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Indies, foreign, docs and shorts...
On this page - BFI FLARE:
|Reviews by Rich Cline | See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 2.Apr.22
36th BFI Flare shorts...
London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival • held at BFI Southbank 17-27.Mar.22
dir Charles Lum, Todd Verow
scr Charles Lum
voice James Kleinmann
My Almost First Time
A lovely reminiscence from the late Charles Lum, this nostalgic piece is edited together lovingly and skilfully by filmmaking partner Todd Verow. Charles' words and images evoke thoughts and feelings of youthful yearnings in a gorgeous location, combining a sense of transgression with passion and humour. It's a very brief short, but conveys big emotions.
Using Super 8 home movie footage from 1972, combined with a voiceover taken from Charles' writings (voiced by Kleinmann), the film explores a visit to a beach during which Charles spots a "moustache man" and hopes that he might lose his virginity to him in a cave. The man appears as if out of a myth in front of Charles, then vanishes just as mysteriously.
This is an observant and very funny exploration of the adrenaline rush of cruising, knowingly capturing the curiosity and hope that mingle with just a hint of fear. Charles' words are clever and sexy, and the imagery is simply beautiful. It's also sharply edited together to further capture internalised feelings, including Charles' sardonic wit as he wistfully pokes fun at how innocent he once was.
dir-scr Jesse Ung
with David Shi, Kelvin Ta, Esther Wee
Brightly observational, this comical short from New Zealand centres on a young man struggling to both embrace and escape from his Asian heritage, because he'll have to do both if he wants to live honestly. It's sharply well-shot and played, brightly focussing on a fairly simple premise while finding powerful ripples in the strong undercurrents. The result is both funny and surprisingly moving.
It opens as Andrew (Shi) takes a video call from his mother (Wee), who asks why he's tidying up his flat. Andrew says his girlfriend is coming over, but when the doorbell rings, it's a man named Steven (Ta), whom Andrew met on a hookup app. Andrew has never dared to date a man before, but their interaction is charged with attraction. He's excited but also freaked out at the idea of finally experiencing physicality with Steven, from the first kiss to getting naked.
Filmmaker Jesse Ung takes an open-handed approach to this material, infusing scenes with wit and honesty. Andrew's hesitancy is simply because all of this is so new, and he can't escape the lie he told to his mother. Meanwhile, Steven is patient and understanding, because he was once in Andrew's shoes and has his own family issues. Both actors are terrific, creating characters who are likeable and easy to identify with. And where the film goes is both tender and very sexy.
dir-scr Tom Wright
with Alex Britt, Max Percy, Rikki Beadle Blair
Beautifully shot, largely in closeup, and edited with a sometimes jarringly enigmatic touch, this short British drama touches on some very dark topics. Writer-director Tom Wright takes a rather oblique approach, evoking feelings rather than filling in the details. As a result, the film is involving, moving and more than a little scary too, all within 10 brisk minutes.
Starting with a deep intake of breath, this is a collage of impressionistic images as Alex (Britt) looks back on a range of personal experiences. He's on a date with an older man, having a fantasy kiss in a toilet. Or he's having his first sexual encounter at summer camp. But there are more menacing glimpses of substance abuse, flickers of sex clubs and sessions with a therapist (Blair) as Alex grapples with a past assault.
The film is surreal and intense, as Alex discusses and relives his feelings, digging into his deeper pain. But there are also some moments of tenderness and connection along the way, creating a vivid depiction of the complexities of finding a path to healing. It might be a bit cautionary in its depiction of the dangers, but it has a strong final kick as Alex ultimately summons the courage to face his past head-on.
dir-scr Adar Sigler
with Tom Chodorov, Avi Sarussi
Virgin My Ass
There's a knowing absurdity to this comical short that cuts through the silly surfaces to reveal much more interesting ideas underneath. It's a sparky and unusually open-handed exploration of the awkwardness that emerges when you try to bring the subject of sex into a friendship. And the way it plays out is cute, awkward and surprisingly sexy.
Now living in Berlin, Harel (Sarussi) returns to Israel to see his old friend Ophir (Chodorov), and they reconnect with some silly dance steps. Then Ophir casually suggests that they sleep together. Harel is taken aback. "I'm not in love or anything," Ophir insists, "but I've never done it before." Maybe it will just be a laugh. Or an adventure. And soon both are in over their heads. "Oh, are we kissing?"
This is a hilarious play on the idea of asking a friend for a probably too-big favour. And the way both men react to the situation is thoroughly engaging, beautifully shot by writer-director Adar Sigler, and sharply well-played by both actors to capture the nervous energy that comes with crossing an unspoken line. Where this goes is messy and very funny, but it's so honest that the film also carries a remarkably thoughtful punch.
dir-scr Nicky Miller
with Jorge the Obscene, Sultan of Filth, Jose Piras, Kaya Kyanite, Luc Palmer
Surreal and strange, this properly bonkers German short takes on an almost mythical quality as it depicts a group of big hairy men having a startlingly physical encounter in the sea. It's so bold that it will leave audiences speechless, but it's also so delightfully unexpected that it can't help but make us smile.
On the edge of a mangrove, a beefy-woolly fisherman (Jorge the Obscene) is almost bursting out of his shorts as he puts his line into the water. Soon he spots a naked fishboy (Sultan of Filth) in the surf, moving seductively, inciting his lust. Soon, the fisherman is naked too, and both are frolicking together when a group of mermen arrive to join in the fun, consuming the fisherman in pleasure.
