she hops on a bus for the city to reach the appointment. Upon meeting the doctor, Svanur is overwhelmed by questions about body image and sexuality. The initial exam does not go as planned, leaving Svanur feeling terribly hopeless.
Inspired by the words of her friend, Svanur elects to embrace her femininity, even without the surgery. Fearful of the reactions she’ll receive in her small countryside village, however, Svanur is reluctant to return home. But upon reaching the doorstep, her grandmother’s embrace provides all the warm welcome she needs.
Dario – Colombia
Directors Manuel Kinzer, Jorge A. Trujillo Gil
A Colombian teenager with a passion for dance, Dario is working hard to prepare for the annual Carnival festival with his dance troupe. His mother, however, is not supportive of Dario’s interests. She pressures him to work in his uncle’s shop, where he can learn how to “be a man” and earn some money to support their struggling family. Instead, Dario skips work and travels to the city to pursue his dream of dancing in the parade.
Tomorrow Island – Estonia
Director Gwenn Joyaux
At the outbreak of the Cold War, two lesbian lovers, one Soviet, one American, find themselves being pulled apart by impending war. Manning a telegraph at a frontier outpost, Sveta has firsthand knowledge of the movements of Soviet forces and the planned border closure, which she knows would strand her lover in enemy territory resulting in certain imprisonment. As soldiers begin rounding up residents for evacuation, Sveta and her lover make a run for it, hoping to secure safe passage for the American.
With a cold, yet cinematic feel, this short has the makings of a full-length feature film. Playful use of timeline gives the audience just enough backstory to understand the loving relationship between these two women, as well as the fear and uncertainty of the outbreak of war.
The Third Movement – Canada
Director Josephine Anderson
A graduate of Julliard, Sara Davis Buechner was once a world-renowned pianist. Now living in Canada, she reflects on her life and career in New York – a career she lost following her transition from male to female. Spending her days teaching piano to up and coming professional musicians, Ms. Buechner looks ahead to new opportunities to wage a comeback and restart her career overseas.
A documentary, this film is shot almost entirely with a piano in frame. Sheer determination is the force keeps Sara Davis Buechner at the piano bench day after day.
The Orphan (O Órfão) – Brazil
Director Carolina Markowicz
Spending much of his youth in an orphanage, Jonathas is adopted by Raul and Paula, a couple who had been visiting him for months. This is not the first time Jonathas has been adopted, however. Prior experiences have brought him back to the orphanage, so he approaches his new family with some hesitation. After settling in to his new home, Jonathas begins to grow more comfortable with Raul and Paula. Unfortunately, when his true colors start to show, Jonathas’ adoptive parents find a reason to return him to the orphanage – a path all too familiar to the young boy.
Infinite While It Lasts (Infinito Enquanto Dure) – Brazil
Director Akira Kamiki
Danny attends a party in Sao Paulo and quickly becomes smitten with the host of the party, Seiji. As the night goes on, Seiji eventually asks Danny to stay the night, at which point Danny explains he is not interested in sex – he is asexual. However, he is surprised when Seiji already understands asexuality. Elated, Danny returns home to share his joy with his roommate, Arthur.
Arthur, unfortunately, gives Danny a hard dose of reality, pointing out that Seiji has had long term relationships involving sex. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but Danny knows Arthur is right. It’s not likely to work with Seiji long term, but Seiji disagrees.
High Tide (Stille Dorst) – Netherlands
Director Claire Zhou
32-year-old divorcee Tarik takes some time in the Dutch countryside to escape the turbulence of his home life. A plumbing issue in the home he’s renting brings a young maintenance man into Tarik’s getaway – a surprisingly welcome distraction from the calm and solitude. The two men bond, allowing Tarik to finally face thoughts and feelings he had been suppressing for much of his adult life.
Lush forest and simple dialogue give this film a quiet, contemplative vibe. Actor Mouad Ben-Chaib delivers an emotive performance as Tarik, artfully navigating between emotional frailty, frustration, love, and shame.