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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 3 of 4

Nirvana dir Jess Kohl
with Chintu Dolly, Aaliyah Kahn
18/UK 15m


Nirvana Moving at a very quick pace, this colourful short documents the journeys of two young trans Indian women as they travel to Koovagam in Tamil Nadu to participate in the largest transgender festival in the world. Both are hoping to win the title of Miss Koovagam at this 15-day event, which has been running for years, springing from a tradition surrounding Lord Krishna. At 28, Aaliyah still thinks she has what it takes to become an international supermodel. Chintu is a little more realistic, admitting that virtually all trans women in India are forced into sex work to survive. The film's structure is jarring, as it leaps around the event filling in elements to both of these women's stories. So it feels rather choppy and abrupt. But Aaliyah and Chintu both have strong personalities that come through clearly. And it's fascinating to take a brief journey into such a vivid culture, even if the film is perhaps a little full-on.

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Marco dir-scr Saleem Haddad
with Zed Josef, Marwan Kaabour
18/UK 22m


Marco Set in a gorgeous London flat with a view of the city and sun streaming in, this short drama takes some nice turns as it goes along, pulling the audience in. This is the home of Omar (Josef), who returns from work and ignores calls from his mother in Lebanon, where his father is in hospital. Instead, he arranges a massage with extras from Marco (Kaabour), a young guy from Spain. Although Omar quickly realises that he can't be Spanish. Indeed, Marco is actually Ahmed from Syria, working while he awaits his refugee status so he can bring his parents over. The film is very well shot, largely in closeup, and played strongly by both actors. Although the serious commentary about the difficult refugee system ("It's better than nothing," Marco says) is undermined by the film's slightly goofy approach to the suddenly over-friendly but never sexy connection between these two strangers. And in the end, the message is nice but rather obvious.

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Parking dir-scr Ahmad Seyfipour
18/Iran 9m


Parking Subtle and audacious, this sharp little film says a lot with an economical narrative. The setup is simple, as a burglar rummages through things in a garage at night trying to find something worth stealing. Then he uncovers the car parked in there and finds two men in the back seat. They are understandable terrified to have been found out, and they can't call the police because the thief might get a few months in prison, but they could be executed. The standoff between them is tense and terrifying, played in an unnervingly naturalistic way. And filmmaker Seyfipour ramps up the tension with the simple droning flash of a flickering fluorescent tube. Even more powerful are the emotions that wash over the faces of both of these men as they realise the predicament they're in. It's a stunning way to highlight an important global issue.

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Renovation dir-scr Fabio Leal
with Fabio Leal, Paulo Cesar Freire, Mariah Teixeira
18/Brazil 15m

Reforma   4.5/5

Renovation A witty sense of humour underscores this snappy short film, which playfully explores issues of self-image. It opens with the hairy bear Francisco (filmmaker Fabio Leal) discussing the extensive work that needs to be done on a new apartment with his sassy friend Flavia (Mariah Teixeira). And then he complains that he can't find a boyfriend because he feels so fat. Cut to him in bed with a guy who pulls out an electric clipper and shaves the hair from his back. Back with Flavia, Francisco is still whining about "all of these men" and how he likes them skinny. Flavia clearly is tired of hearing this. Then one of them (Freire) asks him out on a rare second date. The film is choppy and loose, but bracingly realistic. The characters bristle with authenticity, which makes them hugely endearing. And the naked scenes are relaxed and surprisingly sweet, as Francisco admits that maybe he likes food more than sex. Genius.

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Estigma dir David Velduque
scr Marco Laborda, David Velduque
with Alvaro Fontalba, Manuel Tejera
18/Spain 15m


Estigma Full-on bonkers, this Spanish short is packed with gonzo horror elements that send chills up and down the spine, even as the central plot touches on some darkly meaningful issues. It centres on a young guy who's home alone when his friend comes around for sex. But there's a giant bug scuttling around the bedroom, and when it bites the results are more than a little disturbing. The increasing nastiness is superbly shot and staged, with excellent acting and vivid effects. It's also nicely deployed with an allegorical layer relating to safe sex and the fear of passing on HIV. Director Velduque builds the atmosphere expertly with eerie music and creepy visuals long before anything gruesome appears on-screen. So the sense of an underlying peril is very cleverly constructed, leading to a sharply punchy final kick. Although the over-the-top grisliness is somewhat distracting.

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Fun Only dir-scr Lukas Revzin
with Nick Finegan, Peter McPherson
18/UK 9m

Fun Only  

Fun Only Shot as a slice of the screen, like a vertical smart-phone video, this British short unfolds as a homemade diary made by a young man in search of more than no-strings-attached sex. Matt (Finegan) is a good-looking blond guy who films himself doing push-ups so he can maximise his arms in a selfie. On a hook-up app, he meets Dugal (McPherson), an artist who comes round for a glass of wine. Matt confesses that he's trying to make a connection, but Dugal is noncommittal. Still, they get on well, have sex, and promise to meet up again. Of course, Matt begins to get his hopes up. All of this is cleverly shot in that odd mobile phone ratio to offer a limited angle on the characters and their interaction. It's involving and intriguing, although Matt's idealism is perhaps a little cliched, as he deletes the app on the promise of a second date. Still, Finegan is so likeable in the role that we really root for him to find someone.

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Roommate dir-scr Nguyen Le Hoang Viet
with Dang Cao Cuong, Pham Bao Long
18/Vietnam 25m


Roommate A bold sense of style makes this absurd dramatic thriller compulsively watchable, even if it never quite makes any sense. The filmmaker floods the screen with colours that are both brightly lit and sunken into the shadows, with sets and costumes that all feed into the elaborate visual sensibilities. The setting is a hotel that offers a roommate service (animal or human? male or female?), and one guest requests a French-speaking female. But a man with long hair arrives instead, displaying serious origami skills. They order food, talk about Havana, dance to Guantanamera and discover that they have matching birthmarks. It's all so random, and it goes on so long like this, that it becomes increasingly difficult to make much sense out of it. But it's visually stunning, with its saturated hues and quirky characters. Along the way, there are some striking moments of conversational intimacy as these two men connect in unusual ways. And in the end, the message seems to be that the label simply doesn't matter.

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Infinite While It Lasts dir-scr Akira Kamiki
with Michel Pereira, Julio Aracack, Lisi Andrade, Paulo Ernesto
19/Brazil 18m

Infinite While It Lasts  
Infinito Enquanto Dure   4/5

Infinite While It Lasts There's an offbeat honesty to this gentle, sweetly involving little drama from Brazil. It centres on Danny (Pereira), a single artist who is wary of the dating scene because most people have no idea what to do with him when they find out that he's asexual. At a party, he meets Seiji (Aracack), connecting over a shared love of watching people in neighbouring buildings. They have a great time talking into the night, plus some passionate kissing. But Danny is so afraid of rejection that he never replies to requests for a proper date. Then they run into each other at another party. The film has a scruffy, earthy tone that's completely endearing, giving every scene an offhanded tone that keeps the audience wondering where the story might go next. There's a striking scene with Danny and his flatmate (Ernesto), who insists that Danny can't begin a relationship with someone who wants sex, and indeed it might be difficult to identify with Danny's paranoia. But the film's gentle approach finds strong emotions along the way. And the "don't be afraid" message at the end will resonate with everyone.

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