BFI Flare 2019: Our [remote] Coverage...
Yes...it's that time of the year: BFI:Flare has returned!!!
Sadly, regrettably and unavoidably...we are unable to be there in person...but, the good folks @BFIFlare have given us access to many a fine film...and, practically all of the shorts!
So...without further ado...let's get this [remote] party started...!
The opening night...and, by all accounts, everyone had a blisteringly good time!
Light in the Water
Directed by Lis Bartlett
Here's a film that defines the whole concept of the 'safe space' for LGBT folk. Why they were established, why they are [still] needed...and, why - seriously - are they being eroded!?!
This is a journey - often heartbreaking - from before the dawn of AIDS, through that maelstrom and into - what can be now considered - a brighter future. But, for those [of a certain age] the memories and pain [will always] linger. They share their stories...of brief histories and of a community that rallied...West Hollywood, we love you. You took care of your own when everyone else turned their backs...in a not-so quiet and barbaric disgust.
Indeed, times have changed...as Light in the Water so amply reveals...but, it's a bitter/sweet sort of change...some of it good, some of it not so. Every generation needs to make its mark...but, not at the expense of muffling the preceding generation! Older voices are being silenced, old ways are being dismantled...
The uber-sensitive politically-correct-inclined 'elite' scream and shout and stamp their feet whenever there is an instance of 'cultural appropriation' - many artist(e)s have felt their vehement wrath!
But...what about LGBT appropriation? Let's face it, in these connected and concocted times: It's chic to be LGBT - whether you are LGBT or not?!? Everyone's gonna be fluid! There goes the 'community', there goes all of those safe spaces!
Lis Bartlett's [mighty fine] film tells a history and asks some rather fiesty questions concerning the current buzz-word: Inclusivity. What was [once] a gay man's swimming club, became a gay & lesbian swim-club...which became, you see where we going with this...and now, a [very] significant percentage of its members identify as straight! There goes the neighbourhood!
If we keep on adding to the ridiculously contrived alphabet of...LGBTQQIP2SAA+*...why not just add an extra 'S' [for straight] and be done with the whole caboodle!?! Give us an 'I', give us an 'N', give us a 'C', 'L', 'U' - you see where we're going with this...!
Jings...never thought a film about a 'once upon a time there was a gay man's swimming club' would be so far reaching, would pack such mighty punches...and, most importantly...it certainly leaves you thinking [and, perhaps, reminiscing]...about the states of affairs, both then & now!
A rather brilliant, beautifully constructed film.
Directed by Lukas Dhont
Be still my breaking heart...
There has been a recent uproar - by [those] anonymous, gobby, armchair activists [who scream and shout at everything streaming on Netflix] - demanding a boycot of this film. Listen to them not! A trans*character does not need to be played by a trans*actor...the best 'actor' for the job should play the role. And, Lukas Dhont found the perfect actor in Victor Polster to play Lara.
Breathtaking is not a word we use regulary...but, breathtaking is what Victor Polster is! Lara says little throughout the film, she has so much on her young mind...the transition, the secret...and, the ballet. All punishing on the body, the mind and soul Can she keep it all together? Or, will she break? The entire film leads up to that question...the answer is...well, you will have to watch it to find out.
At times, there's a real sense of this being a fly-on-the-wall documentary...Lukas Dhont observes...and, it so immersive that at no time do you disbelieve anything that is shown. Gleaned from his short film, Girl is one mighty fine debut feature. Let us hope he has more [quality] projects up his sleeve!
To be overwhelmed by a film is a remarkable achievement...be overwhelmed!
Tell It to the Bees
Directed by Annabel Jankel
Pre-sexual revolution of the 60s, setting: small-town Scotland...and, some Sapphic stirrings in the undergrowth. Oooh the scandal of it all!!!
Tell it to the Bees is a mixed bag of youthful loveliness and domestic trauma...with one major [and inexplicable] problem: The ending! Why change the perfectly good ending [of the book] into something so unsatisfactory and implausible?!? Or, perhaps, this man's mind is completely at a loss when it comes to the woman's psyche...and, the swarming instinct of bees!
Seriously, this is a lovely film that [sadly] asks [just a little] too much from its audience...when belief flies out of the window [and bees, literally, fly in]. Up until this point, the gentleness of the story is a delight, young Gregor Selkirk is a joy to watch as he confronts and computes the harsh realities of life. Anna Paquin and Holliday Grainger, they do the story proud. There is so much to commend this film...however, when the 'fantasy' hits the fan...aaargh! It's so frustrating, tripping before the last hurdle...it all boils down to...the bees had one scene too many!
Directed by Craig William Macneill
The enduring tale of Lizzie Borden...gets overhauled, yet again! How many times can this tale be told? Countless, it would seem.
For those unacquainted with Lizzie...well, over a hundred years ago, Lizzie was put on trial for the murders of her [rather wealthy] father and step-mother. She was acquitted!
This Lizzie is a total and mindless fabrication of the facts...making out that Lizzie - unequivocally - did do the murders due to being 'discovered' - en flagrante - in a lesbian tryst with her maid...who was her incompetent accomplice in the crime...but, a competent witness in aiding and abetting her actual acquittal.
The question has to be asked: Why is the Lizzie Borden story so enduring? Legally, it highlights the 'irregularities' within the judicial system. It also gives an insight into the inadmissibility of evidence and the competence to testify...as well as highlighting the well-defined route of probate...and, the oldest of legal chestnuts, the jury's [and the public's] ability to subjectively pre-judge. Where's that good old-fashioned objectivity when you [legally] need it!?! Many an accused has been 'saved' due to the lack of it! Legally, it's a fascinating case.
Sadly, this film is not...for it does not concern itself wholly with the trial. Instead, it relies on strings of sapphic invention that get [all] knotted up within an inexplicably muddled time-line. Craig William Macneill's cinematic pace is too slow to start and too quick too finish...and, with a middle that stumbles all over the place.
