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Reviews by Rich Cline | See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 25.Jul.23

Boys on Film 23: Dangerous to Know  
Reviews by Rich Cline
boys on film 23
release US/UK 24.Jul.23
23/UK Peccadillo 2h39

With 10 short films, Peccadillo presents an intriguing collection of gay-themed cinema from eight countries over the past five years. These films tap into pungent themes that are edgy and vitally important, depicting people who are struggling to accept themselves in a society that tells them they can never be who they are. Without sugar-coating these issues, perhaps these films can offer viewers hope.

dir Renato Turnes
scr Vicente Concilio, Renato Turnes
with Vicente Concilio
21/Brazil 9m

My Uncle’s Friend  
O Amigo do Meu Tio   4/5

My Uncle's Friend Made up from home video clips, this nostalgic short takes an honest look back at a pivotal moment in a man's childhood. It's a deeply personal film, narrated by Vincente Concilio through a clear-eyed knowledge of things he couldn't possibly understand as a boy. This makes the film thoughtful, moving and very important.

In 1987, Vicente's father bought a camcorder, and now watching the footage from his childhood he can't help but notice mannerisms he never knew he had as a lively little boy. He wasn't interested in the things his father expected him to like. And his uncle's handsome friend Chule brought up new feelings when he took Vicente for a ride on his mororbike.

Today, Vicente can see the straight masculinity that fills this footage, shot through his father's eyes. He also remembers that heady mix of attraction, fear and impossibility a gathering of shirtless men provoked in him as a gay boy. When Chule died from Aids in 1990, Vicente remembered him fondly, and he still has a soft spot for this man who sparked feelings in him everyone else around him denied. It's a clever, gently eye-opening exploration of the tension between nature and culture.

dir-scr Mate Konkol
with Peter Daniel Katona, Adam Wadsworth, Panna Dominika Biro, Kati Edocs, Valeria Keller, Anna Minka Konkol, Marton Kovacs, Marton Andras Lukats
21/Hungary 13m

Budapest, Closed City  
Budapest, Zárt Város   3.5/5

Budapest, Closed City Beautifully shot in an introspective style that's spiced up with animated flourishes, this punk-infused short follows two teens on a trip around the city. A period setting is vaguely evoked by filmmaker Mate Konkol, cleverly finding present-day resonance that makes the film timeless. It's a haunting little story that leaves us thinking.

Peter (Katona) is showing his British friend Adam (Wadsworth) around Budapest, revisiting places from his childhood that are no longer there. They stop at the "worst toilet in Hungary", through which they enter a basement music club fill of colourful friends. Later, they have a quiet chat and Adam leans in for a kiss, which surprises Peter. It also makes him think.

Speaking in broken English, these two young men share jokes and interests, talk about girls and hit the dance floor. Katona and Wadsworth give wonderfully naturalistic performances, creating understated chemistry that's thoroughly engaging. Where this mini-drama goes is unexpected, as it examines deeper thoughts and feelings without being obvious about them.

kahn and quinto
dir-scr Sam Max
with Zachary Quinto, Russell Kahn
22/US 16m


Chaperone A sharply well-produced drama, this short opens like an intriguing thriller that's layered with mystery. There's a sense that something intense is happening here, and yet the overserious approach can't help but make us feel like there's a punchline coming. It's all a bit too vague and tantalising, holding the interest while refusing to let the audience into the story.

A young man (Kahn) gets into a car with a driver (Quinto), and he's obviously nervous about wherever they are headed. "People usually haven't done something like this before," the driver says, trying to encourage him. They reach a large house in the country, where the driver counts a bag of cash, furniture is covered in plastic and the younger guy discovers a drawer full of drugs. He does a little dance in his underpants before they get down to business. And after that, it's time to take a pill.

Quinto and Kahn nicely create some tension between their characters, taking turns to be relaxed or intentional. Where this goes remains enigmatic, as writer-director Max turns off the lights or cuts away from key moments. But there's a strong undercurrent of emotion in Kahn's performance that draws us in, as fear mingles with yearning for a physical connection that seems out of reach.

tako and koren
dir-scr Uriel Torten
with Ido Tako, Itay Koren, Nir Magen, William Selzer , Noa Gur Itzack, Eyal Boers
21/Israel 16m

By His Will  

By His Will From Israel, this drama explores the tension between religion and sexuality through the eyes of a thoughtful teen. Writer-director Uriel Torten takes a relaxed, gently honest approach that makes up for some choppy editing and an over-emotive score. The film is a knowing depiction of a young guy grappling with thoughts he can't yet imagine how to deal with.

Struggling to be both devoutly religious and a part of the teen social scene, Elisha (Tako) tries to live in both worlds without letting them overlap. But he's further stressed out by his attraction to men, specifically his friendly religious studies partner Daniel (Magen). His rabbi (Selzer) notices something is up, telling Elisha that this is unacceptable. At a party, he has to face his urges head on, and he also needs to talk honestly to Daniel.

Within the rough-edged, handmade filmmaking, performances are hushed and nicely understated. Intercutting Elisha's fantasy thoughts and tentative explorations helps us experience the deeper feelings that so clearly terrify him. He feels that God has a plan for him, but his identity is in question. Where this goes is warm and quietly emotional as Elisha faces unexpected reactions from his parents and friends.

nwokorie and obasi
dir Elene Naveriani
scr Donald Acho Nwokorie, George Imo Obasi, Elene Naveriani
with Donald Acho Nwokorie, George Imo Obasi, Magda Lebanidze, Hadizat Yola, Khatia Nozadze, Giorgi Teqturmanidze, Vaja Mghebishvili, Baia Khachurova
19/Georgia 23m

Red Ants Bite  

Red Ants Bite So earthy and realistic that it feels like a fly-on-the-wall documentary, this remarkable short captures a slice of life for two young men from Africa who are living in the Republic of Georgia. Improv-style dialog bristles with witty humour, as director Elene Naveriani draws out intriguing details in a friendship, hinting at the larger story that exists between the lines. The film is a lovely, nuanced cry for tolerance and compassion.

Two friends meet up in a park in Tbilisi. Obinna (Obasi) is late, calling it Nigerian time, and he and Afame (Nwokorie) sit and chat over a beer, walk through the countryside and take a dip in a chilly lake, where Afame notices some biting red ants. Later, Afame collects his sparky young daughter (Yola) from his girlfriend (Lebanidze) and they head to the zoo. Then back at home, they are finally able to let their guard down.

Intriguingly, these men often walk together in silence without any particular expression in carefully subtle performances. Afame teases Obinna that he's developing a real Georgian belly, which transitions into a chat about how often they feel so sad that they cry. Deeper ideas run beneath their occasional silly conversations as, over nearly a half-hour, the film quietly explores the connection between these two men and the harsh reactions they face every day.

fannin and ryan
dir-scr Tom Young
with Gary Fannin, Cary Ryan, Liam Hurley, Logan Findlay, Cristina Pagani, Mark Robinson, Paul McDonald, Helena Fletcher
21/UK 15m


Jim Based on a true story, this short is filmed in period style, skilfully photographed with a beautifully grainy sheen that heightens shadows and colours. It's a clever depiction of a complex situation, playing up the more intense elements to strong effect. And the narrative takes a couple of startling turns that add a provocative kick. Emotive music makes the message feel overstated, but it's powerful.

In 1982 London, a priest named Jim (Fannin) has a couple of drinks for courage before heading out into the park cruising for rent boys. Simon (Ryan) is a bit unnerved to be taken back to a priest's home, and Jim is more than a little awkward, encouraging Simon to dance to relax. Eventually, they begin to connect a bit, but a revelation changes everything.

Sharply well made with a gently jazzy undertone, the film finds strong emotions in naturalistic performances by both Fannin and Ryan. So even with a couple of somewhat melodramatic moments, there's an authenticity to the settings and situations that keeps everything grounded. And while it's perhaps a bit heavy-handed, the story has a dark and moving point. It also recounts an important moment in history.

dir Mark Pluck
scr Daniel Lane
with Daniel Lane, Christopher Sherwood
22/UK 17m


Hornbeam Intriguing and insinuating, this sharply well-made short dives straight into its story without any set-up, creating a situation that feels instantly uneasy. Packing a lot into 17 miniutes, the dialog has a wonderfully loose tone that feels genuine. And the narrative takes a series of turns that playfully explore attitudes among two men who are hiding themselves from the world, and perhaps each other as well.

In a parking lot, a gardener (Lane) invites a stranger (Sherwood) to get into his red van and they go for a drive into the countryside. As they lean in for a kiss, the stranger asks whether the gardener feels guilty about sneaking away from his wife and kids. Then they part before anything happens. The next night they meet again and talk about their lives, and this time they're interrupted by headlights flashing. But they get closer with each subsequent meeting.

Both actors have a terrific reticence that evokes both uncertainty and contentment about what is happening between them. Each is excited about the situation, but also recognises that what they're doing is seedy, as they're hiding this part of their lives from everyone they know. Their nervousness is palpable, as is the way they begin to relax in each other's presence, sharing this secret about themselves. The clever twist is that there's actually something else going on here.

A L S O   O N
Dangerous to Know

dir-scr Sven Spur
with Mustaf Ahmeti, Vincent van Driessche
20/Belgium 17m 4/5

Reviewed at BFI Flare 2021

Too Rough
Too Rough

dir-scr Sean Lionadh
with Ruaridh Mollica, Joshua Griffin
22/UK 15m 4.5/5

Reviewed at BFI Flare 2022

Break Me
Break Me
  Knus Meg
dir Irasj Asanti
with Ravdeep Singh Bajwa, Fredrik Skogsrud
18/Norway 15m 4.5/5

Reviewed at BFI Flare 2019

cert 18 themes, language, violence, sexuality 25.Jul.23

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© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall