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

bfi flare33rd BFI Flare shorts...
London LGBTQ+ Film Festival at BFI Southbank • 21-31.Mar.19

Reviews by Rich Cline | Page 1 of 4

Isha dir-scr Christopher Manning
with Horia Savescu, Maia Morgenstern, Lino Facioli, Dario Coates
18/UK 15m


Isha With a title that refers to evening prayers, this British short gets very personal very quickly as it follows Rahmi (Savescu) to work in a kebab shop, then to see his boyfriend (Coates), then home to his mother (Morgenstern) and judgmental brother (Facioli). As a Muslim, there's obviously something wrong with this picture, but Rahmi has grown into the culture of his adopted England, living his most honest life, except when he's lying to his family. Writer-director Christopher Manning creates a terrifically authentic tone that's often funny and sexy. Actors Savescu and Coates portray a resonant connection on-screen, laughing about the inhospitable English coastline ("Swimming in the cold sea builds character!"). When tension arises, it's intense and very realistic, and Rahmi has to make a decision about how he is going to live his life: with integrity or as a lie.

23.Mar.19 flare

Black Hat dir Sarah Smith
scr Phillip Guttmann
with Adam Silver, Sebastian Velmont, Shelly Kurtz, Alan Lennick, Carolyn Michelle Smith, Nicholas Hylander, Yael Botser
18/US 15m

Black Hat

Black Hat A gentle drama about a rather awkward young man, this Los Angeles-set short explores sexuality in an unexpected enclave of orthodox Jews. Shmuel (Silver) is forever forgetting his regulation black hat, but he has other things on his mind tonight since his wife is out of town. Dressing down and using a beanie to hide his ringlets, he heads to a low-profile gay bar, which is both terrifying and amazing for him. And when he's chatted up by the handsome Jay (Velmont), he realises that he might be about to open a box he won't be able to shut. The film's tone is relaxed and engaging, finding offbeat humour in most scenes to bring the characters to vivid life. The actors are all natural in their roles, using subtext to convey their inner thoughts and fears while they mainly try to remain relaxed and jovial on the surface. Director Sarah Smith has a nice touch with the camera, catching intriguing angles that are both visually arresting and quietly telling. So in the end, the film feels clever, involving and eerily resonant.

23.Mar.19 flare

Break Me dir Irasj Asanti
scr Irasj Asanti, Nina Andersson
with Ravdeep Singh Bajwa, Fredrik Skogsrud, Aase-Marie El-Sayed, Rona Afsari Babawa, Irasj Asanti, Maryam Hossain Zadeh, Hamid Karimi, Abdilami Sabani
18/Norway 15m

Break Me  
Knus Meg   4.5/5

Break Me This Norwegian drama centres on Mansour (Bajwa), a muscled athlete who hangs out with his friends playing basketball and competing in mixed martial-arts. Like his friends, he gets plenty of girls as a result. But of course his devout parents don't know that he's spending his free time indulging in alcohol and sex. And they certainly don't know he's more interested in boys. They want him to marry Sjasmin (Babawa) and are angry that he shows no interest. Unable to escape this arrangement, he cuts himself and takes out his anger in his sport. And when he catches the interested eye of another competitor (Skogsrud), he knows that if his father finds out, his world will end. Filmmaker Irasj Asanti never flinches from the hard edges of this story. Shooting in gritty locations with characters who are hyper masculine, creating connections and situations without the need for a lot of dialog. And while Mansour's situation sometimes feels hopeless, it's an important reminder of a situation far too many people have to grapple with. And the need to understand them and offer help even if they don't ask for it.

23.Mar.19 flare

October Boy dir Soren Green
scr Tomas Lagermand Lundme, Soren Green
with Elias Budde Christensen, Esther Marie Boisen Berg, Noa Risbro Hjerrild, Jacob August Ottensten, Albert Rosin Harson
18/Denmark 29m

October Boy  
Oktober Dreng   4/5

October Boy Thoughtful and yearning, this Danish short film is somewhat elusive in its plotting, simply because it's a chronicle of an emotional journey that's far too complex to play out like a romantic comedy. This may make it feel a little long as it runs for a half hour, but it's full of beautiful observations and finely tuned performances. It centres on Thomas (Christensen), a teen who is nervous about attending a new school. And he quickly begins to make connections with people, such as the curly blond (Hjerrild) in the gym who asks him to draw a temporary tattoo on his shoulder then blow on it. When he finds common ground with another outcast Emma (Berg), he also spends a bit too much time gazing at her brother (Ottensten). Filmmaker Soren Green finely observes Thomas' thoughts, and he's skilfully underplayed by Christensen. The film has a stylised look to it that weaves in textures of light, skin, hair as his secret thoughts flicker across the screen. When the kids go wild in a house party, this almost begins to feel like a feature, with its details and plot turns. And where it goes is a clever play on the usual teen movie narrative.