Now, the whole Lizzie-was-a-lezzie theory is not new...Ed McBain dreamt up this little peach way back in 1984...so, Bryce Kass' screenplay is a shining example of brazen plagiarism. Or, to be politely euphemistic, he borrowed the idea...but, failed to make his script as brazen as it had the potential to be...even with those [eccentric] lines infused with some neo-feminist chic!
Chloe Sevigny, Kristen Stewart and Fiona Shaw all convince. Even the cinematographer convinces. Such a shame that neither director nor writer could do a similar [good] job.
Leitis in Waiting
Directed by Dean Hamer & Joe Wilson
Obviously, Dean Hamer & Joe Wilson realised that there was more to the story than their 2017 short film - Lady Eva - told.
Thank goodness they did...because, these stories need to be heard...as the scourge of christian fundamentalism [an imported religion] has systematically tried and [thankfully] failed to eradicate a people, a way of life...because, that 'way' and these 'people' do not 'fit' into their bashed-bible idyll of sanctimonious, discriminatory, hate-fuelled piety. When will this religious arrogance end?!? Not until the day when [global] religious denouncement arrives!!!
Whatever happened to: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself?!? These evangelicals hold onto to their rule-book with vice-like grips...but, subjectively ignore quite a few of the 'rules' found therein! Live and let live...you shower of idiots!
Oooh there's nothing quite like a good rant...
Thankfully, Leitis in Waiting is not all 'fire and brimstone' - it's also about support and camaraderie...in the face of toxic masculinity and religious adversity...with a twist! Leitis provide service to the wider community...and, to the Royal Court...members of the Royal family even participate [most supportively] in the film! If Leitis are good enough for Royalty, they are good enough for everyone...stick that in your gripped bibles!
There is sadness...and, there is joy. The film culminates with a beauty pageant like no other...this is a pageant that allows each and all to let off steam, a safe place where everyone can be who they are...rather than it [just] being a beauty pageant...it is a beautiful pageant that emboldens and embraces all that we should all hold dear...individualism and diversity!
Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life
Directed by Tomer Heymann
This is exhibition. This is exposure. This is exposition. This is as intimate as any portrait could possibly be. Is this the point where we all have come to in this time of mass information...watching the train-wreck of a [mightily] fine-looking man's life...as it agonisingly happens?
Tomer Heymann's film is not only voyeurism...this is a deafening cry for help. Filmed over 8 years, documenting the peaks and troughs of a porn-star's life...interesting to know if this is the expected film he set out to make? Quite possibly, not!
Anyone who 'documents' has to address the permanent elephant-in-the-room: Ethics. Mr Heymann does come precariously close to the drawn line...but, as in natural history documentaries, the filmmaker cannot/must not intervene with the wildlife..but, hey, this is not a baby gazelle about to be guzzled by a lion. This is a man falling apart. This is a wild life...out-of-control...with a fairly predictable conclusion. Stop, wait a minute, as the penny drops...this film may actually be the [much-needed] intervention that could, perhaps, save a valuable and vulnerable life.
Yes, this is one seriously powerful film...
The sex industy does not produce 'stars' - it produces casualties...and, too often, fatalities. So, as personal as this film is...let's get personal...
Jonathan, life can't always be lived on a high...and, as sad and true as it is, beauty fades. Take a step back, or sideways, or [even] outside of yourself, just as long as it is out of that damned spotlight...now, breathe. Take stock. Take [back] control...because that's what's slipping away from you. So what if the reality didn't meet your ambitions...hey, you didn't do too badly! You did get to the top of your profession. But...nothing lasts forever...find your strengths, you have many. It's not true when they say...only the strong survive...those who adapt, evolve into something stronger. Become strong, dear sweet man. Adapt...and, grow.
And the next film will be: How Jonathan Agassi Saved His Own Life...we look forward to watching it. Take care of yourself.
Challenge Accepted - Short films
Wildfire by Bretten Hannam
Concern for Welfare by Fadia Abboud
Piscina: Pool by Leandro Goddinho
Transmission by Emily Mkrtichian & Anahid Yahjian
Dressed for Pleasure by Marie de Maricourt
Masks by Mahaliyah Ayla O
Cassandro, the Exotico!
Directed by Marie Losier
When a documentary filmmaker ties themselves up into artsy knots...the subject matter suffers!
When you have to question [too] many of the filmmakers decisions...the subject matter suffers!
All that fake noise - the scratches and dust - it all just gets in the way of the story. Why pretend the film is older than it is? It just doesn't make any sense whatsoever! Cassandro is in the here-&-now...facing the end of his incredibly agile career. He is a born entertainer...let him entertain, let him tell his story...that's what he's there for! But, no...Ms Losier has to meddle and spoil.
The editing is savage, all those eye-jarring jump-cuts. And, there are [too] many editorial decisions that should not have made it to the final cut...especially that telephone call when the filmmaker just wants to give Cassandro a kiss...because, he's having a bad day. C'mon!?! What's the first rule of documentary filmmaking? Do not get involved!!! Yes, we all know [artistic] 'rules' are there to be broken...but that is only applicable when a true visionary breaks them! If you ain't got the vision, don't break the rules!
Back in 2010, Cassandro was the subject of Michael Ramos Araizaga's 23 minute short film: Cassandro, el exótico - 8 years later, armed with the same title and no visible improvement, Ms Losier has delivered a film that celebrates her own [visionary] filmmaking prowess rather than adhering to the documentarist's job description...tell the story...without all the faux and frills.
Cassandro deserves [much] better than what he has been given.
The Heiresses [Las Heredras]
Directed by Marcelo Martinessi
This really is an agonising heartbreak...on so many levels.
An elderly lesbian couple are separated by a prison term, crippling debt and a love that may have seen better days. They say opposites attract, Chela and Chiquita are opposites and their contentment has just been turned upside down. Will they ever get back to what/where they were? Do they want to?
Ana Brun's careful portrayal of the pernickety Chela is like watching a fragile flower bloom. She's a snob, she's cold, she's pedantic...but, when faced with a desperate situation, she slowly strips off her protective layers to reveal the warmth and desire that has been dormant for so long...but, there's a hint that it might be too late to seize her day!
Marcelo Matinessi's film is a contemplative, gentle, delicately detailed, tour-de-force of emotion...a low-lit resonance mumbles throughout loaded with wasted opportunities and regrettable regrets. It's a sad, sad, beautiful film...it will leave you with goosebumps and a tear.
A remarkable debut.
The Gospel of Eureka
Directed by Michael Palmieri & Donal Mosher
When a single edit in a film - especially a documentary - takes - quite literally - your breath away, you realise you are watching something very special indeed.
Special...for so many reasons. The artistry shown by the filmmakers, too rare in documentaries. The composition...it glides from the ridiculous to the even more ridiculous and is punctuated with tearful testimony, torrid theatre and the downright absurd...how can it not be absurd?!? Eureka, the town of...overseen by a giant, white-washed statue of Christ and overrun with bible-bashers, drag queens and bikers. And yet, they all get along just fine...who would have 'thunk' it!
Modernity and social media have so much to answer for...the decline of christian extravagance, the moratorium on gay bars...both [big] businesses, both struggling with faith and profit.
An oceanic amphitheatre...with a mere puddle for an audience. A drag queen performing - heart and soul - to a disinterested few...times, in Eureka, have changed and are still a-changin' - from its homophobic, anti-semitic, hateful past...into a town of tolerance and acceptance.
The witch that is - Anita Bryant - even tried to make a comeback in this here town...doomed. Christ [just like the town's statute] turned his back on this unholy woman. There's comedy and there's emotion...the devoted trans*woman, sitting in the rain with her husband, a little tipsy on the religious fervour spewing from the stage...poignancy in the rain!
Lee Keating and Walter Burrell talk of their [joint] histories and faith...then, there's that edit!
Silence. A pin could drop and it would sound like thunder. Time to take stock, gather those emotions. To Hell with it...let the flood-gates open...tears flow like there's no tomorrow.
The Gospel of Eureka...inspired and inspiring. Thank you for this film.
Little Miss Westie
Directed by Dan Hunt & Joy E. Reed
Parents should do absolutely everything to keep their children safe and happy. But...where do you draw the line...when it comes to two trans*kids, brother and sister...one wants to transition, the other wants to start puberty blockers? Both being under the legal age for [medical] consent, it's the parents who have to make those mighty decisions. The stage is [duly] set for a complex storm of emotions and difficult questions...and, even more difficult decisions.
Well...the storm didn't happen. It all boils down to: What the child wants, the child gets! Whether you agree or disagree with puberty blockers, it's immaterial. The crux of the matter is...there have been no long-term [medical] studies as to the possible permanent effects puberty blockers have on the body [and mind] of the child who takes them. Should that not have the alarm bells ringing in your ears before any decision is made?!?
Puberty blockers may not be a permanent solution...but, taking hormones as part of the transition process is irreversible. Decisions made now have consquences later...and, to make those decisions so young should be a cause for concern. Kids change their minds, quickly and often!
Little Miss Westie does not dig deep...and that's its problem. Anything controversial is quickly side-stepped...or, avoided. To be completely reductive, this film is about a kid who wants to take part in a beauty pageant and a moody teen being moody...both just happens to be trans*kids...but that doesn't seem to be too big a deal for either them or their parents...hence, it ain't no big deal for the audience...which kind of renders the film rather redundant!
Beauty pageants: Do they have a place in today's ultra-PC society? Just another question the film completely avoided. Just another cause for concern.
Call Her Ganda
Directed by PJ Raval
As a film about a crime...it tells the story adequately, from one perspective.
As an analysis of that crime...it falls short. And, somehow and for some unknown reason, amid all the news footage, talking heads and a whirlwind history lesson...the bare bones [of the case] get lost.
Jennifer Laude was killed. Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton was charged, tried, found guilty and duly incarcerated. She was 26, he was 19.
By all accounts, the case caused a media frenzy and became a political battleground for Transgender rights and anti-American sentiment...and, still, the bare bones of the case got lost.
This film serves a purpose...as secondhand reportage for a [potentially] wider, hand-picked audience. It's neither investigative nor revelatory. It neither approaches nor even addresses the defence...nor, most importantly, the mitigation.
Yes...it has to be addressed, as horrendous [and avoidable] as this case was, there were mitigating circumstances that reduced Pemberton's charge from murder to manslaughter. It was not premeditated. He did not possess the mens rea - required for murder.
Yes...it has to be said, now...loud and clear. Trans*sex workers [just like any other worker] have to have a duty of care...clients must know what they are paying for up front, no surprises...and, perhaps, armed with this trans*transparency the violence will end. Neither of these young lives deserved their fate...if this film helps in any way...good. But...in reality, if anything is ever going to change [for the better], all sides, all opinions have to be brought into the fray!
A film that skirts around the big issue without ever addressing it...that's called negligence. And...negligence is dangerous.
Carmen & Lola
Directed by Arantxa Echevarria
Here's a first...a lesbian love story set in the gypsy community...with a gypsy cast of non-professional actors!
Due credit must be given to the director - Arantxa Echevarria - for (1) getting this film made in the first place...and, (2) getting such credible performances out of these non-pros! Definitely, an actor's director!
It would be interesting to find out the how the gypsy community reacts to this film...they are a minority who are under-represented in cinema...and, when they are, it's not exactly positive. And, no surprises, Carmen & Lola doesn't exactly paint a brighter picture.
Same-sex love is not what this religion-dominated minority is well-versed in...so, for a film, to address the subject - with actual members of the community - is ground-breaking. You know how it's going to end, the in-grained homophobia is not going to change overnight - indeed, it may never change.
What this film does...is to face the difficult choices that men and women have to be make. Living in denial seems like the 'easier' option. Life in the 'closet' is another. There are also the 'fight-or-flee' options...fighting?!? One against many! Flee..leaving all that you love...behind...to walk into an unfamiliar world, a world that is - quite franky - racist towards the gypsy community!
What will Carmen and Lola do? Watch to find out! You won't be disappointed. This is an important film...it educates and enlightens...for those within and those outside the gypsy community.
Isha by Christopher Manning
Break Me by Irasj Asanti
October Boy by Søren Green
Black Lips by Adrian Chiarella
High Tide by Claire Zhou
Please Mind the Gap by Mitali Trivedi
First Day by Julie Kalceff
ÉG by Vala Omarsdottir & Hallfridur Thora Tryggvadottir
Finding Home by Abraham ‘AB’ Troen
Silvia in the Waves by Giovana Olmos
The Third Movement by Josephine Anderson
Deep in Vogue
Directed by Amy Watson & Dennis Keighron-Foster
The category is: Post-modern [sub-cultural] appropriation!
To hell with all that appropriation stuff...this is all about creating safe spaces and having a good old [creative] time doing so!
So what if it is derivative of the New York Ballrooms...there is no bigger compliment than mimicry, impersonation...or, a fuzzy photocopy of the original. Ballroom and everything that goes with it...is having a [second] global renaissance...there's the Paris scene, the Berlin scene, the London scene...there's even a Sydney scene...and now, the powerhouse of the North [of England], Manchester, is setting their houses on fire!
Jennie Livingstone's Paris is Burning...paved the way.
Madonna took it into the stratosphere.
And, Ryan Murphy's Pose has opened the floodgates for new generations to find, appreciate and participate in a sub-culture that has much to say and more to show...good grief, even the BBC has climbed on-board...buying the series and broadcasting it on BBC2!
So, forget the critics...ignore the academics...slip on your fake Manolos...and, V-O-G-U-E!
A fine wee film.
Directed by Darko Stante
False accusation and the fallout. Be assured, it's grim...watching a young man dissolve in front of your eyes is...as unpleasant as it gets. But...what a film, an agonising white-knuckle ride into despair. Without a doubt, the best first feature of the year! Kudos to Darko Stante and his cast.
These young, relatively inexperienced actors give their self-identified, alpha-male thugs the conviction they need...you wouldn't want to be meeting any these lads on a dark, lonely street. Timon Sturbej does psychopathic scarily well...with a thread of sensitivity that he switches on and off like a light-switch as he also does with his sexual preferences. He has a diminutive side-kick who is rotten to the core...not exactly the best friends a young man can have. That's exactly what the become...Andrej's 'friend' - he won't be needing any enemies with chums like these!
Andrej is 'comfortable' with his sexuality, it's what got him into trouble in the first place. But...unrequited love for a psychopath is always going to end in tears. Darko Stante stretches his characters to breaking point, they all break...in different ways. Matej Zemljic does a remarkable job in bringing Andrej to life...you really do feel for this kid, all his stupid decisions...knowing, in there somewhere, there's a good kid screaming to get out. He doesn't stand a chance!
Consquences is a tough watch...especially in these super-sensitive days when an accusation becomes an automatic indictment. Innocent until proven guilty is - seemingly - a thing of the past! This film certainly looks at responsibility...with a scathing attack on parental responsibility - when should it end? Sould it ever end?
Slovenia is not known for its cinematic output, this mighty fine debut from Mr Stante has put his country on the cinematic map. It really is a remarkable piece of work.
Sparrow by Ali Kurr
Maybe Today by Sarah Rotella
They Found Her in a Field by Ellie Rogers
If Only for a Moment by Sophie Kurpershoek
Parker by Rhianon Jones
Treacle by Rosie Westhoff
Home Girl by Poonam Brah
Darío by Manuel Kinzer & Jorge A. Trujillo Gil
Gentleman Spa by Yu Jhi Han
My Loneliness is Killing Me by Tim Courtney
Foreign Lovers by Timothy Ryan Hickernell
Water Makes Us Wet: An Ecosexual Adventure
Directed by Annie Sprinkle & Beth Stephens
What a surprise...from the ecosexual stable comes forth an educational and entertaining film! Who would have 'thunked' it!?!
Mad as a box of frogs and deeply in love, Annie Sprinkle & Beth Stephens are the perfect blend of hilarious hutzpah and Gaia-loving-demi-goddesses-of-a-certain-age...if they took themselves too seriously, this dippy-earth-loving-hippiness could have been a step too far into Sprinkle-land.
But...when Annie likens the eating of a great big, greasy, quarterpounder more embarrassing than making porn...any trace of seriousness plops - like a dollop of mayonaisse - straight right onto the floor. Thank Gaia for that!
This is a road-trip, quite like no other...it really is all about water...and, travels between watersheds and autobiography...meeting space-cadets and affable activists, mothers and memories. There is emotion. There is hilarity. There is drama...and lots and lots of water. What more could you ask for?
It was nothing less than an absolute delight to have spent these 79 minutes in their company...full of warmth, full of silliness, full of love...these are - most definitely and more refreshingly - glass-half-full-kinda-gals. Cheers...it was a pleasure.
Two in the Bush: A Love Story
Directed by Laura Madalinski
An innocuous foray into the worlds of polyamory, BDSM and bisexuality...it does suffer - a little - from this light-hearted approach. But, hey, it's a rom-com!
So...if you are looking for a meatier approach, look elsewhere. Even the BDSM - which [usually] is no laughing matter...becomes the butt of a few - misjudged - jokes. Aficionados may be a little disgruntled at 'their' portrayal. But, hey, it's still a rom-com!
This could have been - quite easily - a far grittier film about alternative lifestyles...but, it's not...it's safe...perhaps, too safe. Even the sex scenes [of which there are quite a few] wouldn't nudge a PG rating! The use of a few 'safe-words' might have spiced things up a little! It kind of needed it!
