By Francesco Cerniglia
LGBT and world cinema powerhouse Peccadillo Pictures returns on the market with the 14th volume of their Boys On Film series, a collection of LGBT themed short films from around the world that have been showcased and often awarded at major festivals. The 9 titles in this new volume once again impress for the diverse and compelling quality of the storytelling, this time revolving around the theme of different worlds colliding and offering a wide variety of up and coming talent both in front of and behind the camera.
Want It (dir. Lee Haven Jones, UK, 2015, 11 mins): A hunky young man breaks into a luxurious home, not necessarily to steal but seemingly more to experience what it’d feel like to live the comfortable life of the person whose home he’s just violated and that he clearly wants for himself. But as the owner unexpectedly returns, catching the intruder in flagrante delicto, his initial aggressive reaction turns into sexual arousal. What sounds like the premise for an average adult film is actually a highly sensorial experience, elegantly filmed and charged with the intriguing allure of imagining what lies beneath a stranger’s life.
Brace (dir. Alicia Eyo and Sophy Holland, UK, 2013, 24 mins): Adam is married but secretly cruises gay clubs until he can no longer live a lie. As a newly out-of-the-closet single man he bumps into Rocky on one of his nights out and attraction is prompt and mutual although personal secrets are bound to test the possibility of a blooming relationship. Ambitious in its scope and running time, this story should probably expand to feature length, dealing with themes of identity and isolation, self-acceptance and societal ostracism. The lead actors are really good and believable in portraying their characters’ respective challenges and the cinematography does justice to London’s nightlife.
Un Mundo para Raúl (dir. Mauro Mueller, Mexico/Switzerland/USA, 2012, 14 mins): One of the most interesting titles in the collection, this short offers an unconventional setting that makes for compelling viewing. Raúl is a thirteen-year-old boy who accompanies his father to their landowner’s mansion to entertain the man’s son while their parents talk business. Long time acquaintances, the kids go from playing football and swimming to the landowner’s son making unexpectedly indecent advances to Raúl because of his powerful position. The kids are rather convincing as they pull off the nuances their roles demand and the story is interesting and original because of the way it integrates the LGBT themes with sociological ones within a peculiar environment.
Barrio Boy (dir. Dennis Shinners, USA, 2014, 8 mins): The kind of premise that makes a great subject for a short film, Barrio Boy is tightly paced and executed, counting on stylish editing and a charming performance from his protagonist, a Latino barber in Brooklyn. On a hot summer day, an Irish stranger comes in for a haircut and the barber instantly falls in love with his customer as we learn from hearing his thoughts in voiceover. Sounding off his romantic declaration with poetic gusto, it’s endearing, cute and funny to listen to this lovely man’s inner feelings whilst on the outside he just acts professionally. Who hasn’t fantasized about a dreamy stranger and could do nothing about it? This short perfectly captures how that feels like in lively, lighthearted fashion.
Aban and Khorshid (dir. Darwin Serink, USA, 2014, 13 mins): Extremely painful and at the same time essential viewing of paramount importance in this day and age, this short film deals with the atrocious reality of homosexuals being persecuted in countries where being gay is still illegal. The number of countries amounts to 76 and in at least 5 of them, death penalty is the sentence. Inspired by true events that are documented at the end, this film follows two lovers’ final hours in an undefined Middle Eastern country’s prison, intercutting with the final moments of intimacy they were able to share before being arrested. It is a heartbreaking and powerful punch in the guts that makes you realise how lucky we are to live in a part of the world where we’re free to be ourselves and how we need to do all we can in order to bring positive change to countries that are stuck with inhumane, reactionary ways.
I Love Hooligans (dir. Jan-Dirk Bouw, Netherlands, 2013, 13 mins): A wonderfully original piece of filmmaking that shows how animation can be as effective and affecting as live action, telling the true story of a man who remains anonymous for safety reasons and is brilliantly transfigured into an animated version of himself. He’s a closeted gay hooligan who takes us into the bleak reality of a life he’s devoted to the football club he supports and how he had to suppress his true self in order to be part of a world that practically owns him. This interesting, compelling and rather sad look into a different kind of life-ruining addiction is a captivating watch.
The Violation (dir. Christopher Bradley, USA, 2013, 13 mins): Built around a classic teen love triangle, this is another short that deals with house violation and power play albeit the context is different on both counts from the previous films. Mickey lusts after neighbour Oscar who instead is after Mickey’s sister Tina. The film opens with Mickey spying on Oscar with his telescope, catching the object of his affection “playing” with one of Tina’s bikinis he has stolen. When one night Oscar’s family asks Mickey to house-sit their villa, the boy has the perfect opportunity to give Oscar a taste of his own medicine, having uncensored and legal access to Oscar’s bedroom. There’s a feeling of a story that could be expanded into a feature yet works like a finite piece of storytelling. The protagonist is the highlight in the acting department for conveying Mickey’s hidden desires vividly and in relatable fashion for all of us who, as teenagers, drooled after impossible love.
The Package (dir. Rafael Aidar, Brazil, 2012, 18 mins): Set in a world slightly reminiscent of the recent and wonderful Brazilian feature film The Way He Looks, this short also kicks off with the arrival of a new student at school. Leandro, the new entry, befriends Jeff and starts hanging out with him and his friends. Their attraction is mutual but Jeff has a secret that he fears will turn Leandro off from potentially explore their relationship. There’s nothing new here storytelling-wise but the actors have chemistry and help the film deliver its positive message effectively.
An Afternoon (dir. Søren Green, Denmark, 2014, 8 mins): When the power of simplicity trumps everything else, you get a little short like this one that’s able to capture and describe a moment so perfectly. Friends Mathias and Frederik spend an afternoon alone at the latter’s house where the former is planning to finally reveal his feelings for his friend. But with Frederik hung up on texting a girl, Mathias begins to lose confidence. The outcome is extremely cute and both actors do a great job at selling the paralyzing fear brought by uncertainty and self-doubt. There’s a reason why they’re called short films and this one makes the most of its limited running time yet makes you longing for more, which is the best compliment a short could probably get.
Watch Boys On Film 14: Worlds Collide on FilmDoo.com.