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last update 27.Mar.10
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Giardini   4/5  
dir Steve McQueen
09/UK 30m
Giardini Projected onto two adjacent screens in a cavernous black room, this cinematic artwork is almost unnerving in the way it gets under our skin. Elegantly shot by cinematographer Prudence Cuming, the film (or films) is a series of static scenes in the deserted municipal gardens of Venice. As opposed to the summer bustle, we only see stray dogs and lots of insects while hearing distant sounds of life outside the gates. It's a film about minute observations, the surge of life in what looks like a lifeless place. And while the parallel screens don't seem to interrelate at all, they do offer continually gripping visions of abandoned buildings, as well as the dogs, spiders, beetles and worms, plus two shadowy men, all of whom seem to be trying to get out of the camera's gaze. It constantly encourages us to look beyond what we know, and it makes humanity feel insignificant by comparison.

4.Mar.10 Marian Goodman Gallery, New York

Static   4.5/5
dir Steve McQueen
09/UK 7m
Static Projected in a continuous loop, this film seems very simple and yet is packed with a remarkable cheekiness that can't help but make us smile. The concept is simple: the Statue of Liberty stands on an island across from Manhattan and is filmed from a helicopter that is flying in circles around it. But the effect is extraordinary. Through a clever use of lenses, the film not only reveals surprising details of the giant structure, but virtually animates it. Liberty seems to be striding forcefully around the bay, gazing down on Wall Street and New Jersey, defiantly waving her torch. All of this is accomplished through clever photography and editing, using the natural light and the simple sound of the helicopter's blades. Watching this film is an unforgettable experience that changes forever the way you see any iconic monument.

4.Mar.10 Marian Goodman Gallery, New York

The Sleeping Beauty of East Finchley   3.5/5
dir-scr Seamus Rea
with Josie Walker, Ruth James, Mary Duddy, Christopher Dunne, Julian Eardley, Angela Kenny, Susan Raasay, Jill Keen
10/UK 50m
The Sleeping Beauty of East Finchley Beautifully shot and edited, this tender drama ambitiously tells its story with openly emotional acting and music. Joan (Walker) is a 40-ish woman in North London, a devout Catholic who looks after her mum (Duddy) with the help of a nurse, Pat (James). As Joan and Pat become friends, Pat discovers Joan's love of singing and invites her to join her choir, the Friends of Dusty. But it takes Joan a while to realise that this is a lesbian choir, and as a performance at the Various Voices festival on the Southbank approaches, Joan gets cold feet in more ways than one. Some viewers may get impatient with the film's warm, gentle pace and elegantly slow-paced music, even though both of these perfectly match the honest story and characters. And this is what sets it apart from the usual whizzy, gimmicky one-off dramas out there. Not to mention the fact that it's rare to see a film so sensitively approach sexuality from the perspective of a 40-something woman.


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2010 BFI London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival 24th BFI London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival
Shorts shown as part of the festival in March 2010.
Hoodie 4.5/5  
dir-scr Patrick Finnegan
with Conor Williamson, Paul George, Richard Parkin, Libby Smyth, Stephen Don
10/UK 8m
Beautifully shot and edited, this short has strong cinematography and an insinuating, tense tone. It's also virtually wordless (the only actual dialog is an on-screen chat) as it beautifully portrays suburban angst, namely a young man (Williamson) who is hiding his true identity from his parents (Smyth and Don). We meet him when he's wearing a hoodie, walking with a stranger (George) along the Belfast waterfront, where they have a brief sexual encounter. He heads home and goes online, finding a man (Parkin) in the webcam chatroom who he recognises as a neighbour. Filmmaker Finnegan's most important achievement here is the way he captures the raw feelings of fear and guilt this boy is feeling, as well as perhaps a tiny glimmer of hope. It's a film anyone who has ever felt misunderstood can identify with--we all have secrets we hide from those closest to us, and perhaps this film, in a small way, can help teens understand that they're not as alone as they think they are.