Too vanilla for most tastes, Two in the Bush is an entertaining wee film that may raise a few conservative eyebrows...but, the hardcore will find it way too flaccid.
The middle-ground is not always the best place to pitch a film...family-friendly bisexuality and polyamory is - perhaps - a little too ambitious at this moment in time! But...well done for trying!
No Box for me. An intersex story [Ni d'Ève, ni d'Adam. Une histoire intersexe.]
Directed by Floriane Devigne
Quite possibly...the most intelligent and moving film about being born intersex.
Imagine...you have absolutely no choice as to the direction of your life...and, after that choice has been made [irreversibly, on your behalf], your life becomes a hushed secret, a secret that is kept from you and everyone around you...it is unimaginable.
Doctors and surgeons have made and are still making these choices. Parents, call them [what you will] naive, gullible, misinformed, uninformed, stuck in the binary...have and are still allowing the medical profession to dictate their [preferable] steadfast [binary] road. This binary has caused and is still causing untold suffering...until now.
Floriane Devigne's film shines a light...the bravest of voices speak out...and, a surgeon apologises. Grappling with your sexuality is hard enough. Wrestling with your gender is monumental...not knowing your gender must be catastrophic...these women have taken their secret and shared it...
This film is an education and a warning...no-one should be allowed to make life-changing decisions for anyone...your body, your choice. Accept that [all] binaries are mere fictional constructions...wrought from narrow minds and religious hypocrisies.
When these mindsets are abolished, just as the flat earth was...then, we will all be truly enlightened, enjoying life on the spectrum. Because...that's what life is a colourful, glorious spectrum. Enjoy.
Thank you for this film...both emboldening and enlightening.
Giant Little Ones
Directed by Keith Behrman
Not the usual run-of-the-mill, rites-of-passage, coming-of-age, coming-out...this is one special little film.
First off...Keith Behrman does what many directors don't [or, can't]...he actually manages to capture that elusive essence of 'youth' - helped [enormously] by a blisteringly good soundtrack. The joie-de-vivre is amplified by the immaculate beauty of the two boys...to be young and beautiful, the idyll...that is, until it snaps!
Giant Little Ones becomes 'ugly' in next-to-no-time...but, what sets this story apart [and makes it soar] boils down to one giant humdinger...that crazy little thing called: Presumption!
Once upon a time, teenage sexuality was a [predictable] harem for hysterical hormones...now, in these days of mass information and social media...[teen] sexuality seems to ebb and flow...leaving many [temporarily] high and dry on the tidal plain...or, [permantently] stuck in the mudflats...that is, until the next wave comes along and sweeps them off in a completely different direction...or, drown. You either sink or swim...that's sexual fluidity for y'all!
But...do young adults have the whereabouts/thereabouts to really/fully understand their burgeoning sexuality? Not in a million years! Keith Behrman, most decisively, asks that question. And...the answer is as vague as fog! And, quite rightly...Mr Behrman takes it a little further by proclaiming that this fluidity is not - solely - the realm for the young!
Quite brilliant...this is a script that has been - painstakingly - fleshed out. There are no right or wrong answers...but, there are consequences. It would be wonderful to see where these two boys end up in - say - 10 years time. That's the power of this film...you feel totally invested in these young [and beautiful and painfully familiar] lives.
With some 'packing' comic relief, a beautifully composed reconciliation, toxic masculinity and violence...and, with perfect music, faces and performances...Giant Little Ones is a titantic...of emotion. Will Franky and Ballas drown or swim? And...what of Mouse? We are left wondering and supposing and presuming...what a lovely way to be left!
Truly...this is one very special film...a coming-of-age Titan. Thank you, Mr Behrman.
Directed by Thom Fitzgerald
Bitter/sweet bisexuality...with an eye-popping tattoo!
Active bisexuals can never be faithful...well, that's that [old] cat out of the box! Cue: Audible meows, caterwauling and screeches!
Splinters is a stereotypical tale of a stereotypical bisexual woman...with a little twist. Belle has done the big coming out as a lesbian...now, she's a closeted bisexual...in a heterosexual relationship...which kind of negates that whole bisexuality-is-just-a-stepping-stone-to-full-blown-homo kind of thing! Well, at least, the filmmaker has brought - not only - something new to the table...but, has swiveled it around completely!
The problem with Splinters is Belle herself...although performed perfectly, she's just not very likeable! Me, me, me, me-ow. Make her loathesome, make her lovable...all this sitting on-the-fence gets the story nowhere. Even her boyfriend, he's a rather flaccid foil to her sword...in other words, a well-trodden door-mat...with little in the way of conflict. Fight back man!
The conflict comes between the lesbian-loathing, bisexual-doubting, heterosexual-loving mother and her I'll-do-anyone-who-comes-along daughter...yes, it is that old bisexual cliché yet again! Cue: Meows, caterwauling and screeches!
By no stretch of the imagination is it a bad film...with the comedy set-pieces [and that tattoo], it's definitely an entertaining wee ride...it just needed a bit more rambunctious conflict! The result being...wait for it...as indecisive as a bisexual.
Cue: Deafening meows, caterwauling and screeches!
Directed by Armando Praça
She wants to be left alone! You heard the lady! No doubt, she'll change her mind!
This is a difficult film...if you can stomach [and swallow] a medicine-stealing, patient-abusing nurse who - even though he wants to be left alone - takes in and shacks up with a [much younger] on-the-run murderer...then, this here film is for you. Clinical ethics don't get a look in!
It's a big ask...not helped by Armando Praça's tendency to over-stretch - practically - every scene. More focus would have helped...especially in the stronger [and less-explored] storyline - between Pedro and Daniela - a palliative friendship...that should have brought a tear to the every eye. Alas, Mr Praça favours the more controversial route...ablaze with [unnecessary] explicit sex.
