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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 5.Feb.19

Review by Rich Cline
release UK 25.Feb.19
18/US TLA 73m

This is a collection of six shorts by the Thai-born, American-based photographer Ohm Phanphiroj. The first three are a trilogy exploring the idea of desire, serious dramatic films that are artfully assembled with striking camerawork and editing. The final three are documentary shorts shot mainly with night-vision as Phanphiroj interacts with a range of men including photographic subjects, sexual partners and strangers in the street, usually flirting shamelessly. These clips are cheeky and sexy.

The Deaf Boy's Disease dir Ohm Phanphiroj
scr Bowen Astrop, Ohm Phanphiroj
with AJ Anderson, Nic Caruccio, Nick Nolan, Alicia Hilton, Keli Delane, James Santelle
18/US 14m

The Deaf Boy’s Disease

A subtle exploration of sexual awakening, this dramatic short is shot collage style, leaping around in time to create a sense of moods rather than a rigid narrative. But there is a clear story here. In a farming community, teen Ant (Anderson) and his best pal Tremor (Caruccio) hang out talking about their new neighbour Early (Nolan), who is deaf. Tremor is sure that Early is "that way", worrying that Ant is catching the "disease". Tremor doesn't want to have a gay friend. But Ant challenges him to stop being so close-minded. The film is gorgeously photographed through Phanphiroj's artistic eye, as these boys play and swim, run through cornfields, lounge in Ant's bedroom. It beautifully captures the characters' physicality, as well as the quiet rumble of bigotry that is so ingrained in society that children think it's normal. Refreshingly, the film also reveals that Tremor is grappling with this issue a lot more than he's letting on. And that opening up to his friend helps him move forward.

The Space Between Us dir Ohm Phanphiroj
scr Lance Eliot Adams, Ohm Phanphiroj
with Joseph Williams, James Spangler
18/US 12m

The Space Between Us

Moody and ethereal, this short drama is a slice of a story, leaving the strings of the past and future hanging suggestively. It opens with a runaway teen called Smokey (Williams), hanging out at a garage, then meeting the middle-aged Norman (Spangler), who is driving through. They get a hotel room and talk, the boy showering, the man undressing. Then Norman discovers that Smokey is 17 and puts the brakes on their encounter. These events are revealed in a kaleidoscopic way, out of sequence to give a sense of the emotions rather than the drama. The conversation between this man and boy are deep, asking questions about the nature of love and when you know it's real (Smokey thinks it must be when you feel safe). It avoids questions about who these men are, why they're here and where they're going. This is beautifully suggestive filmmaking, revealing thoughts as well as a powerful sense of desire and even nostalgia, underscored with curiosity and longing. The pacing is a bit staccato, but the photography and wide-open American landscape are sumptuous.

The Last Kiss dir-scr Ohm Phanphiroj
with AJ Anderson, Nic Caruccio, Nick Nolan
18/US 14m

The Last Kiss

Phanphiroj cycles back to the characters in Chapter One, although now they're in the big city, as Chicago's towers loom around them, as does the old world glamour of the hotel where Ant and Tremor (Anderson and Caruccio) meet up. The photography is tactile and sensuous, playing with light and texture as these two teens talk about love and the fact that Tremor is moving to Florida tomorrow. So this is the last chance they have to express their affection for each other, although Tremor feels like maybe they shouldn't. The script has minimal dialog as it cuts around both revealing the reality and the thoughts swirling in these young men's minds, including glimpses of the deaf neighbour Early (Nolan). There are a lot of aching glances here, which offer a real sense of loneliness and lost chances. And the ideas are provocative. How do you know the difference between love, lust and desire? Does longing only lead to pain, fear and shame? There's a vivid sense that Ant is seeking his truth, hoping to find that burning light. Or as he asks, is it a flame and we're the moths.

Journey dir-scr Ohm Phanphiroj
with Ohm Phanphiroj, Edouard, Michael, Timothy, Ton, Bowen
17/US 10m


A loose collection of video clips, mainly shot at night, this is Phanphiroj's video diary of his raucous sexual history after the breakdown of a relationship. The film opens and closes with the voice of his ex Bowen on his answerphone, angry at being dumped. In between are a flurry of images involving a series of young men in both Thailand and the US. Ohm appears on camera talking about his experiences, wondering what he's doing: "Why am I in a hotel with a straight guy?" But these are the men he is drawn to, and they seem intriguingly drawn to him, even if they're resistant to his physical advances. He wishes he could fall for a guy who wasn't straight, and feels like he is living too lives, one of which is a mess. The video footage here is pretty rough, shot in his car, in bed, sometimes explicitly revealing. Essentially, the message is that to recover from a breakup, you have to put yourself out there, even if you don't know what you're doing. Phanphiroj's approach to this is witty and lively.

The First Conversation Between Frank and I dir-scr Ohm Phanphiroj
with Ohm Phanphiroj, Frank Cashio
18/US 13m

The First Conversation Between Frank and I

This is a fascinating little film, remarkable for its simplicity. It's shot in low-quality night-vision video, with Phanphiroj speaking off-camera to the handsome young Frank, who is lying on a bed answering questions about his life. He discusses being born in Spain, working in the army ("I blow stuff up!"), living all over America and the fact that he has only been with one girl. He also kissed a boy once as a child. Frank is hilariously sleepy, as it's the night after his 20th birthday celebrations, and he begs Ohm to let him sleep. "Will you let me go to sleep if you kiss me?" He also feels vulnerable, as he's naked in bed, while Ohm is clothed and stroking his face. Frank clearly feels uncomfortable, and says that he's straight and would rather be with a girl. But Ohm persists in asking him if he sees him fitting into his life. There's clearly a connection between them, and it's fascinating to watch Ohm push Frank's boundaries. "Will you sleep in the bed with me tonight? I like you," Ohm says. Frank is reluctant, but groggily replies, "Whatever," as long as Ohm lets him sleep.

The Meaning of It All dir-scr Ohm Phanphiroj
with Ohm Phanphiroj, Max, Nate, John, Jesus, Isaac, Trent, Frank, Alexis, Diego, Quinn, Joseph Trevor, Timothy, Richard
18/US 11m

The Meaning of It All

Shot in Atlanta, this is a collection of clips of Phanphiroj talking to handsome young men he has brought into his studio to photograph for a book project. So there are clips of him interviewing them, shooting photos and even having physical encounters. And there are several conversations that dig deeper into attitudes. The key point is that most of these guys are straight, and Ohm is flirting shamelessly with them. He sneaks a kiss with one man, who reacts, "Ew, you're not a woman!" It's fairly obvious that Ohm has a crush on all of these boys, regardless of their sexuality. And they like being adored, even if they don't share the attraction. Eerily, one admits that he likes girls because they're submissive and make him feel like he's in control. Intriguingly, these are beefy all-American boys who seem more open to his teasing because Ohm is a petite Thai man. The film is loosely edited, jumping around between encounters as it explores ideas about attraction, lust and even porn. It's silly and relaxed, and of course very indulgent too.

cert 18 themes, language, sexuality 4.Feb.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall