Small But Perfectly Formed, FilmOut San Diego ShortFest Our Highlights

From broken hot tubs to one-way trips to Mars, the 2019 FilmOut San Diego ShortFest welcomes the summer season with a rich collection of LGBTQ storytelling. This catalog of 20 films features storytellers from around the globe and across the gender spectrum. With so much to love, audiences may be surprised to discover they have little trouble trading the California sunset for the warm glow of the movie screen.

Romance Is Dead

Romance Is Dead – USA
Director Todd Jackson

When Adam stops by to check up on his best friend Donovan, he never expects to discover what Donovan is cooking up inside. In the midst of mourning the loss of his fiancé Ben, Donovan comes up with a plan to bring him back, even through the most macabre of methods. When the gravity of Donovan’s goal hits, Adam starts trying to talk him down by explaining how the risks greatly outweigh the reward. However, Donovan may have already started a chain reaction that neither he nor Adam can stop.

Part dark comedy, part musical, this fun short film manages to cram plenty of campy humour between its three pop-inspired musical numbers. Much attention was placed on sound design, yielding to strong music and rich dialogue, expertly composed with carefully choreographed camera movement.

4 Stars


Mankind – UK
Director Layke Anderson

Will and Evan are engaged in an argument when Evan discovers that Will has submitted himself to be part of a controversial journey to colonize Mars. A one-way mission, this experiment is without a doubt going to be the end of their relationship, as Will is not allowed to bring Evan along. Desperate to keep his lover, Evan tries to talk Will out of it. Will, however, seeks to do something big with his life, perhaps failing to realize his relationship with Evan is big enough.

A strong script places the audience in the middle of this lovers’ quarrel, while a haunting music bed suggests a sense of foreboding. While the concept of colonizing Mars has certainly been played out before, co-writers Layke Anderson and Ryan Child deliver a piece of science fiction that feels more like the near future than some galaxy far, far away.

5 Stars


Misdirection – USA
Director Carly Usdin

Camila is a college freshman struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder. A lesbian, she is infatuated with her straight roommate, Jessie. Camila reluctantly agrees to help Jessie’s new boyfriend plan a surprise date at the park. Unable to stay away, she follows Jessie to the park to spy on her. However, a chance encounter with a magician in the park leads Camila to develop a keen interest in magic tricks. Camila practices her sleight of hand for days, hoping to impress Jessie.

4 Stars

The Handyman

The Handyman – USA
Director J.C. Calciano

After a clogged drain puts a damper on his morning, a young gay man is forced to call in a handyman for a household repair. To his surprise, the handyman is quite easy on the eyes, prompting a shirtless fantasy daydream in the kitchen. Growing obsessed, he concocts a plan to sabotage some household appliances in order to get his hunky handyman to return for more work (and perhaps more fantasy).

Written by and starring Nicholas Downs, this clever film is a delight to watch. Production design is excellent, with great use of color and lighting complimented perfectly by the occasional and ironic swanky elevator lounge music.

4 Stars


Engaged – USA
Director Dave Scala

When Darren’s attempt to propose to his boyfriend Elliot is thwarted, he starts to have an existential crisis regarding his ability to commit. Darren goes to his friend Lara for support, but unexpectedly walks away with some heavy questions after Lara points out some deep-seeded issues Darren has been carrying around since he first came out at age 17. When a ridiculous activity at an engagement party puts a visibly uncomfortable Darren in the spotlight, he begins to seriously question whether he is ready for a marriage to Elliot, and all the pomp and circumstance that comes with planning a wedding.

Beautifully shot, Dave Scala’s short film grips the audience from the opening scenes. Daniel K. Isaac delivers a relatable performance as Darren, delightfully complimented by Ryan Jamaal Swain’s role as Elliot.

5 Stars


Pepitas – Italy
Director Alessandro Sampaoli

A young man scurries to put together dinner for his grandmother before he can leave for his stage performance. The grandmother, an elderly shut-in, begs him to take her with him as proof that he is the loving grandson that he says he is. Knowing how impaired her vision is, he figures there would be no harm in bringing her out for the evening at the theatre, as she likely won’t see much of the show anyway.

Making a quick stop to pick up his co-stars en route to the theatre, it is abundantly clear what kind of performance the young man is in. Not sure of how his grandmother would react, he convinces his colleagues to stay quiet in car, so as not to tip her off. Grandmother, however, may be more in-the-know than he realizes.

5 Stars

Miller & Son

Miller & Son – USA
Director Asher Jelinsky

A skilled mechanic, Ryan spends his days wrenching on dusty old clunkers in his father’s garage. After closing one night, he enjoys a few beers by the fire with his father and a fellow mechanic, Grant. When Grant invites Ryan to come out for a bachelor party later that evening, Ryan declines, as he already has other plans for the night. Ryan is trans, and is spending the night dancing in the club with his friend Lucy. By chance, Grant and his friends happen to cross paths with Ryan and Lucy, which threatens to upend Ryan’s world.

Writer and director Asher Jelinsky does a splendid job with this short film, weaving a perfect juxtaposition between the machismo of the auto garage and the glam of Ryan’s nighttime activities. Actors Jesse James Keitel and Travis Hammer shine as well, developing enough onscreen chemistry that audiences can’t deny the tension between the two the day after Grant spots Ryan in eye shadow and heels.

5 Stars

Alexander Ryll
Launched in June 2014, Gay Essential is the world’s largest gay themed film blog promoting new and rare features. I am helped by some amazing writers and we also cover film festivals in the UK and USA. We are 100% independent, without advertising or funding by film distributors. Help to keep Gay Essential independent by purchasing our merchandise GET (Gay Essential Tees)
Alexander Ryll
- 5 months ago
Alexander Ryll
Alexander Ryll