Intergenerational relationships seem to furrow quite a few brows...is it love? How can it be?!? Or, is it just a meal-ticket? Of course it is! If Jean [the murderer] hadn't been a murderer-on-the-run...then, these questions might not have been answered with such ease. It's a simple case of sex in exchange for sanctuary. It's all too easy...although a couple of spanners are thrown into the works...remember, she want to be left alone...and, then there's a bit of blackmail to spice things up...in truth, it all becomes a bit of mess...which is a shame.
Marco Nanini delivers a solid and revealing performance...this could have been an absolute tear-jerker...about two friends running out of things to say, running out of time together...their vulnerabilities could have/would have/should have gripped any audience.
All this film needed was a damn good script editor...and, a box of tissues.
Making Montgomery Clift
Directed by Robert Anderson Clift & Hillary Demmon
This will definitely ruffle the feathers of all Monty's [many] biographers...charlatans, each and all. Newsflash: He was not a self-hating, miserable homo...with his finger permanently hovering over the self-destruct button!
According to this film: The 'longest suicide' of the 'beautiful loser' was a fiction...created by those [parasites] who wanted to sell their books. Let's face it...who wants to read about a happy, handsome homo?!? Tragedy sells!
This is a rather loving portrait of the Uncle by his nephew, although they never met. Still, the affection is clear to see...and, hear. Montgomery and his brother, taped everything...telephone conversations, you name...they taped it. That's just plain old weird. The other weird thing is...there's not a mention of Ethel Clift McGinnis, Monty's twin sister...she died in 2014, aged 94. If anyone ever 'knew' Monty, it was her. Not even mentioned...such a screaming omission as this...well, it kind of throws a whole lot of shade on this entire project.
Robert Anderson Clift has done exactly what Monty's biographers did...re-invented the man to suit his audience. And, what a pleasant re-invention it is...but, is it true?
Who knows what is hidden in all those tapes? Well, Robert Anderson Clift knows...and he has chosen what to release and what not to release. Perhaps, Ethel would have something to say about that!?! We'll never know.
Still, a refreshingly, positive portrait...perhaps, not as authentic as it purports to be!
Directed by Wanuri Kahiu
Hasn't this little film caused quite a stir...in Kenya. Banned, ban temporarily lifted...so that it could qualify for Mr Oscar [it needed a theatrical release]...and then, presumably, banned again! At the time of writing, Rafiki is Kenya's second most successful film. Any guesses as to what is the most successful?!?
A mighty congratulations must go to Wanuri Kahiu [& team]...for getting this made [in Kenya] in the first place. And, a thank you...it is an absolute delight of a film...with some particularly unpleasant moments. Rafiki is a plain-and-simple, run-of-the-mill love-story...between two young women in a religiously-littered, narrow-minded Kenya. So, the plain-and-simple ain't too plain and it - most definitely - ain't so simple.
Samantha Mugatsia & Sheila Munyiva are adorable as the young-in-love couple, their acting is both free and natural...oooh, you just want everything to work out for them. Wanuri Kahiu amplifies the depth of their feelings with very tight framing, the [many] close-ups really do invite you into their affection. So, when a film as affectionate as this is ruffles the feathers of the Kenyan Government...surely, the Kenyan Government should look inwards and ask itself some very serious questions!
Shelter: Farewell to Eden
Directed by Enrico Masi
A look at migration...through very different eyes. Not a film made with the audience in mind.
It's mind-numbing. Rather than hearing Pepsi's story in-depth, Enrico Masi has favoured a more abstract route...he films - ceaselessly - the mundane. By cutting these - wholly unnecessary - scenes out, the film would have been reduced to a less-monotonous 20 minutes or so.
Less monotonous, yes...but, more unpalatable. So, rather wisely, Mr Masi has diluted Pepsi's story. She does not show her face...after listening to what she has to say, she would be wise to conceal her identity forever!
She wants war - especially in Libya - so that she can work as an untrained nurse. Lives lost, lives in turmoil...so, that she can have a job! Some things may be thought...however, not everything 'thought' should be said out loud! Some people should learn to button their lips...
Not Pepsi...after what she has to say about immigration, not one country in the world would accept her! Quite right too! Her anger over colonialism may be justified in some circles...but, her solution is...absolutely terrifying.
Pepsi is an economic migrant from the Philippines...war has not torn her life apart. She does not come from a country where being trans is intolerable and/or criminal...she is an economic migrant who wants more, more and even more.
Immigration is not a 'right' afforded to everyone who wants to emigrate...and, neither should it be. Immigration should be about welcoming people in dire need. If Pepsi wants to progress in this world...she should deny all knowledge of this film and learn when to button it!
When a film is this anonymous...the credibility has to be questioned and challenged. Believing everything the filmmaker presents is akin to devouring every word printed in a tabloid newspaper.
United We Fan
Directed by Michael Sparaga
Heartbroken that your favourite TV show got cancelled? Write a letter!!!
Most people would just say...well, it ran its course...moving on.
But...there are quite a few who will not take 'the end' for an answer. They bombard the TV stations...with [outraged] letters! Haven't they got better things to do with their lives?
Fandom is a queer phenomenon. It would have been so [perhaps, too] easy for Michael Sparaga to make all of these TV-armchair-activists the butt of the joke...however, he treats the subject [and the subjects] with utmost seriousness. He almost makes you fell guilty for laughing!
Look...we're not talking about high-brow or educational TV, programming that could change lives...we're talking about the likes of Star Trek [original series], Cagney & Lacey, Person of interest et al...not exactly high-brow!
Still...people have made [weird and successful] careers out of fandom, some have even risen to positions of influence! For example...the nonsense that was 'Viewers for Quality Television' [VQT] - bored, suburban, TV-watching housewives...rallied and became a force to be reckoned with. Then, after 16 years, it was dissolved due to apathy...no letter-writing campaign to save it?!?
Now...in these days of 'followers' and 'likes' - the letters have dried-up, replaced by alternative methodologies...and, still you ask: Haven't they got better things to do with their lives?