Expertly choreographed, shot and edited, the film is virtually silent, with only the very faint sound of music in the background. And of course no one says anything. It's simply an explicit scene of seduction, twisting a familiar storybook idea into something much furrier and manlier than it usually is. This inversion of gender expectations adds some thematic resonance. But the point is far simpler than that.
dir-scr Leandro Goddinho, Eduardo Mamede, Paulo Menezes
with Eduardo Mamede, Paulo Menezes
Its Not the Brazilian Homosexuals Who Are Perverse, but the Situation in Which They Live
Nicht die Brasilianischen Homosexuellen Sind Pervers, Sondern die Situation in der Sie Leben
This snappy Portuguese-language German short features images accompanied by a disconnected audio stream of consciousness voiceover, ironically poking fun at the plight of a low-budget filmmaker who can't afford to produce something slick and clean. The running commentary is flat-out hilarious, exploring big issues with cheeky humour while relaxing on-screen far from the bustle of society.
Brazilians Eduardo and Paulo are skinny dipping in an isolated lake in Germany, lounging in the sun, dancing around and playing games. Meanwhile, their voices can be heard chattering about a range of issues, starting with the prejudice they've felt while living in Europe and the US, such as how Westerners call themselves expats, but everyone else is an immigrant. They poke fun at how Germans lack spontaneity, and how pandemic weight gain made everyone fatphobic.
Both the imagery and the conversation are cute and camp, while the observations these men make are knowing and razor-sharp. One speaks about a boyfriend who broke up due to their age gap, another confesses that his beloved mother voted for Bolsonaro. They laugh about not having funds to make movies, so they'll have to shoot on mobile phones (which is indeed how they made this). And in the end, their catty conversation is cut short by an uproarious plot twist. Brilliant.
dir-scr David Moragas
with Lluis Marques, David Teixido
Tomorrow Then Demà ho Deixem
Almost startlingly observant, this subtle drama from Catalunya is packed with detail as it unpicks a relationship. It's so naturalistic that it feels improvised, as if the actors are actually revealing their souls to the camera in the way the characters react to each other. Writer-director David Moragas skilfully navigates tonal shifts from sweet to bitter, leaving the audience a bit shaken as a result.
In Barcelona, a man (Marques) has dinner ready when his husband (Teixido) returns from a trip to Amsterdam. The flight was bad, but the affection between them is cute. "You should visit Amsterdam," the husband says, recounting stories about bars and clubs, but also being a bit reluctant with details about his friends there. Finally, he confesses that he had sex with one of them, which shouldn't be a problem since they have an open relationship.
A proper chill descends on their interaction from this point, which feels somewhat moralising. But the discussion takes some remarkable twists and turns from here, as these two men negotiate their relationship and their thoughts about what has happened. This is seamlessly played by two sharply engaging actors to bring the audience into both of their perspectives, refusing to create a villain. So where it goes is smart and realistic.
dir Pradipta Ray
scr Ashutosh Pathak, Pradipta Ray
with Akash Sinha, Rishabh Dhingra, Deepak Chunara, Rohan Pujari, Neha Vyas, Perna Gandhi, Sushant Sharma, Angel Modi
Muhafiz: The Protector
Based on a true story, this beautifully shot and played drama from India reflects a moment of human compassion in the midst of horrific conflict. The story is set in 2002, in the aftermath of violent clashes between Hindus and Muslims during which thousands of people were killed and displaced. It's a fascinating depiction of a complex culture, touching on a range of issues along the way.
After sifting through the rubble for treasures after a riot, young Hindu Samir visits a cruising ground and finds the terrified Muslim Rafiq (Dhingra). Samir hides him in his flat, then rather cruelly begins pushing the man for sex if he wants to stay. Rafiq refuses, but has few options if he hopes to survive. Meanwhile, mobs of angry Hindus are searching for hiding Muslims, and both Samir and Rafiq will need to make some out-of-the-box decisions.
The script boldly depicts some very ugly attitudes, and certainly doesn't shy away from Samir's darker side. But it also allows him to reconsider and, most importantly, to listen to what the other man has to say. And he reminds Rafiq that both of them are hiding their identities. In addition to highlighting awful racist violence, the film takes a knowing look at hijras (trans women) and how they find empowerment in South Asian culture.
dir Angele Cooper
scr Jeremy Feight
with Jeremy Feight, David J Cork, Janet Hubert, Iroko Anyogu, Terence Archie, Danea C Osseni, Joyelle Chandler, Alice Ripley
While this seems to be a gentle drama about relationships and family connections, there's a sense from the start that something else is going on here. Characters are lively and often funny, interacting in earthy, engaging ways that continually touch on racial issues from intriguing angles. And as it continues, the film takes a complex, provocative approach to themes aren't as straightforward as they seem to be.
After a painful visit to his parents, Jay (Feight) and his boyfriend Andre(Cork) reaffirm that they are united no matter what comes along. Then they arrive at Andre's childhood home, where his mother (Hubert) is celebrating her birthday with a large family gathering. Jay is on meds that mean he can't drink, something he has to remind everyone. And there seem to be some bigger issues, as well as lurking prejudices, that are eating away at everyone.
The script cleverly weaves in a range of subtle observations that hint at another layer of meaning, while the scenes are edited together with tiny fractures in them. There's a naturalistic shift in tone between the comedy and more pointed drama, with references to infidelities, awkward racial jokes and ultimately a glimpse of serious mental illness. Where the film goes is properly wrenching, thanks to committed performances from the excellent cast.
See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL
© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall
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