24.Mar.10 llgff

My Name is Love   4/5
dir-scr David Färdmar
with Adam Lundgren, Jonas Rimeika, Alicia Vikander, Johan Carlberg, Poyan Karimi, Anna-Maria Lundberg
08/Sweden 20m
lundgren and rimeika
my name is love Cautionary without being preachy, this well-assembled short touches on an extremely important issue in a personal, insightful way. The central character, who is actually named Love (Lundgren), is out for a lively night on the town with his pal Fredrika (Vikander), but we know from cutaways that the night won't end well for him. It emerges that he left the club and met Marcus (Rimeika) in the street, then nervously went home with him. It's clear from Love's face that this is his first sexual encounter, but Marcus abruptly forces himself on him. What follows is startlingly complex, intensely intimate and almost overpoweringly emotional. The cast is excellent, creating palpable chemistry and tension. In some ways, the film might be a little too honest and balanced, forcing us to think about the issues without offering any easy answers. It's the kind of film that really gets into your head.

24.Mar.10 llgff

Pictures of Zain   4/5  
dir-scr Faryal
with Sakuntala Ramanee, Dan Paton, Bhasker Patel, Aleem Khan
10/UK 17m
ramanee and paton
Pictures of Zain An thoughtful look at cultural issues through the prism of grief and sexuality, this short film makes up for some slightly clunky low-budget production values and a very wistful tone with its strong themes and intimate approach. It opens with the funeral of Zain (Khan), a Muslim in London whose parents never accepted his homosexuality. But after the funeral, his mother Tamanna (Ramanee) reaches out to Zain's boyfriend Orion (Paton) in a surprisingly tender way Meanwhile Zain's father (Patel) remains resolute in his piety, but is forced to remember his son for who he really was, even if that means blaming Tamanna for being too understanding. The film is a little over-serious, but the new relationship between Tamanna and Orion is warm and delicate, and watching them find unexpected common ground in their grief, as well as a new level of acceptance, is genuinely moving.

25.Mar.10 llgff

Tears   2.5/5
dir-scr John Lochland
with Tom Frederic, Marcus D'Amico, Michael Camp, Lucia Giannecchini
10/UK 23m
Tim (Frederic) is having an affair with married man Sam (D'Amico), and is getting increasingly frustrated that he's being kept at a distance. So when Sam dies suddenly, he has mixed emotions. Sam's brother (Camp) and pregnant wife (Giannecchini) don't make things much easier for him. This slim British short is beautifully shot in some truly gorgeous locations, but some uneven acting undermines the emotions of a couple of key scenes. This leaves us outside the story, not really caring where it's heading. And while the plot itself is a nicely oblique, the film as a whole leaves us feeling cold. Which is clearly not what filmmaker Lochland intended.

See also: SWEAT (2007) • 7.Feb.10 llgff

Vandals   3/5  
dir-scr Simon Steuri
with Nils Althaus, Jonas Ullmann, Big Zis, Bardo Eicher, Alvaro Lobsiger, Yanic Müller
08/Switzerland 17m
ullmann and althaus
vandals There's a strong theme at the centre of this film, and it's remarkably well shot with a gritty, abrasive tone. The story centres on two young graffiti artists (Althaus and Ullmann), Sebastian is a tough guy and Johannes is more emotionally open. They are clearly in love, but don't want anyone to know it. So when they are spotted kissing, Sebastian reacts by throwing himself at the new girl in the graffiti gang. Johannes is not amused. The film adeptly captures the sense of fear and machismo that completely grips Sebastian's life, and as the story progresses, it gets much more interesting. It's a shame that director Steuri fudges it with some deliberately obtuse editing that tries to create a jarring atmosphere, but leaves the action and sex scenes feeling both incoherent and strangely empty. Even so, this is an effective film, and there are several very clever touches, most notably in the way these men only seem able to communicate through their painting.

24.Mar.10 llgff

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