There's Kaily Russell who is not too-pleased with TV shows that 'queer-bait' - and, still you ask: Haven't they got better things to do with their lives?
As ridiculous as it is, this is a serious film about a silly subject. As 'entertaining' as it is, it would be prudent, when watching, to remember: One person's meat is another person's poison.
Framing Agnes by Chase Joynt & Kristen Schilt
Meet Me Under the Clock by Sonya Reynolds & Lauren Hortie
Tomorrow Island by Gwenn Joyaux
This Year, Here by Alison Taylor & Sabine LeBel
Wicked Women by Anna Brownfield
Pirate Boys by Pol Merchan
Nirvana by Jess Kohl
Flora by Chaerin Im
Lift Little Tokyo by Tina Takemoto
Donebeing by Kengné Téguia
Between Us Two by Wei Keong Tan
On the Line by Tina Takemoto
Crystal Clear by Max Disgrace
Polymorph by Mike Hooves
Wayward Emulsions by Tina Takemoto
Queer Babel by Timothy Smith
Aphrodite by Hannah Beadman
Sworded Love by Tina Takemoto
Turning by Linnéa Haviland
The Bed and the Street by Heather Frise & Mike Hoolboom
A Great Ride by Deborah Craig
Invisible Women by Alice Smith
Monica - Loose on a Cruise by Angie West & Veronica McKenzie
Directed by John Butler
Casting is everything...and, John Butler got it spot on with Matt Bomer & Alejandro Patiño...the unlikeliest of [lovable] duos!
Kudos to a writer/director who can lull their audience into a false sense of [comfortable albeit oddball] security...Mr Butler does just that. Messieurs Bomer & Patiño are the quintessential odd couple...the comedy is mostly derived from the reaction to a given line, to a given situation...it is a delicious thing to witness, actors reacting to each other and a director who is able to capture it all. Crowd-pleasing, heart-warming stuff.
And then, just when you least expect it...one short line changes absolutely everything. There's an audible gasp...as the reality sinks in. From where it starts to where it ends up, Papi Chulo is a finely crafted travelogue of the human coping mechanism. It veers [seamlessly] from the downright ridiculous to a heartfelt humanity...again, one line changes the perspective...empathy...and all that that remarkable word encompasses. Another audible gasp!
It really is just a beautiful, enriching and rewarding film...laugh, cry, empathise.
The Silk and the Flame
Directed by Jordan Schiele
Sometimes...a film presents itself...and leaves you wondering: Why?
Yao goes back home...with a filmmaker in tow. Is this going to be his [filmed] 'big' coming out to his family? No.
So...what is Jordan Schiele's film trying to do? To be truthful, not quite sure...an outsider's look at the domestic hardship endured in rural China. [Tick]. A poor family's history...warts and all. [Tick]. The return of the not-so-prodigal [closeted gay] son - who goes to great lengths to hide his sexuality, he actually introduces his fake girlfriend - via facetime - to his family. [Tick].
Why would anyone want to watch such a charade? Why would anyone want to be filmed - blatantly - performing - what can only be described as - a rehearsed lie? It - truly - is baffling...and, uncomfortable. Why go to such lengths, giving false hope!?! Either, tell them the truth...or, don't! The word 'disrespectful' comes to mind.
The grainy black-and-white makes this film look better than it is...at the end, as the filmmaker and subject jump into their car and drive off, away from the hardship, back to the comfortable city...they leave in their wake...[false] hope and an unnecessary lie.
Surely...the family will want to see the completed film...will they be served with carefully edited highlights!?! One more lie!
A film...too difficult to digest.
The Ground Beneath My Feet
Directed by Marie Kreutzer
Clutter and clarity...obligatory ingredients for a successful psychodrama!
Marie Kreutzer does not disappoint, she doles each one out by the bucket-load. Mental mayhem and corporate control are incongruous [and surprising] partners...yet, they walk hand-in-hand, self-harming and back-stabbing, leaving in their wake a visceral trail of casualities.
Control and chaos...madness and mayhem...big business and doomed lives. Marie Kreutzer does not make it easy...the ground may - indeed - be beneath her assured directorial feet...but, the audience hasn't a clue where to stand, there's nothing concrete here, nothing to cling onto. Indeed, a complex cocktail of collision...two worlds, two lives...how detached can you [and they] really be?
Lines are blurred...but, never crossed. This is playful filmmaking, the questions keep coming, the answers duck and dive...and, the tension becomes more and more palpable. It's exhausting, it's exciting...it's involving.
This is a slow-burning, stylish piece of work...with a story that keeps you guessing right up to the end...and, beyond!
We the Animals
Directed by Jeremiah Zagar
Take the old worn out cliché: Over-protective mother + distant father = gay kid...turn it on its head, rip it to shreds, smash it up until it becomes unrecognisable, add a distinctive filmmaking talent and one of the most beautiful-looking kids you will ever see...and, you have: We the Animals - a stunningly original feature debut from Jeremiah Zagar.
This film is soaked in artistry...yes, it is arthouse...but, with such an all-embracing narrative, it pulls you in and never lets go. Not only can you can see the turmoil this kid is going through, you can feel it. It's both heartbreaking and joyful. Mr Zagar's direction is as inventive as it is imaginative, he really does get the best out of all of the kids...but, it is his skill at weilding a double-bladed sword, everything/everyone has an ambiguous edge...the father, the basement-dwelling 'friend', the mother...but, the scene that nails it is when the boy sits on his father's knee and snuggles into his protection...I got myself a pretty one...killer line, killer scene, killer film.
Directed by Vicente Alves do Ó
Ever heard about the film that ends exactly where it should have started?
3 men, 1 woman...friends, with one thing in common...they all have had some sort of relationship with never-to-be-seen, only-to-be-heard, David. After 10 absent years, they await his impending arrival. It's a bit like a sun-soaked Waiting for Godot...without the existentialism!