23.Mar.19 flare

Black Lips dir-scr Adrian Chiarella
with Jason Chong, Adam Marks, Alex Rowe, Quentin Yung, Zheng Shi He, Zheng HongYing
18/Australia 15m

Black Lips

Black Lips Set between the city and the gorgeously wild Australian coastline, this short weaves an intriguing story that seems to end almost at the moment when it gets up to speed. But it's finely shot and edited, and acted with an intriguing mix of humour and passion, which means that it has something to say. At the centre is Hong (Chong), a black-market abalone trader whose supplier has done a runner. Pressured by his mob bosses, he tracks down Jeremy (Rowe) in an off-grid beach house with his friend Cain (Marks). Since Hong has no friends, he is surprised to click with Cain, and they begin a tentative relationship. But the situation is dangerous for everyone, and the cops are closing in. The thriller element of the story is wisely underplayed, only hinting at the big back-story that has brought these men to this point in time. In this sense, the film cleverly looks to the future: possibilities, a way out, the admission of deep desires. It's also rather dark and harrowing. And ultimately powerful.

23.Mar.19 flare

High Tide dir-scr Claire Zhou
with Joshua Albano, Mouad Ben-Chaib, Floor von Vloten
18/Netherlands 22m

High Tide  
Stille Dorst   5/5

High Tide There's a simplicity to this Dutch short that's rather disarming, taking the set-up of many porn movies and turning it into a potent comment about the underlying need to live your true self. It's set at a holiday house on the beach, which Tarik (Ben-Chaib) has rented to get away from his failed marriage. Although he's badly missing his 8-year-old daughter (von Vloten). When the water cuts out, he calls the landlord, the friendly 25-year-old Jonas (Albano), who also seems rather lonely. Eventually they start to talk, and Tarik has no idea what to do about the spark that develops between them. The film is beautifully shot in a simple location: a wood and brick house surrounded by a forest. The textures are powerful, and the script has moments of sharp humour woven into the conversations (including an embarrassing but frankly universal poem Jonas wrote as a teen). Intriguingly, Jonas' memories include his own story of accepting his sexuality, something Tarik wants badly to do. Their encounter is strikingly real, played with finely understated detail by both actors. And it's exhilarating to see their connection transform into shattering emotion.

23.Mar.19 flare

Main Man dir-scr Florian Forsch
with Adrian Grunewald, Frederik Schmid, Thomas Bartholomaus, Jarl Lando Beger, Yuri Volsch
18/Germany 44m

Main Man  
Bester Mann   3.5/5

Main Man Involving and provocative, this German drama is quite long for a short, but this gives writer-director Florian Forsch and his fully committed cast a chance to grapple with some uncomfortable ideas without ever feeling rushed or glib. It's set in a lush forest outside a city, where the teen Kevin (Grunewald) is mercilessly bullied by two other guys, who leave his bicycle with a flat tyre. Along comes biker boy Benny (Schmid), who offers to help and gets even with the bullies. He also takes Kevin back to his isolated house, which is like a treasure trove of coolness. Benny says he's a talent scout, and offers Kevin a free pair of red trainers. When Kevin asks Benny to take some photos of him, Benny "reluctantly" agrees. It's almost like he led Kevin to this point, slowly grooming him for the next step in his plan. Where this goes is increasingly disturbing, not just because of what happens but because it's not quite clear how the audience is meant to react. Kevin's age is never stated (it makes a big difference if he's 15 or 18), but he's shown to have previously been at ease with weed and beer. Benny's more obvious transgressions involve a drugged drink and pimping Kevin to an older client. Everything about this film is complex, beautifully shot and directed, with strikingly personal performances that continually break the rules. Which makes the film thoughtful and haunting.

30.Mar.19 flare

Thrive dir-scr Jamie Di Spirito
with Taofique Folarin, Ben Aldridge
18/UK 17m


Thrive Perhaps a bit too serious, this British short features a series of intriguing moments that challenge the viewer's preconceptions even if it all feels a little obvious. It opens on Joe (Folarin), lounging in his flat in a council estate overlooking London, chatting with men on a dating app. One guy suggests getting coffee, but Joe is looking for something less serious. Eventually Alex (Aldridge) arrives, and after they have sex he admits that he spotted Joe's meds in the bathroom and knows he's HIV-positive and undetectable. From here the film turns into a discussion about coming to terms with the positive diagnosis and disclosing the status to partners and facing possible rejection. It's all rather pointed and perhaps too nice, but the film is put together in a way that's sensitive and honest. It's very nicely shot, and the performances are, for the most part, grounded and understated. Although the warm, thoughtful tone is somewhat undermined by the obvious (albeit important) message.

30.Mar.19 flare

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