Shadows Film FestShadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreigns, docs, revivals and shorts...
On this page: AL BERTO | HARD PAINT
< <
F O R E I G N > >
last update 8.Jul.18
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Al Berto
dir-scr Vicente Alves do O
prd Pandora da Cunha Telles, Pablo Iraola
with Ricardo Teixeira, Jose Pimentao, Raquel Rocha Vieira, Joana Almeida, Ana Vilela da Costa, Gabriela Barros, Joao Villas-Boas, Duarte Grilo, Jose Leite, Rute Miranda, Miguel Seabra, Rita Loureiro
teixeira and pimentao release Por 5.Oct.17,
US Jun.18 fosd,
UK 11.Jun.18
17/Portugal 1h49
Al Berto This Portuguese period drama is produced to a very high standard, with particularly strong production design and sharply defined characters. And along with the strong sense of history, the film works as a larger parable about the world in general when it comes to diversity and the battle for equality. The narrative structure is very open-handed, which is great for drawing the audience in. But where it goes is a bit of a challenge.

In 1975, aspiring poet Alberto (Teixeira) is inspired to put a space in his name, making it more artistic. And he'd much rather be in Paris than the small coastal town of Sines. In a turbulent political time, Al Berto and his friends (Barros, da Costa, Grilo, Leite and others) discuss the issues and try to think of a hopeful future. Then on a night out he meets singer Joao (Pimentao), sparking a warm, easy romance that everyone sees as a promising sign. The problem is that neighbours aren't so welcoming.

Filmmaker Alves vividly recreates a groovy vibe in this period of youthful expression, with characters who unapologetically long for open, free and full lives. The plot may be somewhat loose and meandering, but there's a strong emotional kick in the interaction between the people, especially the loved-up Al Berto and Joao, who never question why they're drawn to each other. Although this makes the more melodramatic moments in their relationship feel a bit contrived

Performances are relaxed and earthy, gently bringing out the camaraderie between these educated, idealistic friends as well as the jealousies and frustrations. These are very strong, artistic young people, and their personalities and opinions frequently clash in intriguing ways as they set up house in Al Berto's reclaimed family manor. Their attempt to charm the locals with a poetry recital is hilarious. The unexpressed longings between them are moving.

Alves is inventively exploring a point when, with the revolution failed and the dictator overthrown, young people are feeling like the time is ripe for personal liberty. And yet the political arguments continue, leading to confrontations that range from mild insults to serious threats of violence. This utopia is far more vulnerable than they think it is. So in the final act, as things begin to unravel, the film loses its sense of joyous momentum, becoming a much more sober reminder about the realities of the world we still live in.

18 themes, language, sexuality
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Hard Paint
4/5   Tinta Bruta
dir-scr-prd Filipe Matzembacher, Marcio Reolon
with Shico Menegat, Bruno Fernandes, Guega Peixoto, Sandra Dani, Frederico Vasques, Denis Gosh, Camila Falcao, Aurea Baptista, Larissa Sanguine, fernandes and menegat Adao Barbosa
bodalo release UK Mar.18 flare
18/Brazil 1h58

flare film fest
Hard Paint There's a raw sensitivity to this Brazilian drama that digs deeply under the surface, pulling the audience into the internal journey of a painfully shy young man at a key moment in his life. While some sequences are painful to watch, the film is warm, humane and very sexy. It's shot in a darkly colourful visual style that continually reveals new details. And the central performance from newcomer Shico Menegat is mesmerising.

As he awaits sentencing for an assault that ended his university studies, Pedro (Menegat) basically locks himself in his bedroom, earning money performing a naked webcam show using neon paint. When his journalist sister (Peixoto) gets a job across the country, he's all alone, forcing himself to go outside for at least five minutes a day. Then he discovers that another webcam performer, Leo (Fernandes), has stolen his idea, so he arranges to meet him, and they decide to perform as a duo. But as their relationship deepens, things are changing for both of them.

Directors Matzembacher and Reolon shoot everything from Pedro's perspective, capturing his awkward isolation from the world around him. Even his webcam performances are tentative, although they offer an outlet for artistic and sexual expression. So when he connects with Leo, the shift is both gentle and powerful, opening him up to the world around him and giving him hope for the future. Although it's not that easy, of course, and the final act has a tough edge to it.

Menegat gives a beautifully understated performance, revealing emotions with only the tiniest flicker of his face. He may look impassive, but we see his frustration, pain and joy gurgling up inside. And as the film layers in his back-story, his deeper emotions become much more powerful. Opposite him, Fernandes offers a much more physical presence, smiling and dancing, open to the world around him. So of course Leo draws Pedro, reluctantly, out of his shell. Their chemistry is sharply well-played, intense but also realistically fragile.

This is a bold film that's unafraid to depict the full physicality of its characters. The actors make themselves vulnerable on-screen, which adds an intense kick of resonance for viewers. We may not be able to identify with the desire to broadcast our painted bodies across the internet, but we all have a persona we hide, and we wish we could let them out. So even if this film doesn't quite know how to end, it leaves us chewing on that important thought.