Despite the sunshine, it's a bit of a dull affair and as anticlimactic as a story can ever be! David is set-up to be God's gift to human-kind, as an irresistable Adonis...oooh, you'll be champing at the bit, drooling and dribbling in anticipation...until your eyes feast upon the demi-god himself! Champ, drool and dribble away, David's arrival is - fiendishly - delayed by forest fires and other lame excuses.
So...the friends carouse and quarrel...re-live, re-examine their personal histories with each other and with David...and, it all ends up going absolutely nowhere. A series of minor conflicts in no way compensates for missing the major showdown...perhaps, there will be a part 2!?!
It's a waiting game! And, waiting, for most people is a chore, rather avoided.
Directed by Yann Gonzalez
Nothing quite like mixing up the genres to get the critics sizzling and scribbling...
Yann Gonzalez has thrown just about everything at the screen...and, depending on your taste and/or sense-of-humour...and, with a very large pinch of salt...most of it sticks! You are either going to love or loathe this film. We loved it!
If ever Hammer House of Horror, the House of Giallo and the Carry On team teamed up...then, Knife+Heart is what could have been produced. Well, Mr Gonzalez has done the improbable. With a(n) unique vision and the frequent nods to many a fine flick...this is a camp and twisted, dark and chaotic, [soft-ish] porn-infused melange of style and substance.
Vanessa Paradis holds it all together with her portayal of an alcoholic, recently dumped, broken-hearted, lesbian-gay-porn-director...fighting, tooth-and-nail, many a battle...against the bottle, for her lost love, her dissolving business...and, against the madly bewigged, masked murderer who is murdering all of her cast!
At no point can any of this be taken seriously...though, thankfully, nothing is played for a cheap laugh...and that's what makes it screamingly funny. With a fluffer known as the Mouth [of Gold]...who could take this seriously!?! What a job!!!
The story does go off-the-rails in places - but, finds its way back...and - dare we say it - it could have been a little more explicit, all the porn scenes were very vanilla - perhaps, Mr Gonzalez is holding out for the Director's Cut!
For horror aficionados, it has all the required ingredients. There's blood [lots of it], gay sex [lots of it], alcohol [lots of it], murders galore...and, a deadly dildo! What's not to like?!?
Total escapism...bizarre and borderline brilliant - depending on your taste and/or sense-of-humour!
Main Man by Florian Forsch
Thrive by Jamie Dispirito
Rubber Dolphin by Ori Aharon
Mankind by Layke Anderson
Foxy Trot by Lisa Donato
Children Alike by Julia Boström
The Half Wall by Ida Hansen Eldøen
Night Out by Amelia Hashemi
Misdirection by Carly Usdin
The Date by Emmalie El Fadli
When Abbie Met Emmy by Kevin Walls
Marco by Saleem Haddad
Parking by Ahmad Seyfipour
Renovation by Fábio Leal
Estigma by David Velduque
Fun Only by Lukas Revzin
Infinite While It Lasts by Akira Kamiki
The Foreigner by Ben Allen
Anemone by Amrou Al-Kadhi
Diva by Adam Csoka Keller
Land's End by Ben Strebel
None of the Above by Siri Rødnes
Crashing Waves by Emma Gilbertson
Ladies Day by Abena Taylor-Smith
Listen by Jake Graf
Jas by Alice Trueman
Batty Boy by Blain Ho-shing & Dior Clarke
Short films...not in a collection...
Battle Cry by Kyle REAUME
Self Destructive Boys by André SANTOS, Marco LEÃO
The Orphan by Carolina MARKOWICZ
Ponyboi by River GALLO, Sadé Clacken JOSEPH
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by Matthew HOPPER
Finding Home by Abraham TROEN
Londonstani by Nirpal BHOGAL
Stage Name: Victoria by Taran MORRISEAU
See the Man by José Miguel JIMÉNEZ
The Very last film of the festival...
Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy
Directed by Justin Kelly
It's a well-know story/scam...yet, this biopic - flatly - refuses to name names!
Eva = Asia Argento...and, if you want to know the names of all the celebs who jumped on the LeRoy bandwagon...watch the 2016, mightily funny, jaw-dropping documentary: Author: The JT Leroy Story - with this [more] truthful account, there's no hiding behind the [obvious] gagging order...put in place by God-knows-who!?!
Eva = Asia Argento...her vehicle - The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things - to plaudits and awards...despite a Cannes premiere...crashed and burned.
So...the scam continues...or, more's the case, squeezing every last penny [possible] out of a thoroughly decomposed story. Hopefully, this is the last re-hash...by the vicarious [in so many ways] Savannah Knoop.
Good grief...she does come across [via Kirsten Stewart's characterisation] as the epitome of moody and miserable...you would think that pulling off a scam [such as this] would bring a certain joie-de-vivre [she's been living off of it for years]...being flown around the world, entertained by the glitterati...but, no...she moans and whines ceaselessly...sucking the 'joy' straight right out of the story.
But, hey...when you take it too far and fall in love with someone - who falls in love with you - who thinks you are someone else entirely...well, that ain't no laughing matter...but, when you think about it...it's absolutely hysterical. Savannah/Kirsten does not laugh...jeezus, she barely breaks a smile throughout the entire film. But...when the 'serious' take themselves too seriously, they crash and burn.
Thank goodness for Laura Dern [she steals the show]...aka Laura Albert [LeRoy's creator], aka Speedy [LeRoy's effusive fake manager]...she's having an absolute hoot...and why wouldn't she!?! What a different film this would have been...if penned by Laura Albert!
As inventive and creative as the story is...the story-telling is anything but inventive. Justin Kelly tells it with the minimum of artistic/creative flair...what this fictionally factual film needed was a bit of pomp...the circumstances were crying out for it...the literati, the glitterati...all standing there...with egg...smeared across each and every face.
It should have been a hoot! Despite Laura Dern's best efforts...the hoot was - sadly - reduced to a dullish toot!