18 themes, language, sexuality, violence

back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
dir Marcel Gisler
scr Marcel Gisler, Thomas Hess
prd Rudolf Santschi, Theres Scherer-Kollbrunner
with Max Hubacher, Aaron Altaras, Jessy Moravec, Doro Muggler, Jurg Pluss, Andreas Matti, Joris Gratwohl, Scherwin Amini, Fabrizio Borsani, Julian Koechlin, Gabriel Noah Maurer, Stallone Anderson
hubacher and altaras
release Swi 22.Feb.18,
UK 13.Jul.18
18/Switzerland 1h59

flare film fest
mario Gently observant, this Swiss drama uses a gripping, personal story to confront a much bigger issue: the prejudice against homosexuality in football. Thankfully, director-cowriter Marcel Gisler keeps the approach personal, creating a character-based romance that's genuinely involving even when the politics threaten to take over. So although it feels rather overlong, it's packed with powerful moments.

When charming hotshot Leon (Altaras) arrives from Germany to join Bern's YB under-21 football team, teammate Mario (Hubacher) is intrigued, defending Leon from criticism that he's an outsider threatening others from advancing their careers. As the two star players, Mario and Leon are given a flat to share. But Mario is clearly smitten, and Leon's playful kiss leaves him shaken, because he has never faced up to his own sexual identity. Since there's no way they can be a couple in this sport, their romantic journey isn't going to be easy.

Brightly photographed, the film is a slice-of-life as Mario plays with the team, engages with his expectant parents (Pluss and Muggler), hangs out with best pal Jenny (Moravec) and talks with his agent (Matti). Interaction between the characters is relaxed and realistic, with an added interest in Mario's distinctive point of view, as he and Leon develop a warm, affectionate camaraderie amid the usual machismo of a locker-room. So it's a little frustrating that the film sometimes drifts for extended periods into the plot's darker corners.

The actors' performances are introspective and engaging, drawing us into the characters and their interaction. Nothing is ever played simplistically, as these young men grapple with the feelings they are having, trying to understand how to express them in a world where homosexuality is scorned. While Hubacher's Mario is confused and longing, Altaras plays Leon as a guy who would rather break the rules than live a false life. And where the story goes particularly pushes Hubacher into some raw, wrenching moments.

When a rumour gets out, the official reaction is full-on, with potential condemnation from agents, owners and sponsors, putting these young guys' careers on the line. It's a harshly realistic turn of events for a film that otherwise feels like a gentle love story, suddenly thrust into a major issue. But since this has nothing to do with sex, the film's final half-hour feels like a distraction from the central story. It raises the stakes but steals focus from the important point that discrimination and prejudice need to be confronted and eliminated.

15 themes, language, sexuality
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
My Son Is Gay
4.5/5     MUST must see SEE
dir-scr-prd Lokesh
with Anupama Kumar, Ashwinjith, Abishek Joseph George, Kishore Kumar, Jayaprakash, Sriranjani, Maya, Sharukh Ahmed, Sowmith Yadav, Sharath, Eswari, Sammy
kumar and ashwinjith release UK Jun.18 liff
17/India 1h46


My Son Is Gay Based on a true story, this Tamil-language drama may feel awkward and preachy to Western audiences, but filmmaker Lokesh tackles the topic thoughtfully and honestly. The pointed script touches on virtually every aspect of sexuality, kind of like a feature-length public service announcement. But it's beautifully shot in gorgeous locations, and with such strong characters the personal story registers deeply.

In a seaside community, single mother Lakshmi (Anupama Kumar) works as a school principal while raising university-age son Varun (Ashwinjith). Realising he's gay, Varun speaks to a doctor (Jayaprakash) who assures him, "You are not alone. You are not the problem, it's the narrow-mindedness of our culture." As he begins to feel better about himself, he joins an LGBT group and befriends the doctor's son Kartik (George). Seeing his warm family, Varun longs to be as open and honest. But telling his friends (Maya, Ahmed and Yadav) is difficult, and his mother takes it badly.

The filmmaker mutes audio in the most revealing dialog, as if to admit that audiences aren't ready for honesty on this subject. It's an odd touch, but finely focusses the issue. And the complex interaction between a variety of characters grapples with topics in ways that are strongly identifiable. Karthik admits that it took a while for his parents to overcome their deep-seated homophobia. But after his mother's awful reaction, Varun wonders if he'll ever have her back in his life. Meanwhile, his romance with Kartik is subtle, sweet and seriously picturesque.

The script follows Lakshmi and Varun, and both actors play scenes with raw honesty. Emotions run very strongly, but never tip over into melodrama. Kumar and Ashwinjith each bring a startling vulnerability to their roles as they deal with misguided expectations and pressures. Ashwinjith gives Varun's journey to self-acceptance an underlying truthfulness, building strong chemistry with the likeable George. Meanwhile, Kumar takes a bracingly introspective approach to Lakshmi's struggle, especially in a powerfully wrenching scene when her brother (Kishore Kumar) confronts her heartlessness.

In an early scene, Lakshmi advises a father, not to "stuff your dreams on your children". So she clearly needs to understand her own words. And the film's overriding message is one of empowerment: accept yourself and be yourself, don't obsess about the elements in society who reject you. Most important, perhaps, is the film's depiction of the generational shift, as depicted in the way Varun's friends react to the truth about him. So combined with Lakshmi's story, this film is a yearning expression of hope.

12 themes, language

back to the top Send Shadows your reviews!

< < F O R E I G N > >

© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall